High end prayer


I watched some of President Reagan’s funeral procession and then most of the memorial service in the Capital rotunda. Despite my increasingly apolitical tendencies, I’m still pretty interested in these historical moments. I’m one of those guys who buys newspapers and magazines when real history happens. I tape things like state funerals and Michael Jordan’s retirement press conference(s). I have some stuff that I think I’ll be glad I have down the road — tape from the first day of the first Gulf War, magazines from McGuire and Sosa’s dramatic race to break Maris’s record, newspapers from all over the world after 9/11 and hours of tape from that day. I even inherited a pretty amazing original newspaper covering the second continental congress when we lost Amy’s Dad a few years ago. Some people have no use for this stuff, and that’s fine. I like it.

Anyway, I’ve already heard some people complaining about the excessive coverage of Reagan’s death. Everything gets covered excessively these days, but I welcome the change from the daily blah of Bush/Kerry non-happenings and tragic reports from the Middle East. You can like or dislike Reagan’s politics, but there’s not much disputing that he possessed something that none of today’s players do. He had a presence, and people trusted him. Most people felt good about him being the guy, even if they didn’t vote for him. Some of his approval ratings were absurd they were so high, even among Democrats. For me and folks about my age, Reagan dominates our memories of becoming acquainted with the ceremony and public face of American democracy. I vaguely remember Carter, which I think is pretty impressive since I was five in 1980. Yeah, I’m like that (but no, I didn’t save any papers from Reagan’s first election).

This is also interesting to me because this is the first state funeral for a President since LBJ died in ’73 (I was born in ’75). Nixon died in ’94 (and yeah, I have his funeral on tape too), but he didn’t get the full treatment for obvious reasons. All the living presidents showed up for that one, but the show went down out in Yorba Linda. This is history, folks. Give it five minutes.

All that said, there’s always reason to raise an eyebrow or two and laugh a little when these self-important events unfold. At the conclusion of tonight’s ceremony, the Senate chaplain, Barry Black, offered a prayer that included the following phrase: “…[Reagan] lifted the lamp of liberty to topple totalitarian towers.”


But it makes sense when you read about Barry Black. He has three Master’s degrees and two doctorates. That’s five post-graduate degrees, if anyone’s keeping score. That’s a lot of education, which I guess makes your prayers sound, well, really educated. Oh, and there’s this — Barry Black is married to Brenda Black, and their three sons are Barry Black II, Brendan Black, and Bradford Black.


1 thought on “High end prayer

  1. I watched the procession and the rotunda eulogy. Every thing impressed as it was intended. Face it, anyone who writes 300 pages of instructions for a funeral should have an impressive service, don’t you think? Our country needs to be impressed more. As I watched, my mind maneuvered in and out of memories known as my life. I won’t go into them, but I do wonder why such situations impressed me to such a degree they have become part of the permanent files.
    I wrote a poem entitled “Now That I Am, I Not” which basically suggests that now that I’ve become part of the great melting pot known as America, I’m not at all what I should be as an American. That’s the way I see most Americans; they are part of a great mass of idealists (a term repeated over and over in today’s activities…I’m one myself), but in the process of merging together, they have lost the sense of who they are (and whose’s they are). I tell my students: Go ahead, be yourself…just like everybody else. It throws them because they see themselves as being different. They are out to impress the universe.
    One phrase impressing my ear was the idea of a leader not being one who achieves greatness, but one who moves others to bring about great things. That’s what brought a tear to my eye. I wondered if that would be able to be said of me. That’s what anyone named Barnabas would do; that would have to be his/her calling.
    I had to laugh at the opening of Black’s prayer. His alluding to the author as though God would need an introduction to the man seemed out of place at the feet of the loving Father. We pray in interesting ways. I wonder if God is impressed with the words to the same degree as we are? The remainder of the prayer was impressive, filled with allusions and spoken in poetic language.
    At noon I had to wait at a traffic light for almost 15 minutes as a funeral procession passed. That all traffic stopped in every direction impressed me. When I was young (that’s well before Thad was born), drivers always showed respect by pulling over and stopping until the procession passed. I remember my Grandfather telling me why we should respect the dead (even by removing one’s cap/hat if you were wearing one while driving) and that to not do so was an insult to one’s self. That type of respect isn’t the case much today. I’ve even witnessed people honking out of rage and passing the family car. That’s why the situation at noon caught my attention. I’m not sure why every person pulled over. The president’s death and funeral may have impressed people; I honestly don’t know. Maybe it was just the spirit of the day. Whatever the reason was, I was impressed and my spirit lifted.
    I like pomp and circumstance because it’s important for the spirit of man. Without it, we wouldn’t understand who God is. And God is impressive…to me.

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