This series of articles is an extrapolation from a speech I came up with several years ago and I finally wrote down earlier this year to share with the students graduating in the class of 2017 from the Lutheran School Association in Decatur, IL. As a history teacher, I think we can learn a lot from each of the men who has served as President of the United States. Even the most heinous or disliked politician has something to teach us while they served in that office. This article is here to share some of that wisdom from each of our Presidents. I hope you enjoy.
For clarity sake, I am working backward from our current president (as of June 2017) to George Washington. This is because I believe that Washington has the most important lessons to teach us from his time in the Oval Office. Also I tried to keep this article as nonpartisan. Because I believe we can learn valuable lesson from people we agree with and disagree with that does not have to deal with their politics or policies.
Donald J. Trump (2017-2021?)
The best lesson I learned from our current present is to not make a bet unless you are willing and able pay up on losing. This is a lesson I learned years ago, but still, fail to learn time after time. During the Republican Presidential Primaries, I told my AP U.S. Government class that Donald Trump would not be president. I put it in writing and signed it, dated it, and someone has photographic evidence of this prediction. I was never able to pay off the bet, but still.
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
The first lesson we can learn from Barack Obama is to not let a little inexperience scare you away from a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is true that President Obama did not have a lot of political experience or record when he ran for the office of President. But he saw an opportunity where maybe his experience was not as necessary to win or be successful and he took it, and look at the results.
The second lesson is that real change is usually not seen in one generation. There are problems with our health insurance system in the United States. There are things we need to do to make it better for all people. His law was an attempt to help with that change, but as we can see with the current administration true change takes time. Freeing the slaves did not make everything great for the former slaves. That is a problem we sometimes still need to work on even 150 years later.
George W. Bush (2001-2009)
From Bush 43 we can learn that we must confront evil when we see it. This can be clearly seen at the start of the War on Terror. Few would disagree that the attacking of innocent people is not evil. He called it as such and made attempts to go after the people responsible. We should do the same when confronted with evil in our own lives.
Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
First, we should learn to work with those we disagree with because when we do we can make things better for everyone. He was able to do this with the Republicans who came into power in the 1994 midterm elections. They worked together to reform welfare in the United States. Whether you agree with that reform or not is another partisan questions, but the fact that they could work together is a good thing.
Also, we should learn that focusing on your own wants, desires, and needs usually get you into trouble. We can see this in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He used his power and influence to satisfy his “needs” and with that, he brought all that nonpartisan compromise down.
George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)
From the first President Bush, we need to learn to not make promises we can’t keep. He pledged “no new taxes” as President and then went back on his word within that first and only term in office he got. I like how Jesus put it in the Gospel when talking about oaths. “Let your yes, be yes, and your no be no.”
That is all I have for your this week. The next in this series will deal with the Presidencies of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson. See you next week!
Thanks for reading. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Class dismissed!
Presidential Seal. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia, 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 June 2017. (Featured Image of this article)
There is a book I used heavily in writing this speech to give me more information about the Presidents and I would cite it here but it’s packed away for our impending move and I don’t want to root around looking for it right now. I also tried to search on Amazon for it but could not find the exact title. When I am able to find it I will update my sources to be accurate.