My Dad would have been 100 years old yesterday. He died much too young at the age of 61 in 1974.
George Washington's birthday is today. He was born on February 22, 1732. He died December 14, 1799 at the age of 67.
Their birthdays remind me of a story I once heard about the difference between the way Americans and Europeans tend to view the past and the future. It bears repeating.
Think of two circles alongside each other, one small and one large.
The circles represent the importance of how a society's citizens view the past and the future, respectively.
Europeans put the small circle on the right and the large circle on the left.
America has the small circle on the left and the large circle on the right.
The left to right arrangement also symbolizes a timeline connecting the past and the future.
Europe lives in the past.
America lives for the future.
My Dad's name was Player Glenn Cook. Glenn is spelled with two "NNs." It's of Irish origin, I'm told, and my guess is that somewhere back in time his ancestors earned their way to America and became cooks.
In any event, Dad's Dad was a railroader and both of his brothers were as well. Our small home town was a railroad hub for the Santa Fe, and both my older brother and I worked there during school breaks. We didn't grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, but we lived nearby.
Dad and Mom always heavily encouraged both my brother and me to go to college, so my guess is that's a big reason why we did. Both of us went on to earn graduate degrees and did well in our chosen careers.
Dad and Mom married during the Great Depression and didn't go to college. Mom didn't finish high school. They both worked hard all their adult lives (as an hourly paid distillery worker and an hourly paid grade school cafeteria leader) in order that my older brother and I would enjoy opportunities that they never had. They wanted us to have every chance to pursue and live the 'American Dream.'
Dad and Mom put the small circle on the left for sure. The big one on the right was for their kids.
George Washington's ancestors emigrated from England to Virginia. I don't have to tell you anything about his life story, so I won't even try. Being known as the "father of his country" perhaps says all that needs saying.
Accordingly, I'm quite certain that Mr. Washington put the small circle on the left as well.
So here's what makes me wonder about lots of things happening in America today. Why do so many of our political "leaders" want to emulate Europe? Why do they insist that the small circle belongs on the right? Why do they want us to become a European like social welfare state?
Didn't our ancestors come here from there in order to avoid that small circle on the right syndrome? Aren't we still destined to be 'the land of opportunity?' I think so.
So Happy 281st Birthday, President Washington and a belated 100th one to my Dad as well.
And thanks to both of you for everything you did for me.
And especially for putting the big circle on the right.
It's the future that matters most to our kids and grandkids. Thus, it's the future that matters most to us oldsters as well.
That's my take.