To most Americans, February 19th is just another day in the office. But working 9 to 5 is no excuse for forgetting what should be one of the important commemorative holidays of the year. Monday is President’s Day, and it should be a time for Americans to reflect on the great men who made this country what it is today.
George Washington was the first of these great men. Not only was he an active commanding general in the war for our independence, but he was elected as America’s first president under a newly drafted constitution.
“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses,” he said. It is a maxim we should all take into consideration at least once in our lives.
Over the next few decades, Americans saw the likes of presidents such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. These men laid the bricks for the foundation of this country with their bare intellect and insight.
Years later, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams tackled domestic and international problems some leaders would stumble over. And while Adams was finishing up a presidency fueled by the passion of abolitionism, Jackson sailed into American politics aboard the Louisiana with the might to conquer the country’s ‘British’-sized problems…yet again.
The establishment of cities such as Los Angelos and Las Vegas transpired because of presidents like James K. Polk, who coined the term “Manifest Destiny” with his westward pursuits. While the next four presidents may not been widely known, their management of the country led to the election of one of the most influential leaders in American history: Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation may have ‘legally’ freed the slaves, but it also left the country a mess for Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant to clean up.
Like many leaders before him, Theodore Roosevelt enacted policies to further the effectiveness of relations between businesses and the government. Most notably, his foreign negotiation skills cut the time it took boats to sail around the Americas in half with his help in the establishment of the Panama Canal.
The stock market crash in ’20 initiated a Great Depression that Americans would struggle with for the next decade. However, less than four years after the fateful crash, Franklin D. Roosevelt made this plea to the American people: trust the banking system.
“It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail,” he said. Americans listened.
After the Great Depression and a series of debilitating wars, it was up to presidents such as Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower to put the country back together and prepare for even more international disputes.
But in the midst of yet another global conflict, America forgot the world around it and fell into silence with the news that its favorite president, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated. The people of the country mourned for months with his widowed wife, who wore her blood-stained dress for days after his death. Subsequently, Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson took the presidency while the conflict in Vietnam continued to escalate with out an end in sight.
In 1969, America went to the moon under the leadership of Richard Nixon. The notoriety of reaching space could not counter the infamous “Watergate Scandal,” however, and political pressures forced him to resign.
Ten years later, Ronald Reagan began navigating his way through confusing Middle Eastern politics. Little did anyone know, Reagan, along with his predecessor George Herbert Walker Bush, had begun an entanglement that has still not been resolved.
Next came the charismatic former Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton. Even though he made advancements in the protection of the environment, among other things, his presidency is still adorned with a scarlet letter. It was an affair the country will never forget.
Our current president, George W. Bush, was one of the Texas’ most valuable governors. With two years left in his presidency, his fate in the history books has yet to be decided. However, many Americans believe his approval rating of 30 percent already speaks loudly of his leadership.
With the 43 amazing and unique presidents we have had in the past, it is hard to imagine what kind of president we will have next.
We can only hope that president number 44 fills us with hope for the future and respect for the past like many before him.