By John Horton
Monday, February 20 is Presidents’ Day. Therefore, I got to thinking: who is my all-time favorite president and why? Understandably there are varying opinions when it come to this, however, I have mine when it comes to this topic.
Just today (February 19), I watched C-SPAN’s program (2 and ½ hours, 7-9:30 a.m.) discussing the results of its third “Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership.” The Survey is a cross-section of 91 presidential historians who ranked the 43 former occupants of the White House on ten leadership attributes.
Recent presidential ratings are: Nixon (28); Ford (25); Carter (26); Reagan (9); G.H.W. Bush (20); Clinton (15); G.W. Bush (33); and Obama (12). The top ten are: Lincoln (1); Washington (2); F.D. Roosevelt (3); T. Roosevelt (4); Eisenhower (5); Truman (6); Jefferson (7); Kennedy (8); Reagan (9); and L. Johnson (10). Conversely, the three worst Presidents are: Pierce (41); A. Johnson (42); and Buchanan (43).
After thoughtful consideration of such presidential giants as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Eisenhower and others, my all-time favorite president is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Considering what he had to overcome, personally and professionally, Roosevelt was by far the most accomplished and distinguished in my opinion.
Being an African-American male who was born in September 1940 and raised in the “colored” public housing projects of Chattanooga, Tennessee, I always heard about the “greatness” of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (“FDR”). During my upbringing, President Roosevelt was “the man.”
Being a student and teacher of history over the years, I became enchanted and enthralled with FDR. I have always felt a connection with FDR. He has always been my “man for all seasons.”
What’s not to like about FDR? He was the ultimate politician, polemicist, pragmatist, and peacemaker. FDR spent his life empowering people and fighting for fairness and justice on behalf of others in America and throughout the world.
In a rather brief, but prolific, life (63 years), FDR had a prominent and eclectic career as alawyer, member of New York State Legislature, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, before election to the presidency (March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945).
Although afflicted with poliomyelitis in 1921, age 39, FDR never allowed his “disability” to “handicap” him. FDR displayed indomitable courage in fighting polio by trying to regain the use of his legs through exercise and therapy. As its most famous victim, FDR helped founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938 to raise money to research polio.
In essence, FDR was a man ahead of the times. He elevated the “First Lady” (Eleanor) into a meaningful copartner. He was one of the first presidents to fully utilize his vice president in an unrestricted and trusted fashion. To his credit, FDR had a prominent “Kitchen Cabinet,” to include several African –American members. Also, Frances Perkins (Secretary of Labor, 1933-45) was the first woman to serve in the Cabinet.
Further proof of FDR’s prominence over the years is his comparison with other “giant peers” of his day such as Churchill, Stalin, and de Gaulle. The past half-century or so has proved that FDR’s policies, principles and practices have yielded the better results and lasting effects over time. Truly, FDR was a “giant among giants.”
Some examples of FDR’s greatness and legacy in words, works, and writings are:
n Establishment of New Deal programs for labor, banking, commerce, work relief projects, public utilities, and the like.
n Establishment of Social Security (1935).
n Establishment of the “Good Neighbor” policy for dealing with foreign affairs and international relations.
n Directing the organization of the Nation’s manpower and resources for WWII.
n Planning for a United Nations, in which international disputes could be settled.
n The “Four Freedoms” Address to Congress (January 6, 1941).
n The “Fireside Chats.”
As evident by his actions and deeds, I profoundly believe FDR is the greatest American president who has ever lived. I sincerely believe if President Washington can be given credit for transforming America, and President Lincoln can be given credit for saving the Union, then President Roosevelt can be given credit for salvaging the (Free) World. For these reasons and a myriad of others, FDR is truly a “man for all seasons.” And, he is my special reason for celebrating Presidents’ Day (February 20) 2017.