Category Archives: Remember

For Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot? – Robert Burns

Poet and lyricist Robert Burns collected folk songs from across Scotland, updating and revising them and reintroducing them to the nation and the world. In 1788 he transcribed an old song into a poem and then back into a song that is now known the world over. Auld Lang Syne is sung on the last day of the year as the New Year is about to begin.

A literal translation of the phrase “auld lang syne” would be “old long since.” It means “long ago”, or “days gone by.” The song begins by asking a question, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?” In other words, as we reflect on the year gone by, should we forget those times, relegating them to the foggy memory of the past? Or should we instead cherish the things that have happened in the days that have now gone by?

Usually our attitude toward the New Year is to rejoice in the new beginning and to resolve to forget the difficulties and hard times of the past twelve months. The old year holds moments of joy and pain, but we tend to focus only on the hard times, the suffering, the misery of the human condition, and we look optimistically toward the New Year dawning. The great truth in this old folk song reminds us that remembering days gone by is not about the things that happened, but about the people who were there with us in the middle of it.

For all that we have faced, endured, overcome, and even where we have failed, we must carefully look back to the past and have the determination to call to mind the good times as well as those good things that always find a way to come out during the bad times. We are able to do this because of the simple yet profoundly true statement, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” The lesson of auld lang syne, of remembering the old year and celebrating the new, is that even when it felt like we were all alone, we never really were.

We all have friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances that know us and love us just as we are. There is an old proverb that reminds us, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It isn’t about all the things we know how to do; it is about the people who love us.

As we focus on this New Year, let us remember the challenges of the past, the difficulty and hardship, the blessings and moments of joy, laughter, and contentment, and especially the people who made a difference in our day to day existence. Most of our memories are remembrances of moments spent with the people we love. These people are the reason we get up and go to work each day, and the reason we smile when the sun isn’t shining.

Let us not believe for a moment that our best days are behind us, or that our friendships of long ago are gone, having disappeared into the past. Let us remember while we look to the future. It is uncharted and unknown so we must walk by faith and not by sight. The good news is that there are people we love and who love us who are here with us as we take these fresh new steps into 2012.

I hope then that all of us might be able to build on the lessons of the past year as we step into the new. The things we have learned and especially the people we have learned them from are not to be forgotten. Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days gone by? No! Let us remember those days as we look forward with hope to the New Year.

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We Must All Hang Together

We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately. – Benjamin Franklin (at the signing on the Declaration of Independence)

Two hundred and thirty-five years ago, on July 4, 1776, the Congress of the thirteen United States of America unanimously declared their independence from Great Britain. After enumerating their grievances and listing the reasons for making such a declaration, the fifty-six signers proclaimed, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

They risked everything for this great experiment in self government, trusting that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They viewed government as being accountable to the people, not the people being accountable to the government. True liberty was seen in men being free from burdensome rules and regulations by an oppressive ruler. They stated that government derives it power “from the consent of the governed.”

They were cautious and even hesitant to make such a bold change in their government, but believed that there was no other course of action to take in light of the abuses coming from the King and Parliament. Britain was fighting a war with France and needed more money to continue the war. The people were already taxed at burdensome levels, so the governors decided to levy new taxes on the colonies. The Stamp Act among other measures was an attempt to charge taxes to the colonists all the while refusing them the right to be represented in Parliament. So they did not have a say in how they were treated or what was done with the money paid in taxes. This was indeed “taxation without representation.”

The colonists fought these new taxes, including the infamous Boston Tea Party. As they petitioned for the right to be heard on these matters, King George finally reached a point where he believed that the colonies were of no use any longer, and even had become too much trouble to govern. He issued The Prohibitory Act of 1775. In this declaration from the throne, he removed his authority, protection, and rule from the colonies. He declared that they were enemies of Great Britain and even invited mercenaries to help him undermine and destroy the “rebellious states.”

Imagine, a King offering to pay mercenaries to invade and disrupt settlements filled with his subjects. This Prohibitory Act was rightly seen as a declaration of war on the colonies. The King had made Britain an Enemy of “these thirteen united States.” Parliament disagreed with this move by the King and they began to argue with him about how to handle the situation, to the point that they instructed British troops to attack key ports and trade routes in order to try and re-take what the King had given away. As the King and Parliament debated and argued and fought among themselves, our Founding Fathers knew that something had to be done to assure the safety and survival of the settlers in the new world.

After several meetings of Congress the decision was made that in order to protect themselves from mercenaries and the British troops already in the country, they needed to establish a new government. They had been kicked out of Britain, rejected as a territory and holding by the Crown, and now were under threat of invasion. The answer that appeared to be the best was to declare to the world what had happened and to establish a new government, securing independence and liberty for the people.

In 1776, in order to do this, these fifty-six men were willing to give their all, to sacrifice everything for the sake of freedom. The revolution had begun and the world has been a better place ever since.

On this anniversary of the birth of our young nation, let us not forget all that we have been able to accomplish, for the good not only of our own country, but for the world. Historians tell us that each great society in the history of the world has left in its wake contributions to civilization. The Greeks gave us philosophy, architecture, and sculpture. The Romans gave us aqueducts, roads, bridges, public law, and military colonization. Italy during the Renaissance gave us the fine arts. England gave us representative government and public justice. But what of America?

The marks of a great civilization are seen in these things that contribute to changing things the world over. Historians list five such contributions from the United States. They include 1) diplomacy and peace keeping around the world, 2) religious freedom, 3) seeing all men as truly equal, 4) ethnic acceptance, that is, we are a melting pot consisting of all types of people from around the world and live, for the most part, in harmony, and 5) industry, that is our ability to work and produce the most affluent society in the history of the world.

America is great because her people are great. The form of government established by our Founding Fathers was designed specifically to allow men to have the freedom and liberty to pursue success, wealth, happiness, and whatever else they desire. The result has been that we as a nation have done more and reached further than any society that came before us. In 235 short years, we have changed the world.

Let us not forget the determination of our Founders, or their sacrifices made to make this great experiment in self governing a reality. For all the doom and gloom of the present time, in the midst of recession, depression, and frustration, and in light of the fact that we are far from perfect – we must remember this: we are the United States of America, and if we hang together we can make things better for ourselves and the rest of the world.

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