Over the long weekend, I got to thinking about leadership and about U.S. presidents -- both past and present. Our country has celebrated 44 presidents, and while good and bad decisions were made, the tremendous achievements of our leaders are undeniable. Biases aside, our former presidents possessed traits of leadership, commitment, and dedication to our country that are timeless. In identifying these traits, we can better build an ideal for future leaders.
Leading our country to independence, establishing the United States of America, and all of George Washington’s founding achievements inevitably make him an American ideal. What’s worth discussing, however, is his most unique presidential trait: his unwillingness to rule. He led the country without any need for recognition or request to be crowned. He fought for liberty, for the country and the people, not for the presidential position. A perfect president is not one who rules forcefully, but rather one who serves the interest of his or her people sincerely. Everything that he or she does should not reflect his or her point of view, or his or her political party’s point of view. Rather, it should represent the collective needs of the people -- regardless of their political affiliations.
Two of his greatest and more well-known achievements are co-writing the Declaration of Independence and negotiating The Louisiana Purchase which doubled the size of the U.S. overnight. However, his greatest presidential trait shines through his keen belief in states' rights. The perfect president promotes cohesiveness, yet understands differences. It’s important to keeps in mind that “U.S.” stands for UNITED STATES -- not “One State” or Federal State, hence any grand federal generalization that assumes one prestige opinion over others would create spaces for error and inequality.
The election of Andrew Jackson as president signifies the beginning of the common man’s era. Even though his support for slavery and his policies toward Native Americans are controversial, his relentless effort listening and fighting for the right of the common man makes him a symbol of power for the people of the U.S. The perfect president understands and listens to the common man. The uncompromised effort to seek out the unspoken mass, the 99% who can’t speak for themselves, makes an ideal president.
Abraham Lincoln is not only famous for his strategic thinking in politics, but also his humanitarian mind in the fight against slavery. Nowadays, slavery is outdated, but his unconventional thinking is not.
In a speech in Illinois, Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand...” Think about our polarized political parties, and their unwillingness to compromise for the public good. An ideal president should put the people above party politics and above political parties. An ideal president should not strive for bipartisan compromise, but should advocate nonpartisan solutions.
Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most influential presidents in United States history. His presidential precendent leaves countless lessons for current and future leaders. Being the “Trust Buster,” he fought against corrupt businesses and increased economic regulations. Instead of expanding territory or engaging in war, Roosevelt was the one who conserved and protected his country efficiently by building national parks and wildlife reservations. He also acted as an effective peacemaker, winning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.
The U.S. is a developed country and aids many dependent and developing countries around the world. It needs a president who not only cares deeply about preserving the country’s welfare, but also takes initiative in promoting peace and fairness in the international sphere.
Being the president for 4 terms consecutively, FDR sets the record of being the only president who ever served more than eight years. What contributed most to his presidential success is his boundless optimism and devoted activism. In his first “hundred days,” he proposed, and Congress enacted, the New Deal, a wide sweeping program including many measures to rebuild the economy and get the country out of crisis as well as world war.
The perfect president has to be a leader who dares to believe and goes lengths in making such beliefs come true. He or she must posses a grand vision and have the ability to follow through with his or her promise regardless. An even more important lesson that we can learn from this story is the much needed harmony between the president and Congress. A perfect president is only possible with a cooperative relationship between the commander-in-chief and Congress.
This inspirational quote from JFK sums up his presidency. As president, JFK actively led the country through changes, while inspiring his people to act. Rather than an empty promise of happiness to his citizens, JFK urged people to act, and to actively make changes to better their lives.
He went lengths to assume the mission of the U.S as a supportive force in aiding and improving other slow-developing countries. His short time in office was a great time of change -- in both American affairs, with the African American Civil Rights Movement, and International affairs, marked by the Cuban Missile Crisis. The perfect president does not act on his own. Rather, he or she possesses the ability to inspire and encourage people to follow and act accordingly for the betterment of the whole nation.
While the list goes on, I specifically chose these 7 presidents to interject some nostalgic feeling into the current political atmosphere. As America becomes more and more developed, our country strays further away from its initial mission -- elevating the lives of all people, not just the privileged. Denying the achievements of past presidents would be unreasonable, yet ignoring to confront our current political problems will lead to catastrophe. I am, by no means, implying that the current president is solely responsible for the current state of affairs. The purpose of this article is for we the people to reflect on our country’s transformations, and to shape an ideal for future presidents.
IVN readers, what do you think makes a perfect president?