Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Monday, February 15, 2016



President's Day is here! That means everyone from the Used Car Lot to WalMart is suddenly patriotic. Parking lots display Red, White & Blue ribbons and the Stars & Stripes appear on your local newscaster's tie. Another aspect of the holiday involves honoring the men themselves. Unfortunately...with 44 presidents to choose from...it is always George and Abe who appear in the Honda commercial. Sigh. To honor the hard working, yet somehow underappreciated, Commanders in Chief of the past... Here are Five Great Presidents who do NOT appear on US Currency:*

JOHN ADAMS.  No one wants to follow onstage after Michael Jackson. Likewise, replacing His Excelency George Washington must have been a tough pill to swallow. Nonetheless, the ambitious man from Massachusetts was up for the task. First on his agenda was to establish a Navy to protect our harbors from the British, who would show up fifteen years later. That's called planning ahead! Also..don't forget..as the leading political theorist at the Continental Congress, Adams was the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence. Dude, this guy is such an American patriot, he died on the Fourth of July! Why isn't he mentioned as much as Washington or Jefferson?

JAMES MADISON. Sure, it's easy to be a great president in prosperous times...like when the USA has the world's best army...but what about when times are hard? In this spirit, let's salute the only Commander in Chief to successfully defend the homeland from a foreign invasion: James Madison. Standing at a mere 5'4" (1.63m), he remains our shortest president ever. But he was tall on courage! In 1814, England was determined to destroy Napoleon..and all of his allies. This included the USA. In accordance, Royal Naval squadrons raided the District of Columbia, burning down the White House. Although Dolly Madison would get all the credit for saving items, it was her husband who rallied the army to chase the limeys away.

JAMES K. POLK. Aside from Polk Street in San Francisco, places named after the eleventh president of the USA are hard to find. That's a shame, because Polk changed our nation like no other leader. At 49, he was the youngest man to assume the office. His youthful exuberance was evident: No one ever delivered on campaign promises like Polk. And...Boy!...were they whoppers: Polk promised to double the size of the USA by adding both the Oregon Territory from England and California from Mexico. In his first year in office, he was able to negotiate annexation of Oregon. However, he had to engineer a war with Mexico to accomplish the latter. In four years, Polk completely reshaped the nation. BONUS: He also founded the Smithsonian!

WOODROW WILSON. A nasty spat between Teddy Roosevelt and Tubby Taft allowed a relative unknown named Wilson to slide into the White House in the Election of 1912. One of his first acts as President was to annually inform Congress of what's happening in the Oval Office. Called the "State of the Union Address," the idea caught on and has become a staple of the presidency. During his eight years, Wilson skillfully tip-toed around two enormous foreign policy powder kegs: The Great Revolution in neighboring Mexico and a World War in Europe. While we ended up getting involved in the latter, we stayed out of the mess in Mexico. Also: Women should give Wilson bonus points for his vociferous approval of the 19th Amendment, which gave ladies the right to vote in 1919.

HARRY S. TRUMAN. Sandwiched between Four-termer FDR and Two-termer IKE was a soft spoken president from Missouri. A last minute addition to the 1944 Democratic ticket, Truman assumed office a mere 82 days after Roosevelt's sudden death. A week later, he was in Europe, meeting with Churchill, de Gaulle and Stalin to decide the fate of the planet. Fortunately, they listened to Harry, and the United Nations was born. While enormously popular overseas, Truman struggled to win hearts back at home. He defeated Dewey for re-election in 1948 by the thinnest of margins ever. His National Health Care Plan was soundly defeated by Congress the next year. It would take another 64 years for another president to get this passed. Sigh!

*Presidents on coins / bills: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Grant, FDR, JFK.

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