With every passing day, I yearn more desperately for a president who could, and would even want to, embody and broadcast the conception of liberty so brilliantly spelled out in a 1944 address to new citizens by Learned Hand, chief judge of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for many decades.

Judge Hand is recognized as one of the wisest judges in the history of American jurisprudence. These words had immediate and wide-spread influence near the end of World War II; I hope they will again now:

“What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

“And now in that spirit … I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.”

I concede it is futile to bring these words to the attention of the current occupant of the Oval Office, but members of Congress, and Democratic candidates – are you listening? If so, do something. In the spirit of liberty.


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