Hemelt: We’re blessed with strong power transition history

Published 12:03 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans. We are all federalists.”

According to the Library of Congress, those were some of the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson during his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801.

It was Jefferson’s attempt to mend fences following a hard fought presidential election between himself and challenger Aaron Burr — an election Congress had to help settle.

What came from that moment, that speech and that election might be the most remarkable and defining element of the United States of America, and that is the peaceful transition of power.

Through wars that occupied the world, presidential assassinations and civil unrest, America has peacefully transferred power at least once a decade for more than 200 years in a manner that is surely the envy of every other country in the world.

Make America great again, some say; heck, we never stopped being great. That is as true this week, as it was last week and as it will be next week.

Some of President-elect Donald Trump’s initial remarks Tuesday night addressed what remains special about this land we all love.

“To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people,” he said. “It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

I have no problem admitting President-elect Trump was not my No. 1 candidate, but in my freedom to express that opinion, I also welcome the opportunity Trump earned to lead our great nation.

His remarkable rise to commander and chief certainly keyed in on desires many of my family members and neighbors supported.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family,” Trump said Tuesday.

Like all presidents before him, Trump has my support and my admiration for taking a job that seemingly no one can ever be prepared for. I have my doubts as to his eventual effectiveness, but like anything earned and later judged by future voters, our wonderful system of checks and balances remains in place.

Our system excelled nationally, and the process also worked well in St. John the Baptist Parish, where thousands participated in early voting and Election Day opportunities.

There are approximately 30,200 registered voters in the parish and 5,449 (18 percent) of them voted early in this election.

That’s an increase from 4,986 early voters in 2012 and 4,760 in 2008.

In total, 20,740 St. John residents voted in this month’s election, putting the turnout percentage at 68.7, close to the 70.5 percent turnout in 2012 and 73.2 percent turnout in 2008.

St. John Parish Registrar of Voters Rita E. Jarrow jokingly described the scenes across the parish Tuesday as a “madhouse” because of the “great turnout,” adding “it went as well as possible.”

Sheriff Mike Tregre said his officers didn’t alert him to any complaints, adding “everything ran very smoothly in St. John.”

So to echo Jefferson’s prophetic words more than 200 years ago, our different names don’t automatically mean different principles. We are forever united by our peaceful transition and important role in the world’s greatest nation.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.