Happy Presidents’ Day! Originally established to celebrate one president (George Washington), it now honors the office and all who have held it (hence the plural possessive apostrophe).
Punctuation and grammar aside, today offers the perfect opportunity to consider the wisdom of past presidents. I think it’s fair to say that no president (present or past) was or is perfect. The office comes with immense power. This sort of responsibility can inspire change, but it can also corrupt.
That being said, those who understood the awesome abilities of the office, and their own fallibility, did leave us with some powerful words. Inspired by their own trials and tribulations, these words offer caution, hope, and if you use them right, they can impart wisdom. So, in honor of their day, here are a few thoughts from past presidents to reflect on…
“If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates…”
George Washington, Farewell Address to the People of the United States
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president is morally treasonable to the American public.”
Theodore Roosevelt, Kansas City Star Editorial
“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
James Madison, Letter to George Thomson
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”
Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address
…just for fun: