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Words from Winterbilt

The Meaning of Presidentís Day

Shannon Bohrer

(2/2015) Presidentís Day is a national holiday and is advertised as a very "Patriotic day." Automobile dealerships fly numerous American Flags, while promoting the "Presidentís Day Sales." Retail business use red, white, and blue colors and often likenesses of former Presidents in their advertisements for Presidentís Day sales. Of course all of the furniture and mattress dealers also have Presidentís Day sales, but then furniture and mattresses are on sale all year. Maybe it would be nice if the patriotism that we are supposed to have on Presidentís Day was related to the presidents and not the sales. Maybe, just maybe, in celebrating our Presidentís Day we should reflect on the Presidents, what they contributed to our country, inspirational words and quotes, historical acts and significant events and leadership in times of crises. We can still have the sales, but we can also celebrate the Presidents.

I thought it would be nice to celebrate the day with a list of quotes from some of our Presidents. Instead of telling you who gave each quote, you get to guess who made it. Just for fun, I added a few from some Vice Presidents. Who gave the quote is listed at the end of this article.

  1. "You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."
  2. "Folks, I can tell you I've known eight presidents, three of them intimately."
  3. "If you are for smaller government, then our candidate is for you. We are for better government and smaller government."
  4. 4. "I have often wanted to drown my troubles, but I canít get my wife to go swimming."
  5. "I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."
  6. "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
  7. "I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future."
  8. "Thatís the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want."
  9. "Only Americans can hurt America."
  10. "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense human rights invented America."

Of course the quotes are just a sliver of the person and sometimes without context, the quote can be misleading. The volume of quotes that I found is enormous, interesting, and thought provoking. I would be very surprised if any of the above quotes would be in the news on Presidentís Day, but I think some should be. There are so many that one could use them on a daily calendar.

Reflecting on quotes, George Washington said: "Captive British soldiers were to be treated with humanity, regardless of how a colonial soldier captured in battle might be treated," which is a historical quote that is part of our history and that became part of our culture. As a country, we did not believe in torcher, until recently. The issue was also recently revisited with the Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques (E.I.T.ís). The report was not flattering to the process or the CIA. It basically told us that EITís are torcher, and they did not work. According to recent surveys, at least half of the public seems to think the enhanced interrogations were appropriate in some circumstances. To me, the recent surveys are very depressing. For one thing we know that torcher, or EITís if you like, do not work. The proponents of EITís tell us it does work, but they canít tell us when, because itís a secret. Even if it did work, and it does not, what would we say if our soldiers were tortured in foreign countries? Wait, that has happened and thatís why we had the Geneva Convention, telling us that torcher is wrong. There is a reason why we had a Geneva Convention, which started in 1864, and that reason is still valid. The big question is that if we believe in torcher, what does it say about us? I wonder what George Washington would think of the EITís.

If half the people think EITís were needed, how many think that way because of the news and/or popular television shows. Just because you saw it in a television show or it is written in a newspaper, does not make it true. The following words appeared in a newspaper about a presidentís speech. See, I am sticking with the president theme: "We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation, we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of." Those words were written by the Harrisburgís Patriot & Union Newspaper, reporting on President Lincolnís Gettysburg Address. I think they got it wrong, just my opinion. The commentary does tell us that even very popular presidents have had nasty things written and said about them when they are in office, and sometimes afterward. If you read what was said about President Lincoln when he was in office, without knowing who was being talked about, you would think him a terrible person.

Our current President has had not so good things written and said about him since he was elected. His recent announcement that we will soon be opening relationships with Cuba seemed to polarize both sides of the issue - again. One statement that has been repeated is; how can we have relations and trade with a communist country? That would be horrific; someone should tell us about China, and several other communist countries that we currently trade with, so we can stop that. Another very popular statement is that we cannot normalize relations with Cuba, because of their human rights violations. I can only assume that the poor people talking about the human rights violations are unaware of the Senate investigative report on the Enhanced Interrogations. The Senate report cites cases where persons being detained died in custody, while in secret prisons and there was no evidence against them. When I was young, that same description described a communist country with gulags. We sold that communist country farm product to keep the people from starving.

I wonder what the historical lessons will be fifty years forward, what will our future Presidents say about our current times?

As you read the answers to the quotes, ask yourself if we could use some history lessons, especially with our current issues. Answers: 1. G W Bush, 2. Joseph Biden, 3. Bill Clinton, 4. Jimmy Carter, 5. Ronald Reagan 6. Abraham Lincoln, 7. Dan Quayle, 8. Barack Obama, 9. Dwight Eisenhower, 10. Jimmy Carter.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer