DECEMBER 1, 2003 – “Our nation,
this most powerful, wealthy, and dominant people on the face of
planet Earth, shall shine on for millennia to come.” So said
Pericles, the ruler during the Golden Age of Ancient Athens as he
was giving a speech in 398 B.C.
The next year, in 399 B.C., when Athens
was at its greatest peak, he proclaimed, “As we are a Democracy, we
can never fail! The people’s will is what makes us strong!” Sure
within a year he was dead, and within four years later his nation
was gone, completely broke, battered, and ravaged. Yet still, these
majestic words live on in all their original beauty.
Emperor Constantine of Rome was the
great warrior who brought Christianity to the Empire. “Under God’s
watch, we shall conquer and never fall!” He proclaimed wonderfully,
standing atop… well, what you can now visit as the ruins of a once
great nation… but the inspirational sentiment still moves the soul.
Now let’s move on to more modern times,
to Napoleon, who ruled the mighty French empire of the mid 1800’s,
“We French are the most populous of Europe, the most wealthy, and
possess an army that has brought us virtually the whole of the
continent! Viva la France! Our great nation will prosper forever
as the most powerful nation on Earth.” You know, they still do make
Well, let’s really focus only on the
truly, truly powerful and great nations. The U.S.S.R. stood in all
it’s glory in 1989 when Premier Gorbachev said, “We uphold a bold,
long, and storied tradition. Our nation controls much of Asia, half
of Europe, and our sphere of influence and power is felt on every
continent of the Globe.” Beautiful! Brilliant rhetoric for all the
ages to be moved by.
I mean, a couple of years later the
U.S.S.R. didn’t exist at all, but what words! What beautiful use of
the spoken medium.
Each of these nations was dominant,
wealthy and powerful beyond all imagination. Sure each made the
exact same mistake of overextending itself militarily, bankrupting
the nation with regard to domestic affairs, and gaining far too many
enemies due to their belligerent, aggressive actions. But because
doing this led, in three of the cases, to the rapid collapse of each
of these nations – within merely a couple years of their peak – that
is no reason not to still look back and admire the exemplary – if
naïve – speeches of the greats who have come before us.
And of course we have the fourth great
nation to think about: Rome. Another Roman Emperor stood to tell
the tale as well. “Forever shall we live as a beacon of glory to
the world,” proclaimed Emperor Romulus Augustus. True, the
terrorist band named Vandals – from whom we get the word vandalism
that we still use today – ransacked Rome shortly thereafter and the
world plummeted into the Dark Ages, but still, what words that moved
the most powerful nation to rule the Earth!