The American Presidents – A Contrapuntal Soliloquy

Post Date: February 14, 2019

Monday, February 18, is Presidents’ Day. A day to honor our leaders, those who have assumed the executive responsibility for our democracy and our freedom. The burden for them, all of them, has been and remains enormous.

abraham-lincoln-when-I-do-good

Collectively, our Presidents have been almost as awesome as the concept of America itself. Even if we take their average, they are an extraordinarily gifted group of human beings.

Their wisdom has come down to us in their actions and in their most salient quotes. It seems fitting to reflect on some of the thoughts that they lived by.

Let’s start with the father of all Presidents.

’Tis better to be alone than to be in bad company.
     —George Washington

The guiding principles put into words by our best Presidents sound like the natural language of speaking to a beloved child. In the pre-Revolutionary period, Washington had to choose carefully with whom to align. History vindicates his choices.

This quote sums up the American Agenda:

To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.
     —John Adams

This is also the Perennial Philosophy and the root of all religion. You see right away what I mean about this group of people.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
     —Thomas Jefferson

Mental focus and attitude is the core of Buddhism and my own work and a lot of other great work being done around the planet more and more each day. A lot of the innovations that roll out, start right here in America, even today, even in our time of self-doubt. The mental climate in America remains right for innovation despite any temporary inner turbulence. The mental attitude of pessimism says that every great nation declines, like a law of physics. That’s not exactly the mental attitude Thomas Jefferson was recommending to us.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
     —John Quincy Adams

“Judge them by their fruits,” Jesus said. Truly the fruit of inspiration is an enthusiastic, hopeful populace. We are not always in that blessed state, but we have always returned to it.

It takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.
     —Andrew Jackson

The gratitude … should be commensurate with the boundless blessings which we enjoy.
     —James K. Polk

Surely over time we have taken for granted the rare privileges we receive here in the land of the future, The Noble Experiment launched by our Founding Fathers.

I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.
     —Abraham Lincoln

God crowned our Good with Brotherhood, as the song goes.

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
     —Theodore Roosevelt

The object of love is to serve, not to win.
     —Woodrow Wilson

These leaders, elected by the American system, often brought us to the highest principles of existence. 

Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.
     —FDR

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
     —Harry S. Truman

 Pessimism never won any battle.
     —Dwight D. Eisenhower

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
—John F. Kennedy

 You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.
     —Jimmy Carter

As a beacon of freedom and opportunity, that draws the people of the world, no other country on Earth comes close.
     —Ronald Reagan (see video below)

No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.
     —George H.W. Bush

 If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.
     —Bill Clinton

 Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
     —Barack Obama

 Without passion you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing.
     —Donald Trump

You may not respect all of these people quoted. But looking at the group as a whole, I’d say it attests to the inspired design of the American system that elected these men. Improbably, the system has worked better than any other political system in history.

I encourage you to have a listen to this precious gem, Ronald Reagan’s last speech, in the video below, in which he reminds us how lucky we are to be Americans, and how the attraction of bold and courageous immigrants continuously revitalizes our nation, and validates to the rest of the world the value of our way of life.

A big round of big-hearted, inclusive, unifying applause, folks, for the 45 elected leaders that have taken us through 243 years of growing pains as a nascent Democracy. We have been miraculously blessed, and we have much to be grateful for. We know what we have. And we are each responsible for our part as engaged citizens. Each day we can strive to make it better. And guess what—we will.

Happy Valentines’ Day to Every One!

Bill

My thanks to Bob DeSena and The Human Effectiveness Team for their inspiration.

Thanks also to Psychology Today whose curation of Presidential sayings is where the quotes above come from. Here’s the link. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/better-perfect/201702/inspirational-quotes-the-45-us-presidents

I chose a different quote for Ronald Reagan, a quote from his last speech (see video above).

Read my latest post at my media blog “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

fourteen + six =