Guest post by Bill Hennessy
Once upon a time in America, the United States Congress produced moving, meaningful eloquence that changed the tide of history. Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Abraham Lincoln are just a few of many whose words lifted the debate above the issue to address the cause.
The quality of lifting our focus above the debate to the true issues that matter is called “statesmanship.” Statesmanship does not have to be eloquent or brilliant. It has be honest and human. Statesmanship overcomes partisan wrangling and emotional pettiness by reminding us of our real purpose on earth.
In short, the US Congress has lost its sense of purpose, history, and proportion.
Sadly, in the last 50 years or so, Congress has become the last place to look for statesmanship. The United States Congress has become the trading pit of America’s basest interests. Congress is where the traders exchange deals to the satisfaction of shadowy stakeholders.
But in the state legislatures, true statesmanship still rises above the crowd to remind us of higher purposes and greater goals.
Last week, a second-term Missouri state representative rose above the crowd and lifted the debate above petty emotion. She earned praise from every faction of Missouri’s fractious legislature for a short, impromptu speech delivered as the body debated restrictions on 1619 education.
The 1619 project is a controversial and emotionally charged doctrine dreamed up by editors at the New York Times. The 1619 project intends to reframe American history as a story of exploitation and cruelty, of wealth for a few extracted from the involuntary suffering of many others.
Such a philosophy is bound to evoke high emotions from many groups. For those who believe they were the exploited masses, the 1619 project supplies ammunition and justification. At the same time, those accused of benefiting from slavery and exploitation are bound to feel defensive and wronged. The very existence of a project to rewrite history, then, seems designed to drive wedges of hatred, jealousy, resentment, and defensiveness between multiple factions of our society.
And it worked.
The Missouri House experienced one of its angriest sessions last week as the body debated whether to restrict the teaching of the 1619 project in Missouri’s public schools. The debate became wildly partisan and racially divisive. Legislators who were friendly turned upon each other.
Dottie Bailey, a second-term state representative from a district that spans St. Louis and Franklin Counties, left the floor to pray. She returned before she got a clear answer from God. But she returned with the righteous courage to let the Holy Spirit speak through her.
What she said silenced the rancor and earned personal praise and thanks, not only from her fellow Republicans, but from the Democrats and African-Americans in the legislature. This despite the fact that Dottie didn’t really talk about race at all. She talked about the deadly sin of division. Without using the words, she evoked Lincoln’s “a house divided” speech. Without quoting Churchill, she evoked his Iron Curtain warning. Without conjuring William F. Buckley, she reminded us that the battle we face is Good vs. Evil on a different plane.
Here is the video from the House floor.
This floor speech could go down as a turning point in the battle of the people vs. the elites. Dottie managed to unite a divided state legislature in its fight to represent the people against powerful and shadowy interests.
Share this with your family and friends. America might have a future after all. If we could just find more Dottie Baileys.