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An Old Man Stood at a Podium

An Old Man Stood at a Podium

An old man stood at a podium.  Before him stretched an empty high school auditorium that hours before had been full of people yelling his name.  Fifty years ago he had walked across a stage like this to graduate.  Now he was here at the end of the last great era of his life.  There was no one to watch him leave the stage.

It had been an arduous journey to end up back here.  Feeling as unsure of himself as he had as an 18 year old entering the Academy. He remembered his triumphs and his failures.  The long years in a foreign prison, the pain he had endured and tried to forget.  All his life he had felt that each day was truly a gift, a second chance he had received while so many others had not.

What did he have now?  He thought of his legacy, formerly that of a war hero and an icon of independent thought, now reduced to a cocktail party punch line.  And now, standing alone at the podium, he realized the true path he had set himself on.

A legacy, imploded.  The heart and soul of a man who had once stood on principle was now strewn across the country in a bloody fool’s errand.  He had sold his soul to the devils of politics and now could not be surprised that victory wasn’t his reward.  As the fight had become more and more desperate and he abandoned his so strongly held scruples, he had felt pieces of himself slip away.  Now he stood there alone, a shell of the man he had been.

For too long it had been everyone else’s fault.  His advisors, his opponent, Wall Street, the Administration.  These foes that so cleverly lined up against him and forced him to resort to the sort of action that a younger version of himself had been thought disgusting.  Forced off his own message by ambition, blinded to the high road he could have taken by the seductive voices of the very people he had once denounced.

The old man stood at the podium.  Before him were the dreams he had lost.  The career he had dishonored and the future he still had to face.  He knew that somewhere else another man was standing at a podium.  He longed to hear the shouts of joy that were ringing off the walls of that distant place.  It was truly sunset, the ungraceful fade into oblivion of a man that had once been great.  It was history as repeated so many times.  The thirst for power had corrupted and in the end proved to be destructive. 

The sun would dawn on a new America.  It would be an America without him, an America that would forget his sacrifice as it moved into the future and he could only blame himself.  He had been so close, so close to the immortalization he thought he needed.  And now he was alone.  And soon to be forgotten.