For those of you who follow this blog, you know that one of the things I believe most strongly is the importance of learning from history. (See "I Love History," 1-3-2012 in the blog archives.) As the 2016 Presidential Election Day nears, I have tried to reflect on what things are most important to me in deciding for whom to vote. This blog shares the five guidelines I have created for myself, and includes quotes from our past presidents which relate to the considerations important to me.
1st: Knowledge of the Constitution. Politicians come and go, but it is our Constitution that has guided and defined us for more than two centuries. I distrust those who think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers and who lack an acquaintance with our nation's history or who presume to enter national politics without a thorough, well informed knowledge of our Constitution and the political traditions that honor it.
Lincoln: "We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution."
Washington: "The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon."
Pierce: "The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution."
2nd: Respect for the office and the men who have preceded them. The office of the President is greater than any one person, and anyone who holds that office should understand that great truth and should enter office with a sense of humility and honor for the office he or she will briefly hold.
Truman: "When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things. You have to remember it isn't for you. It's for the Presidency.
Polk: "May the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity, and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family."
3rd: Respect for all Americans. When the President swears to protect and defend the Constitution, he or she must assume the responsibility of serving all Americans, not just those who voted for him or her. The Constitution belongs to all of us, and the President serves all of the American people.
Kennedy: "If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity."
Woodrow Wilson: "If you think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig."
Nixon: "With all the power that a President has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this: You must not give power to a man unless, above everything else, he has character. Character is the most important qualification the President of the United States can have."
4th: The President must be a role model for Americans, and especially for our children. The President must understand that once he or she is elected, he or she is no longer just a private citizen but rather is a symbol of the nation to the world and an example for all of us. The President must conduct him or herself with the dignity of the office and to do less belittles all of us. And, especially, the President's words and actions are an example to our children, for good or for ill.
Wilson: "One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to be supplied is light, not heat."
McKinley: "That's all a man can hope for during his lifetime--to set an example--and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history."
John Quincy Adams: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."
Monroe: "It is by a thorough knowledge of the whole subject that [people] are enabled to judge correctly of the past and give a proper direction to the future."
Those are the five guidelines which I use to evaluate the character, experience, and wisdom of the candidates asking for my vote for President of the United States. The comments made by past Presidents have made me proud of the men that Americans have elected in the past, whether or not those Presidents always lived up to their own intentions. If you like, some of you may wish to share your own guidelines, but please do not advocate for your choice nor criticize the candidate you reject. Respect that many people follow this blog and not all of us will vote for the same candidate. What is important is that we reflect carefully on our decision.