We have all been concerned with power lately. It has been over a decade since the ice storm of January 2009. At that time, the word “power” did not take on a new meaning; it was just that one connotation of the word was used over and over again. I walked down my office corridor at the university and asked my colleagues, “Do you have power yet?” At the beginning of my classes I asked my students, “How many of your families are still without power?”

We all compared notes on how long our power was out.

When I Googled the work “power,” I received 1,100,000,000 results in 0.15 seconds. On the first page are websites for the Wikipedia entry for “power,” for “Power Magazine,” for “Power 106,” a hip-hop radio station in southern California, for “Power.com.,” and “Power.org.”

Think of all the different ways we use the word “power.” There is powerball in the lottery; power lifting in weightlifting; power forwards in basketball; power hitters in baseball, power servers in tennis, and Power Rangers for children. There are powerful politicians, powerful lawyers, powerful teachers and preachers, powerful singers.  We talk of horsepower and manpower.

Of late, we have been concerned with generator power, gas power, battery power, solar power, and, of course, electrical power. A political issue centers on the efficacy of the power generated from fossil fuels.

When I was growing up in my church, we used to sing about another kind of power. Lewis E. Jones (1865-1936) wrote the words and the music to the old hymn, “There Is Power in the Blood”:

Would you be free from the burden of sin?

There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;

Would you o’er evil a victory win?

There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

 

There is pow’r, pow’r, Wonderworking pow’r

In the blood of the Lamb;

There is pow’r, pow’r, Wonderworking pow’r

In the precious blood of the Lamb.

 

Christians still sing these words in worship servicesaround the world. In times such as these, more and more people turn to their faith as they seek the power of electricity as well as power from above.

Yet another kind of power much in the news today is political power. I am at present reading David McCullough’s “John Adams” while preparing to lead a book discussion at the Calloway County Public Library at 2 p.m. on Sept. 22. Power, or who held power, was of supreme importance during America’s founding period.

Although he would eventually become the nation’s second president, in those early years ,John Adams often took a back seat in the power game. Some thought he should have written the Declaration of Independence, but the job and the glory and the power would go to Thomas Jefferson — at Adams’ insistence.

Although he was one of the three-member commission to France to secure a French alliance during the War for Independence, the powerful position of ambassador to France would eventually go to the aging Benjamin Franklin.

In the Constitution, the founders ensured that power would not be relegated to one area of government. Instead, they ingeniously separated power between three branches of government — the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Furthermore, they came up with ways that each branch could check and balance the power of the other two branches. It is really all quite remarkable.

Of course, finally, the Constitution ensured that the ultimate power in the new Republic would be in the hands of the people — “We the People.” Only when we fail to vote and play an active role in the workings of government and politics do we relinquish that power.

Duane Bolin is Professor Emeritus of History at Murray State University. Contact him at jbolin@murraystate.edu. “Home and Away” runs each Tuesday in the Murray Ledger & Times. 

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