Finding Meaning

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In Defense of Committees

By Skip Hellewell

Committees don’t get a lot of respect. People make jokes about them. Consider, for example, the old saw that a giraffe is a horse designed by a committee. You get the idea. Then there was the “Committee of Five.”

An extended group, feeling oppressed, formed a committee to declare their complaints. Two members had no formal education, the others came from small colleges. Two were young, barely into their thirties; the oldest was a bit over the hill at 70. What did this Committee of Five produce? Nothing less than the greatest political statement in the history of mankind—our Declaration of Independence.

Though much of the document is a 28-point indictment of the wrongs done under King George, it’s good to note the opening words: “When in the Course of human events…” that lead to the bold and revolutionary claim, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” With apologies to Committee of Five members Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, here are brief bios for the three members later termed “Founding Fathers:”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), was a self-educated polymath, author, printer, political theorist, scientist, inventor, humorist, and diplomat. Some term him “The First American” for his combination of New World frontiersman and American Enlightenment ideals. Who hasn’t read his autobiography, a classic still in print over two centuries after his death?

John Adams (1735-1826) came from a Massachusetts Puritan family, attended Harvard College, and took up the practice of law. In the spring of 1776, he wrote an essay, “Thoughts on Government,” where he imagined a government of three branches, with the legislative branch divided into two bodies restrained by checks and balances. Adams became our first vice-president, and second president. He and his wife, Abigail, left behind a noted progeny of professors, lawyers, judges, and political leaders (including their son, John Quincy Adams, our sixth president).

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), educated at William and Mary, became our first secretary of state, second vice-president (to Adams) and third president, serving two terms. A devoted bibliophile, he sold his collection to Congress after the British burned their library in the War of 1812. His wife, Martha, died young, leaving a request that he not remarry as she couldn’t stand the notion of a stranger rearing her children. Jefferson never remarried, though some believe he had a relationship with Sally Hemings, the enslaved half-sister of Martha.

Thomas Jefferson was vice-president to John Adams, then challenged and defeated him to become our third president. Bad feelings from the hard-fought campaign destroyed their friendship. Later in their lives, Adams reached out to Jefferson and their friendship was restored through correspondence. They both died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In our politically polarized time, it’s good to remember Adams and Jefferson, and how friends of old once again found friendship. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.



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