Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Venerating Dead Politicians

 

Have the American people venerated certain dead presidents? If so, what has happened to that veneration? From our coins, to our classroom walls, to the stories we tell, have we seen a sort of secular iconography, challenged by political iconoclasts?

Dennis Prager has long held that America has a unique value system, which he styles “The American Trinity.” The American Trinity is on our coins: “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” Liberty.” Looking at our four most common coins, we also see four presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR.

Perhaps you remember portraits of Washington and Lincoln hanging in grade school classrooms. If you are Generation X or older, you likely learned generally positive things about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR. Go back far enough, and you may have seen portraits of FDR hanging in homes and public spaces, where people identified him as on the working man’s side.

Consider common positive phrases associated with these men:

Remember the Merriam-Webster definition of veneration:

respect or awe inspired by the dignity, wisdom, dedication, or talent of a person

the act of venerating

the condition of one that is venerated

For most of our nation’s history, George Washington was revered as the father of his country. He was acclaimed as a leader by his ambitious peers. He not only was the commanding general of the victorious Continental Army, he also repeatedly declined opportunities to be president for life, a kind of monarch. While the Constitution originally had no term limit on presidents, President Washington’s example had such moral force that no one dared run for a third term until FDR. For his selfless and competent leadership, the American people venerated George Washington.

Thomas Jefferson was a more ambiguous case, as he represented one half of the original partisan political division in the United States. However, he was celebrated as the author of the Declaration of Independence. He may have achieved veneration in the 20th Century, with judges selectively appropriating his writings to impose upon the 1st Amendment a secularist favoring gloss. He is still cited by politicians in black robes as authority for restricting religion in the name of a “wall of separation.” For many years, this political utility overrode concerns about his slave-holding and even sexual exploitation of one or more slaves.

Abraham Lincoln’s portrait was frequently paired with Washington’s, telling a story of the two great episodes of national salvation, first in liberation and then in the preservation of the union. Both were honored with national holidays celebrating their birthdays. Of course, Lincoln was not so favored in the former Confederate states, and there were deep reservations about the constitutionality of actions he took to suppress opposition to the war in the Union. However, his assassination, by a man who wanted to save the Confederacy through political destabilization of the Union, made Lincoln a secular martyr.

Today, “social justice” iconoclasts attack Washington and Jefferson as irredeemable dead white male slave owners. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. Lincoln is problematic because white rescuers of people of color perpetuate the narrative of white virtue and black powerlessness or reliance on white patronage. Further, there are quotes, accurate as far as they go, showing Lincoln prioritized national unity over the abolition of slavery. In an unsubtle era, this criticism may link elements of the left and right, even as they denounce each other.

This leaves FDR. However, his veneration has always been more limited, signaling the politics of the beholder. He was hailed as the savior of the nation, first from the Great Depression and then from Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. The American people confirmed this opinion in allowing FDR to violate George Washington’s unwritten constitutional provision: no president shall serve more than two full terms. The American voters chose FDR four times.

Yet, from the beginning there was clear political opposition and claims that FDR was a would-be tyrant, seeking to distort the Constitution to his Progressive vision. This opposition was limited in its effectiveness, both in FDR’s presidency and in the shaping of his historical image. Since the historians and political scientists, who write the books and shape teaching, overwhelmingly are on the left, FDR has remained iconic.

Although he accumulated more power into the federal government and its executive branch than any previous chief executive had done in peacetime, Roosevelt did not become a dictator. He worked within the constitutional order, not outside it.

[…]

Of equal importance (although this is a subject Alter ignores), he stimulated mass political organizing among the poorest of Americans and persuaded millions of them to cast their votes for the first time. Much of what came to define the New Deal, such as the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act, would not have been possible without this democratic surge from below. By 1936, when the popular mobilization for Roosevelt crested, America could once again pride itself on its democratic character, a development that would be critical to America’s ability, in the 1940s, to claim leadership of the global effort to defeat fascism.

While the left is not abandoning the New Deal legacy, FDR may be insufficiently politically correct. Yes, his memorial reflects a remaking of the man into a representative of the disability community. However, he is still a dead white male, and he was the leader of a party that relied upon a white supremacist wing for electoral majorities. So it was inevitable that we would read “Is it time for progressives to stop venerating FDR?” His crimes:

1. Opposition to violence against African Americans, as in the Black Lives Matter movement. […]

2. Rights of immigrants, documented and undocumented, especially with regard to Latinos. Somehow, it’s not widely known that the Roosevelt administration engaged in the largest mass deportation of immigrants in American history, expelling hundreds of thousands — perhaps up to two million — of people of Mexican descent who were residing in the United States. […]

3. Sympathy of the plight of refugees. FDR was not willing to spend any significant political capital to help Jewish refugees from Europe. […]

In reflecting on the course of four presidents’ rise to veneration and fall from civic grace, a line from Kipling’s poem “Tommy” comes to mind:

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

As my wise eldest sister reflected, we go too far in ascribing both good and bad, both blame and praise, to our fellow human beings. As we reflect on past presidents, might we venerate some for attributes worthy of emulation, even as we venerate religious figures titled “Saint?” We are not invited to worship saints; they are not gods. Rather, we are encouraged to contemplate their lives, so that we might emulate those worthy of veneration.

There are 29 comments.

  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Rolling this out belatedly.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under December’s theme of Veneration. There are plenty of dates still available. Have you had an encounter with a saint, or someone who is truly venerable? Is there a sports figure who you believe is venerated, and what do you think of it? What is venerated in our society today? We have some wonderful photo essays on Ricochet; perhaps you have a story to tell about nature, art, or architecture that points to subjects worth venerating. Have we lost the musical, written, visual language of veneration? The possibilities are endless! Why not start a conversation? Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. As a heads-up, our January theme will be Renovation. I’ll post the sign-up sheet mid-month.

    • #1
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:16 PM PST
    • Like
  2. RightAngles Member

    A thoughtful and well written piece!

    • #2
    • December 22, 2018, at 6:30 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One thought to add to this:

    Clifford A. Brown: As my wise eldest sister reflected, we go too far in ascribing both good and bad, both blame and praise, to our fellow human beings.

    It has long been my own observation that do this within our own party too. I loved Ronald Reagan, especially as he was president as I grew up. But so often today, just as prior generations over venerated FDR (and JFK too, we should add), so too our own side does with Reagan. How often is he invoked like a talisman? We need to tread carefully. Prior generations hid Jefferson’s flaws too deeply, and that I think is partly to blame for the backlash against him now – succeeding generations always look to pick apart the heroes of their forebears. So yes, we should venerate the great among our forebears, but try to avoid the hagiographies against which later generations will rebel.

    • #3
    • December 22, 2018, at 7:21 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Al French Moderator

    Two wise people in your family? What are the odds?

    • #4
    • December 22, 2018, at 8:52 PM PST
    • 1 like
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Two wise people in your family? What are the odds?

    You were referring to my eldest and middle sisters, no doubt. I haven’t cited to my middle sister yet? Give it time.

    • #5
    • December 23, 2018, at 1:12 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    One thought to add to this:

    Clifford A. Brown: As my wise eldest sister reflected, we go too far in ascribing both good and bad, both blame and praise, to our fellow human beings.

    It has long been my own observation that do this within our own party too. I loved Ronald Reagan, especially as he was president as I grew up. But so often today, just as prior generations over venerated FDR (and JFK too, we should add), so too our own side does with Reagan. How often is he invoked like a talisman? We need to tread carefully. Prior generations hid Jefferson’s flaws too deeply, and that I think is partly to blame for the backlash against him now – succeeding generations always look to pick apart the heroes of their forebears. So yes, we should venerate the great among our forebears, but try to avoid the hagiographies against which later generations will rebel.

    All heroes are people and people do some things badly, even good things sometimes. So, keeping in mind that they, like all of us, are imperfect, can we still honor the good things they accomplished even when they did so imperfectly? It really comes down to acknowledging our own imperfectability.

    • #6
    • December 23, 2018, at 3:06 AM PST
    • 1 like
  7. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    All heroes are people and people do some things badly, even good things sometimes. So, keeping in mind that they, like all of us, are imperfect, can we still honor the good things they accomplished even when they did so imperfectly?

    We can and should, but with the recognition that we need to do so from solid grounds. There was a book out about 20 years ago by James Lowen, called Lies My Teacher Told Me. It is about both the hagiographic exaggerations made by American history textbooks, and the blanket condemnations they make, and argues rather forcefully that these lies told to bolster some, or tear down others, do an immense amount of damage to the credibility of history, and go a long way towards setting up kids needlessly on ideological paths, either from latching onto false narratives, or in absolute rebellion against them.

    • #7
    • December 23, 2018, at 10:48 AM PST
    • 1 like
  8. philo Member

    Clifford A. Brown: Thomas Jefferson — Author of the Declaration of Independence

    Clifford A. Brown: Thomas Jefferson … was celebrated as the authorof the Declaration of Independence.

    [emphasis added]

    History, or more correctly, our understanding of history, is a funny thing. Similarly, the specific wording used about such things, whether intentional or not, can amuse. I came across an interesting telling of our Revolutionary history recently that included a few gems regarding this:

    Historians generally agree that Jefferson was picked to draft the Declaration of Independence principally because of his writing skills, but also because the more prominent men in the endgame, John Adams and R. H. Lee, had seemingly greater tasks to perform… – Page 433-434

    In 1822, reacting to a comment by Adams that “there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before,” the Virginian did not disagree. … … – Page 435

    “One of the problems with the early history of the Declaration of Independence is that there is so little of it.” said author Garry Wills in Inventing America. Minimal attention was paid to who had authored the document or its key parts until Jefferson was seeking the presidency in 1796. Thereafter party politics and rhetoric gilded Jefferson’s role, although in 1819, 1822, and 1825, he was put somewhat on the defensive by plagiarism charges. This is the period during which he emphasized trying not to be original. – Pages 436-437

    (I warned a few of you about the ten pages of typed notes I have on this one.)

    • #8
    • December 23, 2018, at 11:56 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. Al Sparks Thatcher

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Prior generations hid Jefferson’s flaws too deeply, and that I think is partly to blame for the backlash against him now – succeeding generations always look to pick apart the heroes of their forebears.

    I would say you’re right. Yet the people of the time did know of his flaws. Allegations of his trystes with Sally Hemings made the papers at the time. And his disasterous second term as president was there for all to see.

    Perhaps his conduct as Secretary of State was obscured at the time and later discovered by historians.

    Anyway, it was the generations in between that obscured his faults.

    • #9
    • December 23, 2018, at 8:49 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Fred Cole Member

     

    The biggest musical in the universe is still Hamilton, where Washington and Jefferson are featured prominently. In fact, Jefferson steals the show at the top of Act 2. 

    And there was a major feature film about Lincoln six years ago that grossed a quarter billion dollars.

    Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln are still widely venerated.

    • #10
    • December 24, 2018, at 3:59 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Fred Cole Member

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    I would say you’re right. Yet the people of the time did know of his flaws. Allegations of his trysts with Sally Hemings made the papers at the time. And his disastrous second term as president was there for all to see.

    Perhaps his conduct as Secretary of State was obscured at the time and later discovered by historians.

    Anyway, it was the generations in between that obscured his faults.

    Well, with Jefferson, we judge the whole package, not just his time as President, which wasn’t really a high point.

    I mean, he gave America its basic creed that we’ve been operating under for the last 242 years:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Those are not only the most powerful 35 words in the English language, but probably in the history of humanity. 

    Yeah, Jefferson was not a top tier President, but he was a top tier American figure.

     

    • #11
    • December 24, 2018, at 4:05 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. philo Member

    Al Sparks (View Comment): Perhaps his conduct as Secretary of State was obscured…

    I’ve always thought his stint as VP was troublesome. If it weren’t for one who shot and killed a man and another resigning after pleading no contest to felony and tax charges, I’d rank him about the worst.

    As for being the poetically inclined scribe of our most cherished document, some might enjoy the fact that an early “version” was passed nearly a full year before the famed July 4, 1776 of our now canonized history with the less successfully focus-grouped title: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. What a difference a year, a lot of posturing, better marketing, and a little practice makes.

     

    • #12
    • December 24, 2018, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    philo (View Comment):

    Al Sparks (View Comment): Perhaps his conduct as Secretary of State was obscured…

    I’ve always thought his stint as VP was troublesome. If it weren’t for one who shot and killed a man and another resigning after pleading no contest to felony and tax charges, I’d rank him about the worst.

    As for being the poetically inclined scribe of our most cherished document, some might enjoy the fact that an early “version” was passed nearly a full year before the famed July 4, 1776 of our now canonized history with the less successfully focus-grouped title: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. What a difference a year, a lot of posturing, better marketing, and a little practice makes.

     

    In fairness, Burr shot Hamilton after he was out of office (and if you ask me, Hamilton had it coming).

    • #13
    • December 24, 2018, at 6:51 AM PST
    • Like
  14. philo Member

    SkipSul (View Comment): Burr shot Hamilton after he was out of office…

    I was ready and willing to stand corrected but…is that really true? Quick research: the duel, July 11 1804 (before the election) vs. the term as VP, March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1805. 

    • #14
    • December 24, 2018, at 7:07 AM PST
    • Like
  15. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us. 

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    • #15
    • December 24, 2018, at 7:07 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. philo Member

    Songwriter (View Comment): … And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    Just a bit out of step with the times. Such a mindset would require us to stop giving Nobel Prizes based on nothing but a diminutive resume and having big ears. The un-seriousness of our times couldn’t be more glaring…

    • #16
    • December 24, 2018, at 7:15 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Fred Cole Member

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure. 

    • #17
    • December 24, 2018, at 7:16 AM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Fred Cole Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    In fairness, Burr shot Hamilton after he was out of office (and if you ask me, Hamilton had it coming).

    Yeah, but it’s not like Burr was acting from noble or honest motives. Because Burr never acted from noble or honest motives.

    • #18
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:22 AM PST
    • Like
  19. Al French Moderator

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    • #19
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:25 AM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Fred Cole Member

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    I mean, I guess. I’d prefer 100 years after death.

    Maybe I’m extra prickly about this. I live in New York, where they just renamed the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo. So named by his son, Andrew Cuomo, in an election year where he was on the ballot.

    • #20
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    I mean, I guess. I’d prefer 100 years after death.

    Maybe I’m extra prickly about this. I live in New York, where they just renamed the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo. So named by his son, Andrew Cuomo, in an election year where he was on the ballot.

    We could accelerate the process by adopting my proposal to euthanize politicians when they leave office.

     

    • #21
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:34 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    I mean, I guess. I’d prefer 100 years after death.

    Maybe I’m extra prickly about this. I live in New York, where they just renamed the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo. So named by his son, Andrew Cuomo, in an election year where he was on the ballot.

    We could accelerate the process by adopting my proposal to euthanize politicians when they leave office.

    (Made me spew coffee.)

     

    • #22
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:35 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Fred Cole Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    I mean, I guess. I’d prefer 100 years after death.

    Maybe I’m extra prickly about this. I live in New York, where they just renamed the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo. So named by his son, Andrew Cuomo, in an election year where he was on the ballot.

    We could accelerate the process by adopting my proposal to euthanize politicians when they leave office.

     

    I disagree with that idea. While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t like the incentive structure it creates.

    • #23
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:37 AM PST
    • 1 like
  24. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    philo (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment): Burr shot Hamilton after he was out of office…

    I was ready and willing to stand corrected but…is that really true? Quick research: the duel, July 11 1804 (before the election) vs. the term as VP, March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1805.

    My apologies then, I’d muddled the timelines.

    • #24
    • December 24, 2018, at 9:41 AM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    I mean, I guess. I’d prefer 100 years after death.

    Maybe I’m extra prickly about this. I live in New York, where they just renamed the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo. So named by his son, Andrew Cuomo, in an election year where he was on the ballot.

    We could accelerate the process by adopting my proposal to euthanize politicians when they leave office.

     

    I disagree with that idea. While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t like the incentive structure it creates.

    Fred wins.

     

    • #25
    • December 24, 2018, at 11:26 AM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    I would say you’re right. Yet the people of the time did know of his flaws. Allegations of his trysts with Sally Hemings made the papers at the time. And his disastrous second term as president was there for all to see.

    Perhaps his conduct as Secretary of State was obscured at the time and later discovered by historians.

    Anyway, it was the generations in between that obscured his faults.

    Well, with Jefferson, we judge the whole package, not just his time as President, which wasn’t really a high point.

    I mean, he gave America its basic creed that we’ve been operating under for the last 242 years:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Those are not only the most powerful 35 words in the English language, but probably in the history of humanity.

    Yeah, Jefferson was not a top tier President, but he was a top tier American figure.

    I won’t venture into rating systems for politicians. Jefferson’s presidency included both the Louisiana Purchase and the First Barbary War.

    The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was among Jefferson’s most notable achievements as president. American expansion westward into the new lands began immediately, and in 1804 a territorial government was established.k

    Jefferson soon commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore the territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.

    On April 30, 1812, exactly nine years after the Louisiana Purchase agreement was made, the first state to be carved from the territory – Louisiana – was admitted into the Union as the 18th U.S. state.

    • #26
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:15 PM PST
    • Like
  27. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Our leaders are not perfect. They never have been. Perhaps we need to learn how, as a nation, to venerate their good deeds and strengths, while still acknowledging they are flawed humans like all the rest of us.

    And perhaps we should hold off on naming stuff after these people until they have been dead for, say, 100 years.

    I am perfectly okay with that policy. I’d extend it to stamps, coins, banknotes, and monuments too

    It’s crazy to think that Teddy Roosevelt died in 1919 and work on Mount Rushmore started in 1927. At that point, Roosevelt had only been out of office for 18 years. He was still very modern a recent political figure.

    Extend it further to buildings, airports, bridges, highways and ships, although in those cases something like 50 years might be ok.

    I mean, I guess. I’d prefer 100 years after death.

    Maybe I’m extra prickly about this. I live in New York, where they just renamed the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo. So named by his son, Andrew Cuomo, in an election year where he was on the ballot.

    But wait, didn’t the existing bridge name violate your rule?

    The Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge opened to traffic in 1955 and, until its retirement on October 6, 2017, was a vital artery for residents, commuters, travelers and commercial traffic.

    Who was Governor Malcolm Wilson?

    Malcolm Wilson (1914-2000) held state elective office for thirty-six consecutive years. First elected to the State Assembly in 1938, he introduced 432 bills that were signed into law, including the creation of the Higher Education Assistance Corporation. Wilson served as Nelson Rockefeller’s lieutenant governor from 1959–1973, during which his relationships with members of the legislature made him an invaluable asset to the administration. He assumed the governorship upon Rockefeller’s resignation, but lost his re-election bid to Hugh Carey.

     

    • #27
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:23 PM PST
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  28. Fred Cole Member

    That’s interesting. I never knew it was named after Malcolm Wilson. I don’t think I ever saw the name on a sign. Everyone always referred to it as the Tapan Zee. 

    Malcolm Wilson is an interesting case. He was Rocky’s Lt Gov. Then when Rocky got kicked upstairs to be Veep, Wilson became governor for like a year. 

    Its a touch different from naming it after Mario Cuomo when his son is on the ballot. 

    • #28
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:55 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

     

    The biggest musical in the universe is still Hamilton, where Washington and Jefferson are featured prominently. In fact, Jefferson steals the show at the top of Act 2.

    And there was a major feature film about Lincoln six years ago that grossed a quarter billion dollars.

    Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln are still widely venerated.

    Yeah, I guess all that statue-tearin’-down stuff never happened, because a movie was seen and a musical came out. I’m not sure how tearing down statues of Washington, Jefferson, et al, qualifies as veneration.

    https://www.salon.com/2017/08/21/its-time-to-tear-down-statues-of-racists-all-of-the-racists/

    I’d be satisfied if we made it a requirement that Senators and Congressmyn stopped venerating themselves by getting their names plastered onto taxpayer-funded buildings, while they are in office. They’re practically re-election billboards, but hey, that’s fine.

    I really think we should spend more time mocking live politicians than venerating dead ones.

    • #29
    • December 25, 2018, at 10:23 AM PST
    • 3 likes