“There are no great men, just great challenges that ordinary men out of necessity are forced bycircumstances to meet.” — former Fleet Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey, Jr., United States Navy
I recently thought about Admiral Halsey’s famous quote as I visually wandered through my biography collection of the Presidents of the United States in order to determine what I would read next. Since I had just finished perusing a compilation of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, I was overdue to once again experience “time travel” and see, feel, and be part of our nation’s past through the eyes of its chief executive. In fact, I try to do that every few weeks.
Would my choice be something from Carl Sandberg’s writings about Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the early years during the heart of the Civil War? Yes, it would be very easy to shroud myself with the likes of Abe’s Secretary of State William Seward, Lincoln’s great friend and eventual 18th U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, or even Abe’s wife, Mary Todd. Yet, on this occasion it wasn’t meant to be since the pages are a little worn from the number of times that Mr. Lincoln and I have gotten together in the past.
I thought perhaps my selection would be from the likes of George Washington, John Adams, or Thomas Jefferson since they were all faced with overwhelming adversity. And this would also put me in the presence with such luminaries as Franklin, Hamilton, and Lafayette. While our current problems are a shade different, they’re still revolving around the U.S. Constitution, which these men focused their entire beings upon.
Aha! Andrew Jackson, he could be my choice. As familiar as I was with Old Hickory, I never tire of listening to the words he uttered when he chastised the Second Bank of the United States and refused to re-charter it: “When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the banks.” You see, when I “time travel,” I hear the words, I see the audience, and I’m definitely caught up in the moment.
Wait, there it is! It’s the book I’ve been looking for all along, it’s entitled “Audacity of Hope” by the not President Barack Obama. Yet, the quandary is that there will be no “time travel.” In fact, it would probably be just like remaining in the present-day.
So, let’s see. Will it be Lincoln, Jefferson, Jackson, and their colleagues, or will it be the 44th along with Biden, Pelosi, and Reid? Hmmm…a very tough decision.
Ultimately, I opted for none of the above. Rather, I went with Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States. A great era, a lot of corruption, and a cast of historically forgettable characters — pretty much like right now.