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Patience, My Dears


It has been nearly a month since Queen Elizabeth entered the last—and immortal—part of her reign. She has joined a pantheon of former British kings and queens stretching back beyond the Norman conquest of 1066 to the misty realms of Anglo-Saxon rulers.

That long lineage is replete with scoundrels, libertines, ruthless despots, probable murderers, mighty warriors, all mixed in with the occasional scholar or saint. It was not until the dour, hyper-diligent Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha married Queen Victoria that the first blush of morality tinged the monarchy’s cheeks.

Elizabeth II was a worthy successor to this rigidly proper great-grandpapa of hers. Like Albert she dedicated her life to the British people, a task that consumed her days until scant hours before her death. If the Egyptian Goddess Anubis, charged with truth, justice and maintaining order in the universe, were to weigh Elizabeth’s heart against a feather he would undoubtedly find her worthy of admission to the afterlife.

England turned itself inside out to say goodbye to its longest-reigning monarch, a woman whose life of service began in childhood during the dark days of World War II. She endured the ensuing decades in the full glare of public scrutiny, stoic and seemingly calm in the vortex of family turmoil broadcast to, and eagerly devoured by, a public hungry for lurid detail. That history of personal pain was subtly evident even during her lengthy obsequies as family members were stripped of their honorary military appointments and patronages—one for a tawdry sex scandal and the other for not having a sufficiently stiff upper lip—appeared dressed in morning suits rather than their uniforms.

Elizabeth had not been spared criticism during her reign but, when dead, all was forgiven. Talking heads commented repeatedly about her steady service, her solid presence, her symbolic role as a reassuring head of state for her people, 80 percent of whom had never known another monarch. Perseverance apparently won the day.

It is not the first time that persistence and steady effort have been credited with success. Greek storyteller Aesop (born 620 BCE) immortalized it in the fable about the Tortoise and the Hare and there are countless stories about those who tried and failed, only to try again and again on their way to success.

Colonel Sanders was 65 and broke before he started selling his mother’s fried chicken recipe; Thomas Edison, considered a dolt by his teachers, experimented 1,000 times before successfully creating the light bulb; Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination; American author Jack London received 600 rejections before his first story was accepted and Winston Churchill, a failure at school, sculpted himself into one of the most significant statesmen of any era.

The list goes on and on but Americans are an impatient people. We are all too ready to stab a condemnatory finger in the direction of anyone not producing immediate results. The public seems to have forgotten that good things take time and effort.

In my role as a reporter, I have watched any number of local governments conduct community business. I have come to expect that a new first selectman’s term will be a two-year learning curve, followed by a second term with more confident administration. After four years the selectman will be firmly at the helm. That surety of administration will, however, result only from a process of developing a good team of support players.

How much more complicated it is when dealing with large bureaucracies at the state and federal levels. The problems facing the world today are massive, opinions are not only divided but etched in stone and patience is at a premium. Economies around the world are crumbling, disease stalks the human race, and the Earth is literally burning up. And yet we expect our leaders to somehow, without united cooperation from colleagues and the electorate, to right their ships of state.

In January 2021, Time magazine declared, “One year in, there’s a growing sense that the Biden presidency has lost its way,” citing a chaotic pull-out from Afghanistan, rising world tensions, inflation and Biden’s inability to tame the Senate. It even asserted he had been “caught flat-footed” by two new Covid variants despite his administration’s early success in rolling out the vaccine.

Then it turned around. In recent weeks the nation’s top executive has scored a number of legislative victories, including striking a deal with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to pass the ambitious Inflation Reduction Act. He signed two bipartisan bills: one enhancing economic competitiveness against China and the first gun safety bill to pass Congress in 30 years. He cancelled thousands of dollars in student loan debt for millions of Americans and watched as gas, one key—and highly visible—inflation indicator dropped by 25 percent.

Was this all just happy circumstance? Was Joe Biden responsible for the nation’s woes because he was old and ineffectual? Is the current string of successes due not to his leadership but to a propitious alignment of the stars? I would argue not. It takes time for any leader—Republican, Democrat or purple Martian—to build the infrastructure and relationships needed to effect change.

World War II Britain directed its citizens to “keep calm and carry on.” The late Queen exemplified that quality. Biden, a statesman of the old order, continues the tradition pushing on without caviling in the face of disappointment. We would do well to follow their examples, for once exhibiting patience and perseverance.