Category Archives: greatness

Securing The Legacy Of The Greatest Generation

WHAT THEY ACHIEVED

June 6, 2014, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the operation that began the Allied invasion of German-occupied Western Europe,ultimately leading to an Allied victory in WWII. Revisiting the details of this phenomenal event, again, served to remind me of the incredible accomplishments of the Greatest Generation, especially their gaining that victory in the face of overwhelmingly impossible odds. This led me to consider how we are doing with the priceless legacy we have been entrusted with through that generation’s victory and beyond that, to consider what lessons remain for us in their accomplishments that could lead to our gaining victory over today’s issues that may seem just as overwhelmingly impossible.

During the 70th anniversary celebration of D-Day, I read an awe-inspiring story entitled 93-year-old WWII Vet to Parachute into Normandy – Again. This was the story of Jim Martin who, as a private in the 101st Airborne, was one of the paratroopers dropped behind German lines in the hours before the D-Day landings. Jim determined that, to honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day, he would go back to Normandy, to parachute onto the same soil he touched seven decades before and he did just that. Reading Jim’s story provided reminders for me about the unique qualities of his generation and that brought illumination to my considering the application of those qualities in resolving the most significant challenges facing us today. Continue reading

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Filed under America’s founding ideals, Baby Boomers, community, greatness

He’s A Real Nowhere Man

– Left Out Of The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary Celebration –

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Did you see “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America – A GRAMMY® Salute“? That was the February 9, 2014, TV special described as “a tribute to the Beatles, marking the 50th anniversary of the group’s first U.S. television performance on CBS’ The Ed Sullivan Show.” I saw it and I really enjoyed it. Considering all that was poured into this 2 ½ hour production, it seems reasonable to expect that anything of significance, meriting related recognition, would have been included. But, that wasn’t the case. In fact, there was a complete void where I believe there should have been the loudest praise. Before going into that, though, let me overview what was included, that I liked.

A FITTING TRIBUTE

Since I’m a Beatles fan, there was a lot for me to like about this show. My being their fan began when I watched that legendary black-and-white episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. I was in my Junior-year of high school and I clearly remember the excitement associated with the first appearance of the Fab Four on American TV. Coming on the heels of the months-long sense of depression in the U.S., following the assassination of JFK, the delight surrounding that event was most welcome. That experience, shared in similar fashion by countless millions of my contemporaries, marked the launch of the phenomenon known as Beatlemania. Unlike so many other “phenoms”, found in the worlds of sports and entertainment, the popularity of the Beatles wasn’t short-lived. The group had real talent that was rich and deep. At the heart of this was the among-the-best-in-musical-history collaboration of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Between 1962 and 1969, they published 180 songs, with the vast majority being recorded by the Beatles. In addition to the extraordinary contribution of the Lennon-McCartney partnership, each of the group’s members offered exceptional individual talent. The effect of all this was summed up well by McCartney during the tribute show when he pointed out that, if each of the four Beatles had started their own band, every one of those groups would likely have attained greatness on their own. So, I was fully onboard with the 50th Anniversary Celebration and I know I was far from being alone in that. Although the occasion was described as “a star-studded tribute”, I must admit to being a bit surprised to see that the vast majority of the most prominent “stars” in the program were ones who weren’t even born yet when the Beatles officially broke up in 1970. But, I guess that’s just further testimony to the legitimacy of this tribute to, arguably, the greatest rock band of all time.

WHAT WAS MISSING?

So, what was missing? The performers included: Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Keith Urban, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, Dave Grohl, The Eurythmics, John Legend, Alicia Keyes, Brad Paisley, Pharrell Williams, Gary Clark Jr., several Cirque du Soleil acrobats and the two living Beatles themselves, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Presenters included: LL Cool J, Eric Idle, Anna Kendrick, Jeff Bridges, Sean Penn, Kate Beckinsale and Johnny Depp. In the audience, along with Paul’s wife, Nancy Shevell and Ringo’s wife, Barbara Bach, were: Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and countless other “beautiful people”. Short biographies were presented on each of the Beatles and footage was shown from the original Ed Sullivan performance. There were commentaries from production staff and attendees of that historical television appearance. There were videos of David Letterman visiting the stage of what had been The Ed Sullivan Theater with Ringo and Paul and he interviewed them both. What could, possibly, have been lacking in this?! Continue reading

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Mount Rushmore Worthy

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In a recent article, entitled President Washington’s Day, I proposed changing from a Presidents Day, which celebrates all U.S. presidents past and present, to a President’s Day … President George Washington’s Day, to recognize Washington as the one who exemplifies true greatness in the office of president. Although I believe that Washington did clearly set the standard for true greatness in that office, it doesn’t mean that he is the only president deserving of being honored for true greatness. With that said, it does beg the question, how does one measure true greatness among the 44 who have held the office of U.S. President?

It struck me that, to answer this question, a good place to start might be to take a look at the criteria used to select the presidents whose statues appear on Mount Rushmore. In doing that, you find that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who conceived the idea of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, defined his concept by saying:

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

These four criteria … founding, expansion, preservation and unification … aren’t necessarily the best and only way to gauge true greatness among those who had served as U.S. President up to the time of the Mount Rushmore Memorial’s dedication in 1936. However, it would be most difficult to argue with the choices that Borglum made – i.e. Washington for founding, Jefferson for expansion, Theodore Roosevelt for preservation and Lincoln for unification. Of course, both expansion and unification are criteria that could come into play again. But, preservation is the one that seems to have the most ongoing significance. Since I see preservation as being at the heart of Here I Raise My Ebenezer’s aim to serve as a platform for presenting views that support America’s founding ideals, that is the basis I’ll use here, in considering which presidents, who have served since 1936, have shown true greatness that would merit their being added to the Mount Rushmore Memorial.

As I also noted in the article entitled President Washington’s Day, there are two presidents who have served since 1936  who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored in this way. These are Nixon and Clinton. Likewise, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders. My list here includes: Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter and Obama. That leaves Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

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For me, the clear and obvious choice is President Ronald Reagan. Preservation and restoration of America’s founding ideals were hallmarks of his administration. He took on the leadership of an America that had been diminished by that waste of a war in Vietnam, the shame of Watergate and the socioeconomic malaise that ensued. And, without pointing the finger of blame at any predecessor, he inspired our return to socioeconomic wellbeing by leading us towards an America that he always described as “a shining city on a hill.”

rushmore with reaganOf course, I understand that not everyone will agree with my assessment here. If you, at least, agree that, in honoring those who have served as U.S. President, it’s important for us to only recognize those who exemplify true greatness, whether or not you agree with my criteria for selection or the list of those I’d exclude from consideration or my list of those I’d include for consideration or my ultimate selection of President Reagan, I’d like to hear from you. Likewise, if you are in agreement with my process and my conclusion, I’d welcome hearing your added thoughts on the topic.

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Filed under greatness, ideals, leadership, Making a Difference, Presidents, United States, values

President Washington’s Day

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PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it was traditionally celebrated on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth. However, according to History.com, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

ALL PRESIDENTS, GREAT AND SMALL?!

I think it was a damaging mistake to change from honoring the best of our presidents, as we did when I was growing up, to celebrating them all, as is done today. No doubt, some will say that my lament here is nothing more than me being sentimental about how things were “back in the day” but I truly see this shift as resulting in a loss for our culture. I see it as being akin to the philosophies of “no winners or losers” and “everyone gets a trophy”. With these, in what is likely to have started as a well-intentioned attempt to protect those with lesser abilities from being mistreated, the result is a homogenous society where all are rewarded equally, regardless of what effort is applied to their varying sets of talent. And, since there is no greater reward associated with greater effort and/or greater ability, the incentive to actually strive for greatness has been dramatically diminished. That seems to me like just the opposite of the standard we should be setting in establishing a holiday in recognition of America’s presidents.

Of course, I recognize that some may view Presidents’ Day as just being meant to honor the office. I’m OK with that but I believe most Americans look at Presidents’ Day in the way History.com described it, “… a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.” With that being the case, I ask: Have they all been great and are they all deserving of being honored as such? In looking at the list of 44 U.S. Presidents, I think it’s pretty obvious that the answers to these questions are no and no. As a matter of fact, there have been two in my lifetime who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored with their own holiday. One of these famously said, “I am not a crook.” He was. The other just as famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He did. Ironically, with both of these, if not for their acts which truly dishonored the office, they might have been remembered as among our best presidents, if not among the greatest.

THE GREATEST OF THE GREAT

Thankfully, many of our 44 presidents have been distinguished. But I think there are just a few who were truly great. Chief among them is President Washington. In addition to the fact that he will always hold a unique position, as Father of Our Country, there are many other aspects of his life that can be pointed to as great. Arguably, one of the greatest things about his presidency was something that he didn’t do. He could have become King George I of the USA or U.S. President for lifetime. But, in keeping with the objectives set forth in the U.S. Constitution, that were ‘in order to form a more perfect union”, Washington willingly relinquished his presidential authority in 1796, at the end of his second term. In an article entitled The Wisdom of George Washington, Hoover.org provides the following comparison to illustrate how very exceptional this act was:

The world’s most generous prize money is attached not to the Nobel Prize but to the Mo Ibrahim Prize, awarded for good governance in Africa, as determined by a very simple test: a democratically elected leader who actually leaves office at the end of his term. The winner receives five million dollars plus two hundred thousand dollars a year for life. The 53 African nations yielded one claimant in 2011, but none for the two years previous. The precedent set by George Washington has not been easy to establish elsewhere, prize money or not.

With this in mind, rather than continuing with a Presidents’ Day that honors all U.S. presidents past and present, I’d like to see us return to honoring George Washington, as the Father of Our Country and as the U.S. President who set the standard for true greatness in that office. Whether we do this on the third Monday in February or on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth, doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is preserving America’s founding ideals. As this relates to the subject at hand, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have only been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders, when we set aside a special day in appreciation of the office of U.S. President. Rather, I see it as most fitting to observe a President’s Day … President Washington’s Day, to recognize the one who showed the most honor to the office through greater effort applied to greater ability, as our nation’s leader.

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Filed under character, democracy, Government, greatness, ideals, leadership, Liberty, Making a Difference, Presidents, United States