Tag Archives: George Washington

Book Recommendation: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

by Rick Bretz

The United States has always had issues with the Middle East.  For that matter, so has the rest of world.  Some of the issues are due to conquering and occupying nations and their policies but a majority can be traced back to dictator egos and their need for flaunting power. The fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I created many problems as well.

Middle_east

The United States has had problems with that region from the beginning.  Presidents George Washington,  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dealt with pirates, hostage takers and terrorist  demands for ransom.  This reality forced them to make difficult decisions so that the nation could build itself into a stable group of unified state governments with a federal power structure to deal with foreign policy and constitutional issues.

The troubled violent Middle East history as it pertains to the United States begins with the Tripoli Pirates and continues to this day.

A list of Middle East issues is a long one:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modern_conflicts_in_the_Middle_East

http://www.economist.com/node/1922472

http://www.globalissues.org/issue/103/middle-east

Thomas Jefferson book cover

The Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger book, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, covers just one of the issues the United States had to solve at the start of the 19th Century.  The subtitle, The Forgotten War That Changed American History, makes a point that the Tripoli Pirate issue is largely buried or glossed over in history books but remains significant concerning the rest of world’s outlook toward the then young country of the United States of America.  The book tells the story about four Muslim countries extorting the United States by capturing ships and enslaving the crews until a ransom was paid by the United States government.  Tripoli, Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco saw the kidnapping and ransom process as their religious right to capture vessels on the Mediterranean high seas to fill their financial coffers.

George Washington and John Adams tried to use diplomacy while they were building a Navy and a nation while paying back war debt to countries supporting the colonies’ war for independence. As a secretary of state and diplomat, and Vice President during those years, Thomas Jefferson had seen how diplomacy never worked. It was this experience dealing with the pirates that compelled Jefferson to send the US Navy’s recently built warships to the Middle East for a blockade.  The Barbary Wars and the outcome sent a message to the world that the young country of the America would defend itself if needed.  This sent the country on a journey where its elected leaders had a say on the world stage, and later used to full effect by President Teddy Roosevelt.

CONCLUSIONS

The book does a good job of writing about the courage of the captured ships’ sailors held in prisons.  It also tells the story of Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s night raid and General William Eaton’s five hundred mile march from Egypt to the Port of Derne for a surprise attack by US Marines. The result of this became a well-known line in the Marine Corps Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.”  All together now!  This book is worth reading because the authors describe the difficulty of beginning a new nation, building a Navy, and defending America’s prestige on the world stage while keeping government politicians contented back home.

From the early 1800 Tripoli Pirates, the United States has dealt with a number of Middle East issues including, regime changes, oil embargos, Palestinian/Israeli conflicts, The Yom Kippur War, the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan, The Iranian Revolution, government-funded terrorism, and many others.  The Middle East and each administration’s malleable foreign policy that goes with dealing with this region, as well as the United Nations attitude toward Israel compared to the surrounding countries, is a nightmare that keeps coming back when you want to get a good sleep.  In this case the nightmare has lasted more than a couple hundred years.

 

Notable Links

https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/war_peace/middleeast/hcentury.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Middle_Eastern_history

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/timeline/text/time2.html

http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/middleeast/metimeln_ext.htm

http://www.timemaps.com/history/middle-east-3500bc

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/target/etc/modern.html

http://www.varsitytutors.com/earlyamerica/early-america-review/volume-6/terrorism-early-america

https://www.cpj.org/

https://www.change.org/p/president-obama-support-the-righttoreport-and-protect-journalist-rights

http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/history/topics/gw-and-the-barbary-coast-pirates/

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/287

https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/first-barbary-war

Eight Great Historical Mini-Series

 

band of brothers

 

by Rick Bretz

Band of Brothers (2001)

The story of Easy Company from their tough initial training through World War II’s D-Day to V-J Day. The 10 part series, based on a Stephen Ambrose book, covers the hardship and the elation of being part of a great cause. Each episode begins with an interview showing the real members of Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Best Line:  Lt. Winters,  “That night, I took time to thank God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. And if, somehow, I managed to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185906/?ref_=nv_sr_1

468-09-Buzz-aldrin-us-flag

From the Earth to the Moon (1998)

This mini-series shows the challenges, heartache and triumph of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs as they achieved the nation’s goal of sending a man to the moon and bringing him back safely.

Best Line: Astronaut Frank Borman speaking about the cause of the Apollo 1 fire, “A failure of imagination. We’ve always known there was the possibility of fire in a spacecraft. But the fear was that it would happen in space, when you’re 180 miles from terra firma and the nearest fire station. That was the worry. No one ever imagined it could happen on the ground. If anyone had thought of it, the test would’ve been classified as hazardous. But it wasn’t. We just didn’t think of it. Now whose fault is that? Well, it’s North American’s fault. It’s NASA’s fault. It’s the fault of every person who ever worked on Apollo. It’s my fault. I didn’t think the test was hazardous. No one did. I wish to God we had.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120570/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

james-peale-george-washington

George Washington (1984)

Barry Bostwick gives an outstanding performance of a young and ageing George Washington in this almost forgotten mini-series from 1984. It covers his early life as a young officer and his wooing of Martha Custis whom he would marry. The cast includes some of the greats: Hal Holbrook as John Adams, Patty Duke as Martha Washington, James Mason as General Braddock, Jaclyn Smith as Sally Fairfax and many more. Many actors have attempted to portray George Washington and some have succeeded but Barry Bostwick comes pretty close to getting the personality and spirit of the man.

Best Line: General George Washington addressing his officers, “Gentlemen, you’ll permit me to put on my spectacles, as I have grown not only grey but also blind in the service of my country.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086720/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

centennial

Centennial (1978)

This is considered one of the best mini-series of all time. Based on the novel by James Michener, It’s on just about every one’s “best of” list. The central theme identifies the many challenges and hard ships associated with settling in the West as the concept of manifest destiny was put into practice. The cast includes just about every major actor of that era. Raymond Burr, Robert Conrad, Lynn Redgrave, Sally Kellerman, Richard Crenna and Sharon Gless and more. The story crosses two centuries and chronicles the lives of people living in and around the town of Centennial, Colorado.

Best Line: “Only the rocks live forever.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076993/?ref_=nv_sr_1

john adams

John Adams (2008)

Paul Giamatti captures John Adams prickly personality as well as his determination in forging a new country. More than that, he was perfect for showing the audience how intellectually sound John Adam’s was when arguing for his clients in court or persuading the founders to adopt a course of action. The mini-series also makes a point to show how important Abigail Adams was to her husband’s success. Based on the book by David McCullough, the series makes it a point to show the hardships the John and Abigail Adams endured.

Best Lines: John Adams, “My thoughts are so clear to me… each one takes perfect shape within my mind. But when I speak, when I offer them to others, they seem to lose all definition.”

Also,

Benjamin Franklin, “You are a guest in Philadelphia. Fish, and guests, stink after three days.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472027/?ref_=nv_sr_2

 

The Men Who Built America (2012)

Before you can succeed anywhere you have to possess a vision. These men had it with some to spare. This series points the key and fill lights on the Mount Rushmore of businessmen who built America. Each segment tells the story of giants in their field. The series tells the stories of J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford and how they accumulated their vast empires and wealth. More importantly, the series tells how they worked with one another or challenged each other for another’s piece of the economic pie. If you want to know how America became an economic superpower after the civil war, this is the mini-series to watch. Many of today’s business leaders talk about what it takes to be ultra-successful in the business world during the series.

 

Best Line:  H. W. Brands (historian) “Carnegie demonstrated that if you’re the first at whatever you do, you have a huge advantage over the people who come along later because you got the jump on them and very often that jump allows you to carve a niche and to maximize your profits within that niche.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2167393/?ref_=nv_sr_2

 

North and South (1985)

This series covers the friendship between two young cadets at The United States Military Academy at West Point. One is from, you guessed it, from a wealthy plantation owning family in the South and the other from a wealthy industrial and factory owning family from the North. The series tackles racism issues as well as the ideological differences among plantation owning southerners and industry building northerners. The civil war wages on and the friendship between the two main characters is tested.

Best Line: Orry talking to George, “This is our way of life, it has been for more than a hundred years! (Pause) How would you like me, to come up to Lehigh Station, telling you how to run your life, to change the way you have always lived?”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088583/?ref_=nv_sr_1

roots

Roots (1977)

Roots is one of the most celebrated and well know mini-series since the inception of genre. It has great actors and a compelling story of slave family and slave owners. The first episodes in the series show the viewers what slave ships would have been like and how the slave trade was perpetuated by profiteers. LeVar Burton plays the lead character Kunta Kinte as we follow him from Africa to the United States. Based on the book by Alex Haley, the series shows how families were torn apart when the United States thought it was acceptable to own another human being. The all-star cast gives a bravura performance that captivated the country in 1977.

Best Lines: Omoro, Kunta Kinte’s father, holding his infant son up to a starry sky, “Kunta Kinte, behold the only thing greater than yourself!”

and

Fiddler, “Christmas is when White folk give each other stuff don’t neither of em need.”

Also

Kintango, “It is impossible to kill an enemy. You may end a man’s life, but his son becomes your new enemy. A warrior respects another warrior, even he is his enemy. A warrior kills only to protect his family, or to keep from becoming a slave. We believe not in death, but in life, and there is no object more valuable than a man’s life.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075572/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

 

Honorable Mentions: The Company, The Kennedys, Jesus of Nazareth, Shogun, Holocaust, The Civil War, The Winds of War, War and Peace, Hatfields & McCoys

From the Porch to the Information Superhighway-The Path to the Presidency

It’s President’s Day February 18th.  With that, it’s worth discussing the gradual, double-edged communication sword candidates have had to integrate into their campaign to get their ideas to the voting public. Today, information technology has given candidates faster, easier ways to present their solutions and ideas to Americans. It also means the news cycle is quicker and reaches a wider audience if there is a slip up in their strategy or if a candidate misspeaks or gets some facts wrong.

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

George Washington never campaigned openly for the Presidency. He was ambitious but thought brazenly crusading for the office to be uncouth. He was a master at working behind the scenes, talking to the right people, while appearing to not covet the office but would accept it for the betterment of the nation.  As history shows, Washington was the perfect person to be the first President because he didn’t want any royal titles and his leaving after two terms set the standard for years to come.

In 1836, William Henry Harrison  first used a train to campaign across America.  Later in 1840, William Henry Harrison was the first to openly campaign for the Presidency running against incumbent Martin Van Buren with the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”  “Tyler Too” refers to John Tyler who would take office after President Harrison’s death due to sickness brought on by a one hour and 45 minute inauguration speech in the freezing, cold, Washington, DC, winter.  Harrison served one month before Tyler assumed the office.

Despite the use of mass transportation such as trains, Candidates James Garfield in 1880 and William McKinley in 1896 won their elections by just sitting on the porch and welcoming visitors and serving drinks. While they were visiting, the candidates had the opportunity to present their ideas and give campaign speeches. McKinley was also reportedly the first to use the telephone to make campaign calls.

After the turn of the century, President Teddy Roosevelt was the first to be documented on film delivering campaign speeches. His bombastic, fist pumping style was perfectly suited for silent film.

Hardings and Coolidges - The President and Vic...
Hardings and Coolidges – The President and Vice-President of the United States with their wives, standing in front of automobiles. Left to right: President Warren G. Harding, hat in hand, with walking stick; First Lady Mrs. Florence Harding in fur coat and feathered hat; Mrs. Grace Goodhue Coolidge; Vice President Calvin Coolidge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soon afterwards, radio broadcasts appeared on the political scene.  President Calvin Coolidge used radio to deliver addresses in the early 1920s.   Later, the 1924 election featured the candidates Coolidge and Democratic candidate John Davis delivering campaign speeches on the radio.

The Presidential debates and conventions in 1952 were the first to use the television medium to get their ideas to the public.  Eisenhower’s campaign created the first TV ad.  The catchy tune, “We Like Ike.”  Later, President Lyndon Johnson used the television medium effectively for the “Daisy” campaign ad that ran only once but was effective in beating Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964’s election. Before the development of cable and 24 hour news channels, candidates planned their strategy with the realization that fewer television channels and reporters existed.  However, the audiences were larger per channel. Even so, the Public Broadcasting System didn’t begin until 1970.

Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Ric...
Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon during the first televised U.S. presidential debate in 1960. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today the press pool is larger and news channels and producers require a constant news cycle with pressure to fill the air space and get ratings.

Presidential Candidates have to negotiate several cable news organizations as well as local affiliate news reporters and anchors.  In addition, the internet, YouTube, Twitter, blog writers, mobile media have given candidates more information streams. Candidates also use or have to make themselves available for the morning talk show circuit on radio and television. Talk radio has also entered the world of campaigning that can keep a story alive well after the initial news cycle.

The 1996 campaign was the first to use the internet to send out literature such as brochures and other media.  The 2000 campaign candidates, Governor Bush and Vice President Gore, each created and maintained their websites. Since then, the internet, with ads, email, and other informational sites, has continually evolved to be a significant part of a campaign.

Despite several additional communication sources to reach the voting public, there is no substitute for face to face, personal exposure–the shaking of a potential voter’s hands. The modern age has seen the use of trains as a recurring theme for presidential candidates.  Besides Harrison being the first, others that have used the rails are Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, William Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and most famously, Harry S. Truman on his whistle-stop tour.

All of this means that candidates and incumbents have more ways, more paths, more streams to influence voters, get their ideas out, and communicate how they are better for the country than the other person.  With these tools for discovery, it is entirely possible  voters will elect a woman to the highest office, and soon.

The other side of the coin is that with more opportunities to reach and more hours in the day speaking on the public stage, the chances for a mistake or a misstep increase.  The good news is; it is easier to correct it if you have a counter strategy.  Technology is here to stay and the days of a candidate sitting at home on the front porch waiting for voters to arrive to hear him speak are long gone.

Notable Links:

http://www.ourwhitehouse.org/persuading.html

http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/how_presidential_candidates_use_web_and_social_media

http://eiu.edu/eiutps/campaigns.php

http://transition.fcc.gov/osp/inc-report/INoC-3-TV.pdf

The State of the Union Address

This is the beginning of a new category that will be part of my blog menu, “I’ll Take Potpourri, Alex.” This section of the URL universe is a place where I can write about anything I want with a slant towards history. This section will concentrate on recent, current and possibly future events. Today’s topic is the State of the Union speech with a nod to President Barack Obama’s address February 12.

English: President Barack Obama delivers the 2...

It’s a task every United States President accomplishes every year since George Washington presented his to congress in January 1790.  Presidents George Washington and John Adams delivered their state of union speeches in person to Congress.  President Thomas Jefferson disliked public speaking and thought giving a speech to congress came a little too close to the way British Monarch’s addressed the Parliament each year.  Jefferson didn’t want to do anything that smacked of British ways plus he had a high-pitched speaking voice and a lisp that didn’t serve him well communicating before large audiences.  He decided to give his state of the union address to congress in writing and have it read to congress by a clerk.

This practice was kept until President Woodrow Wilson delivered his state of the union speech in 1913.  The practice of presenting the speech in written form through the years had the result of reducing the president’s influence in legislative matters.  With radio, and later television, giving the President a new avenue for a bully pulpit reaching millions, delivering the speech in person made sense so that more influence could be exerted directly and indirectly through constituents. President Calvin Coolidge’s State of the Union address was the first to be broadcast by radio in 1923.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s address was the first to be aired on television in 1953. By the 1960s, the address was moved to prime time television.

President Ronald Reagan with Vice President Ge...
President Ronald Reagan with Vice President George H.W. Bush and House Speaker Jim Wright during the 1988 State of the Union address. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two recent presidents come to mind I believe thoroughly enjoyed giving the state of the union speech. They are Presidents Ronald Wilson Reagan and William Jefferson Clinton.  They just seem to relish the whole spectacle and ritual of being announced, walking down the aisle, shaking hands, and standing before the whole Congressional branch, with representatives from the Judicial Branch and the Pentagon, and constituents in the balcony,  knowing that they were the big dogs in that neighborhood.  You could see it in their eyes—they loved it! Besides the election, it’s the Super Bowl and World Series all wrapped up in one event for the President.  The address is his chance to be and look Presidential. The speech is his chance to form a consensus while outlining his legislative priorities he believes will make the United States a better nation.

English: Al Gore and Newt Gingrich applaud to ...
English: Al Gore and Newt Gingrich applaud to US president Clinton waves during the State of the Union address in 1997. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)e

I get a laugh out of the congressional audience camera close up, television cut-away reaction shot depending on which party is in power.  Once the President presents an idea, one side might stand and applaud while the other sits stone-faced, looking like they  heard a joke from a comedian that fell flat.  It’s half of the drama of watching.  Who will the TV cameras focus on while sitting there obstinate?  I almost want to see the President act like a college professor or teacher and ask the person not applauding, “Hey there, yes Senator, why aren’t you getting with the program, join the team and come in for the big win.”

The sitting on the hands routine is what makes America unique. We can disagree impolitely, as in a bar fight, or politely, as in sitting and staring, refusing to acknowledge the brilliance of a statement when others around you are cheering wildly.

Eight Great Presidential Performances

By Rick Bretz

In recognition of the inauguration this week, I have listed what I consider the best presidential portrayals on film and the small screen.  My criteria are simple.  Did the actor capture the spirit of the President’s personality?  And, was I able to watch the presentation without being aware that someone was trying too hard to play that particular president? Most of the performances on this list present a narrow window in a President’s life.  The more difficult portrayals involve playing the person over a lifetime.  A good example of this is Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of John Adams and Barry Bostwick’s performance in the George Washington miniseries. Below is the actor followed by the President portrayed and then the  film or television title.

1.  Kenneth Branagh-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Warm Springs

I was skeptical before making time to see this show that the actor could pull it off.  I was wrong.  Kenneth Branagh captured the force of Roosevelt’s personality and his physical and emotional fight with the crippling polio disease.  He also does a great job of relating to the people who have the same disease while rehabilitating at Warm Springs.  His supporting cast is terrific and he shows us why Roosevelt related to so many people.

2.  Daniel Day Lewis-Abraham-Lincoln-Lincoln

Enough has been written about Lewis’ choice concerning how Lincoln sounds when he speaks compared to other portrayals. If you watch Henry Fonda’s “Young Mr. Lincoln”,  the voice pitch comes close to what Lewis used in Lincoln.  What cannot be disputed is that he does capture Lincoln’s modest confidence and his sharp political mind.

3.  Paul Giamatti-John Adams-Johns Adams

 Paul Giamatti captures Adams from all directions.  He is spot on in his portrayal in many aspects.  His love for his wife Abigail, his mercurial temper, his difficult personality, his love for his family, his ego, and most of all, his sense of duty, fairness, and love for his country. Giamatti’s choices show the president from all sides while weaving his multi-layered personality into the presentation of Adams. He also plays him as he ages from a young man to his death which is difficult to accomplish.

4.  Frank Langella-Richard M. Nixon-Frost/Nixon

 Langella’s acting puts a human face on Richard Nixon in this Ron Howard directed film.  He sparred with David Frost through a majority of the movie and showed Nixon’s toughness, intellect, political savvy and his personality weaknesses.  This performance is remarkable because it keeps the audience interested despite knowing the outcome.  It explains history without getting into the minute details so the audience’s eyes don’t glaze over like sitting in 9th grade history class memorizing dates.

 5.  Jeff Daniels-George Washington-The Crossing

 Jeff Daniels does a terrific job showing people what it must have been like serving under George Washington.  Daniels gives us a performance that shows Washington cool under fire, a master at finding quality people to serve under him and how to manage them, and how to get soldiers to fight for him in the most extreme circumstances. Daniels as Washington shows the General as calm leader looking to find answers instead of assessing blame.

6.  Anthony Hopkins-John Quincy Adams-Amistad

 My favorite scene in this movie is when Adams is supposedly sleeping during a congressional session.  Then the speaker asks him to comment on the previous discussion. Adams speaks up immediately repeating the last exchange and giving his own caustic opinion about the matter and the current session itself.  Hopkins is a master at losing himself in roles and this is one.  His other Presidential portrayal of Richard Nixon is good as well but this one is fascinating especially with the final summation in court at the end.

7.  Randy Quaid, Lyndon B. Johnson, LBJ; The Early Years

 Randy Quaid shows Lyndon Johnson with his loud voice, over-the–top personality and his energy to accomplish his own goals and fix what needs to be fixed.  This is another performance that shows the actor aging through several years from a young man to his days in congress.  Quaid gives an outstanding performance showing how Johnson dealt with people and how Johnson used his force of personality to get his legislation passed when he was a leader in congress.

8.  Henry Fonda-Abraham Lincoln-Young Mr. Lincoln

This movie was released in 1939 and it shows a young Henry Fonda at his best. Fonda gives us the Lincoln personality in the salad days of his lawyer career.  He takes on a case early in the movie that everyone believes is a lost cause.  Throughout the movie, Fonda shows the audience the Lincoln wit and his art for storytelling.  He shows us why Lincoln became President while  using his political savvy and intelligence.  Fonda’s acting also shows us an underlying sadness to his personality and an innate understanding he might be destined for great things.

Those are my favorites.  Do you agree? Leave a comment?

 More great characterizations:

David Morse-George Washington-John Adams; Edward Herrmann-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Eleanor and Franklin; Barry Bostwick-George Washington- George Washington (The Mini-Series);  Bill Murray-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Hyde Park on the Hudson; Gary Sinise-Harry S. Truman-Truman;  James Whitmore-Harry S. Truman-Give ‘Em Hell Harry; Raymond Massey-Abraham Lincoln-Abe Lincoln in Illinois; Brian Keith-Teddy Roosevelt-The Wind and the Lion

Eight December 25th significant events

In celebration of Christmas Day, here is a list of significant events occurring on December 25th.

Year 1989- The weather is cold in the winter months for most places. Japanese scientists decided they wanted to see how far they could force the temperature in the negatives.  They hit a record -271.8 degrees Celsius.  Personally, I’m building a fire in the fire-place at 0 degrees Celsius.

 

Emanuel Leutze's depiction of Washington's att...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 1776-On another cold day, General George Washington and his military force crossed the Delaware River so they could attack a Hessian mercenary unit at Trenton, NJ.  Washington attacked the unaware Hessians successfully and began the long road toward victory and independence.

 

John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song.
John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 1896-John Philip Sousa writes “Stars and Stripes Forever.” for every marching band in the country.

Year 1855-The first outdoor hockey game is played using field hockey sticks and lacrosse balls. Royal Canadian Rifle unit soldiers started the game when clearing ice and snow from Lake Ontario.  Later, the game evolved into what we know today with the first indoor hockey game played on March 3, 1875 at Montreal, Canada.

Year 1818-The Christmas Hymn “Silent Night,” by Franz Joseph Gruber and Joseph Mohr is sung for the first time.

Year 336 or 337-Most sources state 336 but some have 337 as the first recorded celebration of Christmas in Rome.

English: Traveling by reindeer, Arkhangelsk, R...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 1939-The retail store Montgomery Ward introduces the ninth reindeer, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

Born on December 25th– Believe or not, Robert L. Ripley, from Ripley’s Believe or Not fame, was born on this day. Also actor Humphrey Bogart, football players Larry Csonka, Kenny Stabler, and actress Sissy Spacek.

The Top Eight Quotes Spoken by Presidents

The Presidents of the United States have been in office during the successful years and the difficult times.  There are websites devoted to the men who served in the office and what words they have spoken while occupying the position.  The following are the most intriguing quotes from these men and what I think they wanted to say to the American people.  This post is a subjective exercise.  I am listing the ones that impress me.

 

Seal of the President of the United States Esp...

1.”Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder. “
George Washington

He was pointing out that most men have a price.  When someone is prepared to give the highest bounty you have asked, few men or women can say “no.”   The historical record is littered with people who have compromised their integrity for money, power and influence.  Most have paid a price of some kind in either loss of reputations, loss of wealth or loss of freedom and sometimes all three.

 
2. “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have. “
Gerald Ford

This is perfect quote that demonstrates how government can take on a human dynamic.  A government that is big enough to provide you with everything you need or desire can also use power to take those things away and then some.  Most communist or socialist governments try to provide their citizens what they need but in exchange the society is  forced to relinquish freedoms, like free press, free movement within boundaries, rights to privacy and slanted judgments within the judicial system.
3. “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. “
Harry S Truman

Every program manager and leader in America should have this hanging on the wall somewhere.  If one person decides that their ego is above a certain goal, then accomplishing a goal just got that much more difficult.  The tough part is getting a team to “buy in” to that idea.  It is fine to deliver kudos and credit afterwards.  That is what capitalism is all about.  However, if you want to get somewhere fast, then build a team with one thought in mind and that is delivering an excellent product on time and within budget. Today’s congress, state and local governments should take a lesson from this.
4. “As man draws nearer to the stars, why should he not also draw nearer to his neighbors?”
Lyndon Johnson

Despite President Johnson’s intentions it seems that technology has pulled us away from each other.  He is right.  Just because we have all of this technology for our benefit doesn’t mean we as American’s can’t take time to get to know neighbors at home or strangers on the subway. He also might be speaking about getting to know America’s neighbors in the world, as in making an effort to know other countries cultures.

 
5. “Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. “
Ronald Reagan

President Reagan nailed it.  Democracy in action may have its faults but it is the most effective and successful form of government produced by people.  There are many forms of democracy but any shade of it is much more effective than an autocracy, theocracy, monarchy or oligarchy.

 
 6.”The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

This piece of wisdom is perfect for today’s political climate.  Extremes are where nothing ever gets done.  There has to be some compromise so people can move forward and not let their goals end up stalled in a ditch somewhere.  It’s easy to be inflexible.  It is much more difficult to find common ground with your ideological opposite.

7. “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. “
Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you want capitalism and democracy, you have to make it work.  As the late, former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal used to say “All politics is local.”  A politician can deliver and distribute many loft ideas about how government should operate.  To most people striving to make a living and take care of their families, the measure of success is:  Do I have a JOB?  How much am I paying for gas? Can I afford groceries this month?  Can I live comfortably and can I retire?   If you don’t have these, then you have people willing to change the system to something else, like a dictatorship.

8. “Our problems are man-made; therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. “
John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy had one trait that makes great leaders, “A can do spirit.”   He was saying, what we destroy we can rebuild.  What we break, we can fix.  What problems we create, we can solve.  Everything that is around us was built, engineered, and invented by man.  So with this in mind, he states, that man can solve these problems through the continuing ingenuity of man.

Honorable Mention

 9. “People ask the difference in a leader and a boss. The leader leads and the boss drives. “
Teddy Roosevelt

President Roosevelt states here that real leaders motivate people.  A boss drives or “works” his people through fear or intimidation.  Leading and motivating people will get you to your goal a lot sooner.  This, of course, is a lot more difficult to put into practice. Some people learn it, some just have it, and others never learn the lesson.

What quote do you like?  Leave a suggestion and tell me why?