Wouldn’t it be grand if many more of our celebrities and politicians possessed what John Adams called “the gift of silence”?
Adams, by the way, readily admitted he did not possess this gift; he was referring to George Washington.
Washington was not a great orator or writer, yet he became the “Father of His Country,” by virtue of his deeds.
In a 1787 letter to his nephew, who had just been elected to the Virginia legislature, Washington advised that he rise to speak seldom, but when rising to speak be sure to have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter; and not to speak in a dictatorial tone.
In other words, don’t talk all the time, and when you do talk, make sure you know what you’re talking about. And don’t turn people off by talking down to them.
Sage advice, indeed.
These days, too many of our politicians and celebrities are oblivious of this wisdom. Many feel the need constantly to pop off, regardless of whether they have anything meaningful to say. They think everything is about them.
Entire volumes and daily news stories cover the president’s proclivity for this shortcoming, so we’ll leave him aside.
Joe Biden did a flip-flop-flip last week — going back and forth in two days — on his position on federally funded abortions.
Now his critics on the far left, even though he switched to their position, say he can’t be trusted because he flip-flopped. Sorry, Joe: Heads, they win; tails, you lose.
In the entertainment field, Justin Bieber challenged Tom Cruise to a mixed martial arts fight. What? Truly, wouldn’t it have been better to remain silent?
Look at Pete Rose. The all-time hit leader in Major League Baseball history, Rose was banned from the game in 1989 after an investigation proved he bet on baseball.
For 30 years Rose has continued a PR (which stands for Pete Rose as well as public relations) campaign, trying to get into the Hall of Fame.
Some writers support him, pointing out that gambling is more accepted now, and there are individuals of dubious moral character (drunks, adulterers, racists) in the Hall of Fame.
But baseball instituted a lifetime ban for gambling for a reason. After gamblers fixed the 1919 World Series, the commissioner realized that the game would be destroyed if its credibility were destroyed.
Bet on baseball, you’re done.
One who understands this is Rose’s former teammate, Johnny Bench. A Hall of Famer himself, Bench believes Rose should never be admitted because he gambled on baseball.
Rose should have ignored this or said that he respects Bench’s opinion. Instead, he said in a radio interview on Fox Sports:
“It don’t bother me, but you know Johnny Bench is one guy who should thank God I was born. Because he never would have made the Hall of Fame if I wasn’t born.”
Rose contended, preposterously, that Bench is only in the Hall of Fame because he, Rose, got on base as often as he did so that Bench could drive him in.
The Big Red Machine had plenty of baserunners in those days, Pete.
By insulting Bench, Rose probably lost much of the support he had for an eventual Hall induction.
He should have taken Washington’s advice. Or the advice often attributed (though probably erroneously) to another great president, Abraham Lincoln:
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
George Washington had it; unfortunately, Pete Rose does not