February 19, 2007
The Presidential Voice,Part Five: President's Day
Today is President's Day in the U.S. It's a day between Abraham Lincoln's birthday (Feb 12) and George Washington's birthday (Feb 22), but the honor is passed to all U.S. Presidents. I've seen lots of photos of Mt. Rushmore floating around the internet today. I know I've posed the question here before about who would be next President to be added to Mt. Rushmore or a Rushmoresque honor. Who was the last great President? The latest addition to Rushmore was Teddy Roosevelt who left office almost 100 years ago. Modifying Rushmore might be too difficult a task, but is there an equivalent honor? And if so who in th e last 100 years is deserving of such an honor? I believe it's virtually impossible to be considered a great president anymore. In an age of harsh partisanship and the media's no holds barred exposure journalism (and frankly, our "enlightened" desire for knowing every detail about our leaders). It's been well documented how the press kept FDR's physical disabilities quiet, but now the party leadership will discourage a candidate from entering the primaries if they have anything that might have to be explained in their family tree or their past. On one hand the American people are loosening up their standards, but the media is looking for a story too, so it's safer to try to find a perfect candidate than have to explain a divorce or experimental drug use. Four names that get thrown around since Rushmore are FDR, Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton. I think all four of these president's have dibs on a Rushmore level honor, for their own accomplishments. FDR guided the US through World War II and helped to rebound the U.S. Economy from the Depression. Kennedy was outspoken on Civil Rights and gave Americans hope when he made his famous Man on the Moon speech and started the modern space program, and there's a lot of speculation as to what the world would be like today had Kennedy not been assassinated. Reagan strengthened the Economy and kept the U.S. from getting into a global conflict with the Soviet Union while still maintaining a healthy challenging relationship that ultimately lead to the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union to be torn down. Clinton enabled technology to develop and helped bring back the Reagan economic progress. Sure, they each have their limitations and vices, but if you put whatever partisan leanings you have aside, and just look at the progress they managed from the Oval Office, they definitely the distinction of being great presidents. So honor the presidents from Washington to Adams to Jefferson to Polk to Taft to Nixon to Carter to Bush, for only the 42 (Cleveland twice makes 43 presidencies, but 42 men) to sit behind those desks with that title can really judge who was successful and who did the best they could with their row to hoe. As for the next president, we can only hope that they realize the responsibility and the history of the office and strive to be a great American President.