Each day, as I enter the House of Representatives to vote, I find it hard to avoid two rather prominent portraits adjoining the speaker’s platform. The first is of George Washington; the second, of the Marquis de Lafayette.
One might ask why Lafayette, since John Adams, Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, among others, would be more obvious picks. But Lafayette it is, side by side with his friend, the father of our country.
Events and friendship between the United States and France have had, over the years, a great impact on our history. Clearly, the United States would not have held together in its early years without the dynamism of George Washington. And Washington would not have been able to achieve victory at Yorktown on Oct. 19, 1781 without the French. In fact, Lafayette demanded that the British, led by Lord Cornwallis, surrender not to him, but to George Washington.
E.E. Cummings once said that one is not half of two, rather two are halves of one. This was the story of our two countries in 1781, and I’m inclined to think that, despite the present disagreement over Iraq, along with a few unfortunate statements by those who should know better, both countries deep down are still together, still look out on the world the same way, and still face a lethal common enemy – terrorism.0