Wednesday, December 06, 2006

In the words of our Presidents

I've been thinking about what I want from my next president, and about what I've admired in past presidents. I had to do a little research to confirm my thoughts. What's happened in the last decade or so?

Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809): "One man with courage is a majority."

James Monroe (1817–1825): "National honor is a national property of the highest value."

John Quincy Adams (1825–1829): "America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government."

William Henry Harrison (1841): "But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free."

Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865): (Can I only pick one?) "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

James Abram Garfield (1881): "We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government."

William McKinley (1897–1901): "That's all a man can hope for during his lifetime—to set an example—and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history."

I've always admired Woodrow Wilson, maybe especially because of his idealism. Without idealism, how can we move forward? How can we imagine--and then make--a better world?

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921)

"Some people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world."

"We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers."

Herbert Clark Hoover (1929–1933): "A splendid storehouse of integrity and freedom has been bequeathed to us by our forefathers. In this day of confusion, of peril to liberty, our high duty is to see that this storehouse is not robbed of its contents."

Dwight David Eisenhower (1953–1961): "There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961–1963): "The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly."

"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Richard Milhous Nixon (1969–1974): "I like the job I have, but if I had to live my life over again, I would like to have ended up a sports writer."

James Earl Carter, Jr. (1977–1981): "Our American values are not luxuries but necessities—not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself. Our common vision of a free and just society is our greatest source of cohesion at home and strength abroad—greater than the bounty of our material blessings."

Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981–1989): "America is too great for small dreams."

George Herbert Walker Bush (1989–1993): "I want a kinder, gentler nation."

William Jefferson Clinton (1993–2001): "If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes."

George Walker Bush (2001–): "Recognizing and confronting our history is important." (Er ... take your own advice, Mister President ...)

Harry S. Truman said, "A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead for 15 years." Chester Alan Arthur said, "If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth."

To that, I quote the young, idealistic boy who once said, "Say it ain't so, Joe!"

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