The sun shone again this morning. Elsewhere in Britain snow and gales may be a problem but here, in a small town in South East England the sun is radiant.
It is illuminating that piece of hillside that I see from my bedroom window. On it, illuminated from above is a flock of black and white sheep, in equal numbers.
Usually the black sheep is a minority, less valued, discouraged in a fine breeding flock but here, up in the Sussex Downs, this breed of sheep is encouraged.
They have a special function. They either eat all the course grass or all the pure grass, I can’t remember which, but whatever they do, their constant grazing, produces the ideal conditions for that endangered species of butterfly, the Adonis Blue, a thing of rare beauty never forgotten by anyone lucky enough to see it.
There is something encouraging about the beauty achieved by this happy mingling of black and white sheep in the hills around where I live.
Not only is this town worth noting because of a rare and beautiful butterfly. It is also famous for a battle in 1264 when the King was defeated by the barons, lead by one Simon de Montford, but the defeat ended in a victory which should be celebrated for all time. It was after this battle that the first English Parliament was established.
Many centuries later, our town was the place where that great champion of freedom, Thomas Paine lived for some years before writing his influential book, The Rights of Man and before he went off to America and France to become a powerful influence on both countries’ revolutions.
His influence, like that of the English Parliament, will last for all time. He was not narrow in his hopes for mankind: “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren.”
He left these shores as an enemy of the state but found his natural home in the United States which honours him to this day. He took more than a bit of us with him and helped create that bond that exists between all hopeful British and American citizens.
We are about to honour another man next week as he becomes the new President of that land of hope.
President Barrack Hussein Obama will be sworn in at a time when the World looks to him for help.
He will be a first in so many ways. Amongst them, he will be as President, the first black American, the first African, and the first with an Arabic-Muslim name.
These, added to the many other qualities that fill us with hope, gives him a chance to mend our divided World.
He will travel to Washington today following the route of Abraham Lincoln on his journey to the Presidency. So not only will he be the first in many ways but he will be the inheritor of a mantle worn by his most inspiring predecessors.
Lincoln, the Republican libertarian who said: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honourable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.”
Also, not forgetting Lincoln, many people across the World, hope that Obama could be the new Kennedy – the last Prsident to come to power with such hope as his support. The man who said:
“My fellow citizens of the World: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
And tomorrow, a day before this exciting inauguration, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Another inspirational American who said, immortally:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”.
President Obama, no need for me to remind you of these men, you obviously draw inspiration from them already but take good care of yourself. Follow their words and their example but for all our sakes, don’t, like them fall victim of a mad man’s bullet.
We need you after these last eight years when hope was turned into dispair. After 9/11 the whole world looked to the States in sympathy and Americans looked out from their shock to ask what had gone wrong with their relationship with the rest of the World.
President Bush, far from using that moment as a new beginning for international peace, turned it into a war-zone with the paranoid madness of his talk of the War On Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
President Obama, we look to you again. Take up that moment again and try to erase much of the damage prepetuated on all citizens of the World with those tragic errors.
God Bless America!