Please identify and explain the lessons that you can take from Cicero and the Stoics for running the American Empire of the 21st century.  Please be specific.  Thanks!

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marcus Tullius Cicero, who lived between 106 and 43 B.C. was an orator, state advocate, but, above all, a great translator of Greek thought into Latin, who, in fact, created Latin words when there were none to truly convey the nuances of meanings in Greek. Cicero studied philosophy, but only as a tool for political goals. 

Disturbed by leaders such as Caesar, who he thought abused power, Cicero felt that the loss of virtue was the major cause of the difficulties within the Roman Republic. Therefore, he urged leaders to commit themselves first to individual virtue.  Certainly, the leaders of America would do well to heed Cicero's advice by committing themselves to the virtue of honesty and by being truthful and non-political in ethical matters. 

Perhaps the most outstanding example of political rather than ethical motivation is in the mounting evidence of the IRS's targeting of conservative political groups (100% who applied for tax exemptions were scrutinized as opposed to 30% of other groups) and the President's initial outrage that any scandalous doings were in existence, later followed by his conflicting assertion that there was no corruption whatsoever.  The false report that the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi was over a video is politically suspicious, as well, since the incident happened shortly before the presidential election of 2012 and the incumbents had declared essentially that the War on Terror was over. Also, the promises made repeatedly in about people's being able to keep their insurance and retain their doctors when enrolled in the "Affordable Care" insurance program are certainly suspected of being motivated by politics. 

In addition to the application of philosophical tenets, Cicero made use of Stoic principles, the idea that virtue is the highest good and that one's life should be based upon reason. Urging the politically elite of Rome to practice the principles of Stoicism, self-control and reason, coincided with Cicero's belief in virtue because both concepts aim at the greater good for all. When a ruler is rational and bases decisions upon reason, he/she forgoes political advancement and advancement of one's personal ideology. In Washington, perhaps if the legislative branch and the executive branch had set aside political agendas and what would best serve their political designs and rationally worked on a Federal budget for the country, instead, Americans would have been better served. Arguably, too, the recent Federal reactionary tactics against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy with snipers, taser stun guns, and dogs are certainly a strong argument for the use of Stoicism in which people make use of rational processes.  

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