John Adams and the Words That Hit Like a Ton of Bricks

· Do you have to be elderly, in your 80s in Adams’s case, to have this sort of reflection and perspective? Can a younger person reach the same conclusion? Personally, age may help but I don’t think it’s required. This sort of insight can come at any age, at any time.
· Speaking of age, I’ve seen plenty of older people who were anything but cheerful in the same sense that Adams displays on March 3, 1820. And I include Adams in that category. He doesn’t automatically reach this perspective simply because he’s older. Other things are involved.
· Don’t assume that Adams’s writing of March 3, 1820 meant that he withdrew from the rancorous world for the rest of his days. Within a short time of the letter that I’ve quoted to you, Adams will be writing furiously about his despair over the state of the nation. Specifically, he despairs of the future of the United States because of the Missouri Compromise that I referenced in my video.
· I think some people might believe you need to have a type of “charmed” life to be able to share Adams’s insights into the meaning of life’s deepest values on earth. Not true—Adams deals with an astounding amount of personal defeat, personal tragedy, and personal misfortune over the course of his years. That includes right up to the days that he writes about the Milky Way and the snowstorms.
· When was the last time you looked into the night sky and found yourself in awe?
· If you haven’t visited Adams’s home in Quincy, Massachusetts, you certainly should do so. I recommend it wholeheartedly. It has a distinctively different feel to it than do the homes of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
· How much better would life be if your first and longest lasting impression of a winter snow storm was like Adams’s instead of what now seems to dominate our view—I’m referring here to the panic-stricken weather bulletins, the grousing about snow-covered streets and driveways, and the angst over whether or not school is closed. I’m not lecturing. I feel the same pull towards these concerns. Still, I just think it serves you and me well if we look through and past them to find the richer sense of the moment.
· Adams’s leadership was not what you might expect. He was intense, easily riled, intellectual, and often quick to believe that he had found the right answer and everyone else had not. These qualities affected his achievements and contributions but they did not prevent them.
· You would do well to find published books on two sets of Adams’s correspondence—one between he and his wife, Abigail, and the other between he and Thomas Jefferson.
· Much of Adams’s life and leadership was in an arena—politics, public policy, and government—where he regarded himself as underappreciated and overly ignored. Does that describe you, too?
· One of the most compelling leadership experiences of Adams came when he was elected President in 1796 after having served two terms as Vice-President to George Washington. Adams decides to retain nearly all of Washington’s cabinet members. His reasons for doing so were: maintaining continuity; trying to show that he was above personal politics; and, likely, a basic insecurity about cutting loose from Washington and his legacy. This decision has a severe impact on Adams’s presidential administration and becomes one of the largest issues in his daily leadership at the White House. Think about that for yourself.
· You just can’t envision John Adams without having Abigail Adams in his life. American history would have been much, much different if these two had not become husband and wife.