As the headline indicates, today is my birthday. 54 is a kind of nondescript age, as these things go. Those bold enough to ask how old you are then respond with a rather weak “oh” when you say you’re 54. Its not the big 5-0, so most people don’t expect life-changing reflections. You’re also not 55, when you realize you are as close to 60 as to 50. Those older than you say, “Ahh, to be 54 again.” My colleagues in their 30s just give you that look that I use to give my parents and their friends.
All that said, birthdays can be a great connection with friends. That’s especially true now with the Internet. Facebook doesn’t give you any excuse not to send a “friend” a birthday wish, as the little reminder that David has a birthday” stares at you all day. So you get multiple “Happy Birthday’s” (or Feliz Cumpleanos! from one Argentine-born friend). It has been suggested I head to spring training to celebrate (not a bad idea) and that I enjoy more music this year (also not a bad idea). Toasts were raised (figuratively) to more “breathing, picking, and baseball.” Amen.
Friends also pass along the “Today’s Birthday” column from the Washington Post. where I learn…
You are philosophical and will lead people around you to higher thought. Couples experience a resurgence of passion and singles find chemistry and excitement with someone new this month. You will sharpen your skills and raise your profile in May. Marathon- scale projects come to a profitable end in June. Scorpio and Aries adore you.
Birthdays are also the one time you check out “This Date in History” if you ever do. March 4th is the answer to a great trivia question if you love history, for Presidents were inaugurated on this day until the 1930s – something that’s often forgotten today unless your birthday happens to hit the same time.
Franklin Roosevelt was the last president inaugurated on March 4th as well as the first president inaugurated on January 20th. Congress decided with the 20th ammendment that we didn’t have to wait so long for the president to come to Washington. Can you image how fit to be tied the nation would be now if we’d waited until today to welcome our new president?!
There aren’t many memorable inauguration speaches, but you can point to March 4th as the day Abraham Lincoln gave his briliant Second Inaugural Address:
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
In fact, my birthday gift to you, dear reader, is to recommend that you read Ronald C. White, Jr.’s book, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural. As the book jacket reads,
When Lincoln finally stood before his fellow countrymen on March 4, 1865, and had only 703 words to share, the American public was stunned. The President had not offered the North a victory speech, nor did he excoriate the South for the sin of slavery. Instead he called the whole country guilty of the sin and pleaded for reconciliation and unity.
Lincoln’s speech is a timeless and brilliant example of his “moral and rhetorical genius.” Not a bad thing to recall on one’s birthday.
More to come…