Monday, February 18, 2013

Honoring Presidents

The third Monday of February is President's Day in the United States. When I was a child we celebrated President Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and President Washington's birthday on February 22.

This morning I heard various talking heads debate who our greatest Presidents have been.  Of course there is no right answer.  There is a general consensus that Washington and Lincoln are at the top of the list.  Washington because he refused to be crowned King and resigned after two terms, in addition to his many other accomplishments.

Lincoln because he refused to let the South leave the Union even though we went through 4 years of horrific Civil War.

Certainly President Franklin D. Roosevelt is in the list of most notables as he was our longest President, having been elected 4 times, and led us through both the Great Depression and World War II.

FDR was known for his eternal optimism and inspiration for the country.  Many people did not realize he was confined to a wheelchair.  Only two pictures of FDR were ever taken of him in his wheelchair.  This one taken in 1941 is my favourite.

My personal favourite President is Teddy Roosevelt.  He was a sickly child and worked extremely hard to build up his body - so much so he was a life long proponent of physical fitness.  As a young man his wife died shortly after giving birth to his daughter.  On the same day his mother died.  He spent quite a bit of time in North Dakota working on a ranch and then returned to pursue his professional career. 

Though Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican, he was what we would call a Progressive Reformist today.  Suffice it say he would not be welcome in today's Republican party given its exlusionary, self righteous and extremist position. 

TR worked hard to break up the big business monopolies or trusts.  His fight against Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller is legendary.  The most hated company in American history was Standard Oil in the early 1900s. 

This company controlled over 90% of the oil production in America and Teddy Roosevelt went after it.  In this famous cartoon, Standard Oil is portrayed as an octopus. In the bottom left hand corner you see one of its tenticles is reaching out for the White House.  You can see the octopus has already grabbed the Capitol building.

Our country has been fortunate to have had many excellent Presidents and today is a good time to take a few moments to consider how we, as individuals, contribute to the betterment of our community.  People in political life make tremendous sacrifices both in terms of their family time and professional careers.

The idea of a pesron running for national or even state office today is not pleasant.  Anything a person may have said or written, even years ago, will be dragged out for the world to see.  The most minor criminal offense will be splashed across newspapers.  The days of respecting a person's privacy are gone if that person chooses to enter any level of public service.

Still, as the famous expression goes, all politics are local.  Getting involved with your local community as a city council person, someone who attends meetings, a person who volunteers -- all are important.  And, in  reality, the local political process is often more important to people in our communities than the state or national process.


Hopefully we will be able to continue to attract good people to fulfill challenging political roles in the future.

Thanks for stopping by.

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