One of Twain’s best lines states this, ““Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” When a President recognizes a problem before he begins, then he has solved half the problem before stepping one foot on the oval office carpet. He also said if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. Honesty and sincerity with intelligence spiced with a sense of humor–imagine the possibilities. Mark Twain would have been a great president because he would have given entertaining press conferences. He also would have taken the job seriously enough but also laughed at the absurdity of it all.
Benjamin Franklin was an outstanding writer, diplomat and forward thinker. He said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” Based on the written material concerning Franklin’s work and exploits in Britain and France during America’s struggle for independence, he would have been effective dealing with world leaders.
The wife of John Adams was extremely intelligent and more politically savvy than her husband. In another time and another age, she would have had a chance to show the world what she could achieve. As it was, her advice to her husband during private conversations likely kept him from alienating even more people. She said once, “I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” I think she was on to something there that applies toward today’s political environment.
She would have intimidated all of the world leaders. She would have known exactly what to say and to whom at the right moment. She would have been perfect.
6. Walt Disney
He knew how to run a business and build a world—Disney World. Where did Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev want to go when visiting Los Angeles in 1959? Disneyland. He wasn’t able to go due to security concerns which upset him greatly. As president he could have used the trip to Disneyland or Disney World as his trump card. I can hear it now, “Agree to this or no trip to the magic kingdom.”
Why the “Top Eight?” Because there are too many “Top Ten” lists published on the web today. If you can’t say what you have on your mind in eight then don’t even try to strain your wrists typing, I say. This is a fast paced, take no prisoners culture we live in. My contribution is to save you some time by eliminating two places on the list. With that stated, I know people have many decisions that need to made throughout the day. Here are my most influential decisions that changed America’s destiny.
The document states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These are just words until people back it up by putting names to it. I consider this to be the most significant of decisions because it was made by a group of founding fathers that put the country on a course toward separation from England and the monarchy. Fifty six people signed the document including two future presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin at 70 years was the oldest to sign. John Hancock was the most famous. Several other lesser-known signers had just as much to lose, if not more, by signing the document. Many authors have penned various reasons why this group signed the declaration. Some did it for freedom, others for business and financial incentives, and still others signed it because they were aware they were creating something that would last through the centuries Signing the declaration achieved several purposes. The declaration moved the colonies in the direction towards independence. And as a bonus, it agitated the British even more. If the declaration wasn’t signed, the colonies may have eventually won its freedom from England but it might have taken many more years and the results may not have been as generous.
2.The decision to pass and sign the Civil Rights Act. Most citizens are aware of, and some even remember, the 1964 civil right acts signed by President Lyndon Johnson. President Johnson used some of his trademark Johnson charm to get it passed through the legislature. It continued what Congress started years earlier. Congress passed the original civil rights act in 1866 and it declares that, “all persons shall have the same rights…to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws…” This was followed by the 14th Amendment in 1868 that stated, “”All persons born or naturalized in the US…are citizens…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person…the equal protection of the laws.” This led to the 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, giving people the right to vote regardless of sex.
President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act that provided more rights. These, among others, are, “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Prohibits public access discrimination, leading to school desegregation.” The 1866 Civil Rights Act started America down the righteous path toward true equality..
3. The decision to secede from the union. This is more of a collective decision by several powerful people. The Southern states’ decision to secede from the union produced a chain of events that eventually led to the abolishment of slavery, a stronger Federal Government, General William T. Sherman’s march through the south, and finally, the actual end of the Southern slave holding culture. According to most civil war scholars, at the end of the war, Americans began referring to themselves as being from the “United” States rather than from a particular state such as Virginia or New York. If secession hadn’t happened, it could be argued the South would have negotiated to retain some of their states rights and kept slavery in tact. Instead, southern leaders voted for secession and lost their way of life.
4. The decision to buy the Louisiana Territory. America’s RV enthusiasts wouldn’t get the thrill of driving across the fruited plane today if it hadn’t been for Thomas Jefferson taking advantage of Napoleon’s urge to conquer Europe on a shoestring budget.
At 3 cents an acre, Thomas Jefferson struck a great real estate deal at 15 million dollars for more than 800,000 acres in 1803. The deal covers what is now Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and two Canadian provinces. What is intriguing about the deal is that President Jefferson originally intended for the team of James Monroe and Robert Livingston to just purchase the Port of New Orleans from France for 10 million dollars. However, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to limit England’s influence in America and he needed money to refill his government coffers after his wars. For these reasons, he offered the Jefferson team the whole territory for 5 million more. Sometimes the stars align and a business deal just falls into place.
5. The decision by President Truman to use the Atom Bomb.
The diplomacy game changed when the United States used the Atomic Bomb to end WWII. It was the first time a weapon of that magnitude and it let the world’s leaders know that the US government would use this type of weapon if needed to end a War. On the negative side, the development and use of the Atomic Bomb began the build up of globally destructive warheads. This was a cloud that future generations had to live under while growing up. President Harry S.Truman wasn’t even given the knowledge that the bomb was being built until he was sworn into the office. That was kept secret from him by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, most likely due to “need to know” security procedures. Before the bomb was used, the Japanese proved to the world they would not surrender easily. The Battle of Okinawa, an island south of the mainland, proved to President Truman and the military that the Japanese military upper hiearchy would fight to the end to save their empire and their culture. The fact that the US had to use two bombs tells us that fact. President Truman didn’t take the decision lightly.He thought about the repurcussions for days. Once he made the decision though, he never second-guessed himself.
6. The decision to serve only two terms by President Washington.
President George Washington set an important precedent by stepping down after two terms as the Chief Executive. Future Presidents followed his decision to leave office after two terms despite nothing being written in the Constitution about the subject.. President Thomas Jefferson served two terms as the third President but chose to step down voluntarily. This verified the tradition. It didn’t become an issue until President Grant thought about serving a third term. Congress denounced the idea because it broke with the tradition set by Washington. He, however, stood ready to be drafted in 1875 and 1880 but the republican convention chose other candidates. President Franklin Roosevelt ultimately broke the tradition by serving a third term in 1940 due to the onset of WWII. He was elected in 1944 but didn’t finish his fourth term. Afterwards, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment limiting the President to two terms with an exemption for the current President Truman. Truman declined to run for a third term. Congress introduced bills to repeal the 22nd Amendment during President Ronald Reagan’s term and while President Bill Clinton was in office but they both failed to pass the legislative branch. President Washington was wary of monarchies and dictatorships so his stepping down after 8 years in 1797 was a product of that thinking. Besides he was tired of the criticism brought on by the office and wanted to retire to Mount Vernon. .
7. The decision to fund the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways bill. The nation’s highways as we know them today began in 1938 with the passing of the Federal Highway Act. It called for a toll based 26,700-mile interregional highway network with three highways running south to north and three more running east to west. In the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, the Congress acted on these recommendations. The act called for “designation of a National System of Interstate Highways, to include up to 40,000 miles “… so located, as to connect by routes, direct as practical, the principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers, to serve the National Defense, and to connect at suitable points.” These acts didn’t specifically spell out how the system would be funded so the construction was slow. Here’s where President Eisenhower comes in. He led a team that figured out how to fund the highway system to build highways as the citizens of the United States know them today. The Department of Transportation documents make it clear that The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952 authorized the first funding specifically for system construction. Under President Eisenhower, the system funding was created so it wouldn’t increase the federal budget much. This is where the vehicle tax and gas tax enter the picture. With the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 it increased the system’s proposed length to 41,000 miles. From there we have several highways running west to east and north to south, with the longest running highway being I-90 at 3020.54 miles from Boston, Mass., to Seattle, Washington. The highway system has aided interstate commerce as well as the tourism industry. It has provided a means for families and individuals to view the landscape of the United States as well as being the catalyst for many a sibling feud in backseats.
8. The decision to Land on the Moon. The decision to explore space and reach to other worlds began with the Eisenhower administration and the Mercury program. The goal became focused when President Kennedy gave a speech on May 25th, 1961 to a special joint session of congress and stated the goal of sending an American safely to moon and return to earth before the end of the decade.
Much of the decision involved cold war politics with the Soviet Union but also healthy dose of American bravado spirit. However, Kennedy consulted with his vice president and the NASA chief and determined that the US had a good chance of beating the Soviets to moon. The space program created many benefits that people use today. The advancement in electronics and computers ushered in solid-state electronics. In addition to these developments, according to NASA’s official government website, insulation technology developed by NASA engineers is used for thermal blankets. These are just some of the many benefits the space program has yielded since its inception. Finally, Americans could boast that we were the first to land on the moon but in the name of “mankind” of course.
These are my top eight decisions. I am sure there are people who disagree. It was tough just to narrow it down to eight. Let me know your top eight. .