2009-02-11 / Editorials

Hail To All The Chiefs On Presidents' Day

The election of 2008 was marked by several "firsts": people of different religions and ethnic backgrounds were serious contenders, women came close to achieving the top spot and for the first time since the election of 1984 a woman was on the ticket of a national party as a candidate for the vice presidency. And on November 4, Barack Obama became the first African American elected president of the United States.

Like the nation they served as Chief Executive, all of America's presidents have differing backgrounds and histories. William Henry Harrison served the shortest term, a little over a month, and Franklin Roosevelt the longest, 12 years. Some, like Roosevelt, came from patrician backgrounds, others, like Herbert Hoover, were self-made men and, also like Hoover, had distinguished careers before coming to the White House. Others achieved greatness after taking office. Each president has had individual strengths and weaknesses. No one can be all things to all people all the time, and presidents have demonstrated this fact throughout our nation's history. Some presidents have been more mindful than others of "The buck stops here" aphorism that Harry Truman kept on his desk; some made a series of decisions that had results opposite of what was intended, but all were aware that their actions affected millions of people, in this country and abroad, present at the time they made their decisions or yet to come.

The office of president of the United States has its privileges, yes, but in our opinion, the responsibilities far outweigh the perks. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to assume that burden and we are lucky to have had 43 people willing to step up to the plate so far. Frankly, we marvel at anyone willing to meet the unrelenting demands of a schedule so rigid that nearly every moment of every day is taken up with the country's business. We also give thanks that there are men and women willing to accept and live with the constant realization that the fate of one's fellow beings, one's country, and all too frequently, the world--rests in the hands of whoever occupies the Oval Office. For the most part, all of America's presidents have remembered their obligations to the rest of humanity, but refused to let themselves be paralyzed by them. If for no other reason, that sort of equanimity makes them special.

We hope that on this coming Monday, Presidents' Day 2009, you will take a moment to think about the 43 men who have led this country and give thanks that they took on the challenge. We hope you will give thanks, too, for the people who are willing to follow them in assuming the responsibilities of the nation's highest office. Whether or not you agree with any or all of them, this country could not exist without someone willing to take on the job. We salute the presidents past and present and those who will seek the office in the election of November 2012 and all other elections to follow.

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