This week I am turning over my space to a well written column by Robert Morrison, who is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. As we celebrate our independence this weekend I felt his editorial was a good reminder to us all, that those who serve our cause best, recognize the enormous task and do so always with the best interest of her people at heart.
The president proclaimed June a month of pride. He has said: So let it be written; so let it be done. But it is also, unavoidably, a month of pain. No one came to office with more accolades, more laurels than Barack Obama did. He was hailed as being above the ken of mortal men. His campaign team referred to him, not without irony, as “Black Jesus.”
Respected presidential historian Michael Beschloss described him as the smartest man ever to enter the White House. The ever-hip New Yorker magazine portrayed him as the Father of Our Country, George Washington, only cooler. Five years ago, at Normandy, he was lauded as “hovering over the nations like a sort of god.” That was Newsweek editor Evan Thomas’s glowing assessment of the new leader’s D-Day commemoration.
It is painful to recall those halcyon days. It might not be impertinent to ask Evan Thomas to recall for us a single word uttered by his hovering god at Normandy in 2009. Or in 2014. In this era of 24/7 cable coverage, the president’s “selfie” at the Mandela funeral and his chewing gum at the 70th anniversary of D-Day seem to be what people remember, if they remember anything of this once promising young commander-in-chief.
Media big Barbara Walters spoke with a certain world-weary treatises when she sighed: “We thought he was going to be (I shouldn’t say this at Christmas-time) the next Messiah.” Even Chris Matthews no longer speaks of that tingling sensation going up and down his leg when Mr. Obama speaks.
Worse still, the Audis and BMWs in toney Georgetown have blossomed with “I’m ready for Hillary” bumper stickers. Weren’t they leaning forward and all in for Obama just months ago?
Maybe pride is the problem. It was James Madison, that little man, that modest, slight man with a voice barely audible, who taught us: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” This “withered little applejohn” was an unlikely candidate for greatness, or anything else. Yet he shone in intelligence, diligence, and integrity. He did not rely on puffers and promoters to clear his path. He had to make his way through effort.
One of my favorite examples of not becoming puffed up by the presidency is Harry Truman. In April, 1945, when President Franklin Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia, Vice President Truman was summoned to the White House to be sworn in.
He walked briskly from his Capitol Hill office to the Executive Mansion, leaving many of the chain smokers in the press corps behind.
Newly sworn in as the 33rd president, Harry bent down and kissed the Bible. And he said to the reporters: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. ... I [feel] like the moon, the stars and all the planets [have] fallen on me.”
On Friday, April 13, barely twenty-four hours after becoming president, Truman returned to Capitol Hill to consult with leaders of Congress. He suggested a Special State of the Union Message which he would deliver on the following Monday.
“Too soon!” “Roosevelt’s funeral is on Sunday - impossible!” “This would be a bad first step,” he was told. Harry listened quietly and respectfully as the Capitol Hill talkers talked. Then he said decisively: “Get ready. I’m coming.”
It was an exhausting weekend. Most of the political, judicial, and military leaders of the nation attended FDR’s funeral. They had journeyed by train to the Roosevelt family estate at Hyde Park, New York.
Still, on Monday, promptly, President Truman entered the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. He mounted the rostrum and addressed the gathered dignitaries. “Hold on, Harry,” growled the gruff, bald Speaker, Sam Rayburn of Texas, “I have to introduce you.”
Truman spoke without the brilliant Harvard phrases or the polished eloquence of FDR, but he spoke from the heart to millions of hearts: He pledged to carry on the war on two continents to eventual victory and unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. He promised to fulfill the commitments made by his four-term predecessor. His speech was a great success, applauded on both sides of the aisle.
He concluded with these words: “At this moment, I have in my heart a prayer. As I have assumed my heavy duties, I humbly pray Almighty God, in the words of King Solomon: Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people that I may discern between good and bad, for who is able to judge this thy so great a people. I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.”
The hushed House Chamber erupted in thunderous applause. It was said of Franklin D. Roosevelt that he was for the people. But Harry Truman was the people. He was a humble man because he knew the dangers of pride. Pride goes before a fall, he knew. He read that somewhere.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.