“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
For me, there have been only a few truly great Presidents in American history. They have transcended the position of just a leader of government, or a leader of men, but were leaders of a movement – more like a shift in American thinking. For after their time in office, America was a different place – a different America. We were all better for their leadership. These men are:
and John F. Kennedy
Do not take my admiration for hero worship for they were human and made mistakes and plenty of them. But what you cannot deride is how they changed the country. Over the next few weeks, I will detail what the 44th President can learn from the actions of these men. Today we start off with Theodore Roosevelt.
Teddy is my favorite president – not for what he did but rather who he was. There are others that I feel were better Presidents, but on a personal level – I like Teddy. What can Barrack Obama learn from this former outdoors men, trust buster, and rough rider? Plenty…
1. In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
This is a good lesson for President Obama. Sometimes the right thing is not always the popular thing and the popular thing is not always the right thing. The biggest knock against democracy for 233 years is the thought that it was mob rule at its core. To counter mob rule, Madison had the wisdom to incorporate the executive position into government. Whether it is the twin philosopher kings of Plato’s Republic,a monarch, or just plain, run-of-the-mill former constitutional law professor, the greatest task of any leader is to decide what is right and was is wrong and to hold the line.
2. A Square Deal for the American People
Roosevelt believed that his role as President was to protect the people first. Not just from foreign threats but also from economic threats at home. Be it food, drugs, prices, access to resources, monopolies, large corporations, or just chasing the American dream, Roosevelt’s tenure in office was all about the people and helping them “pursue happiness”.
3. Long after you are dead….
Long after Obama is gone and dead, how will America remember him? What of America will be left to be remembered? Will the world be a better place for you having been President?
Teddy was an active President – not just in his own personal activities, but in his actions. He left behind America as it used to be while still moving it forward. He conserved millions of acres of wildlife and nature. He made foods safer. He transformed how we shipped goods around the world. What will Obama do?
4. Constitutional Authority
Will he debate in his own mind whether he has the constitutional authority to do something or will he do what needs to be done and let Congress debate whether he has the authority to do so? The most controversial aspect of TR’s time in office was whether or not he had the authority to build the Panama Canal. He was bold. He was brash but in the end, Teddy’s presidency is looked at as the foundation of the modern President. He set the precedents for the Presidents that followed.
Of all the things the American Presidency has become, an endearing leader is something the American people crave. Not to be confused with doing a good job, Reagan was endearing to the American public but Teddy’s mug is on Mount Rushmore for a reason. That reason is he did his job with one eye on the past and one eye on the future. The American people’s best interests were always in the front of his mind. Roosevelt’s endearing personality changed the present by deflecting critics and trying to achieve glory for America. Now, I don’t think Obama should attack every decision he has to make by trying to achieve glory but rather in every decision he makes should be in the best interests of the people. And by doing that, he will achieve glory not just for himself, but the people as well.
Next post – Eisenhower
Other Presidential Lessons for Obama Series
John F. Kennedy
George H.W. Bush