On Presidents’ Day


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As Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day, I thought it appropriate to select some exceptionally moving excerpts from my favorite Presidential speeches, which are indicative of the reasons we honor those leaders who have served their country so well:
 
 
Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg Address):
 
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . . – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
 
 
John F. Kennedy (Inaugural Speech):
 
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
 
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
 
 
Ronald Reagan (at the Brandenburg Gate):
 
We believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.
 
There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
 
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.
 
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.
 
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
 
 
John F. Kennedy (Decision to Launch to the Moon):
 
But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
 
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
 
Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.
 
Because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept – one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
 
 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Pearl Harbor Address):
 
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
 
Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
 
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this, the American people in their righteous might will win – through to absolute victory.
 
We will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
 
With confidence in our armed forces – with the un-bounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God!
 
 
John F. Kennedy (Cuban Missile Crisis):
 
My fellow citizens, let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead -- months in which both our patience and our will will be tested, months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.
 
The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.
 
Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right; not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.
 
 
George Washington (Farewell Address):
 
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.
 

_ 
 
May the United States of America survive for the good of the planet we share.
 

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Comments

  1. Each one of those speeches was powerful in its own right. The last one left me with chills.

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    1. Robin: There is much food for thought from those words spoken so long ago.

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  2. Such wise words made by wise men. I remember memorizing the Gettysburg Address in school. I still remember it.

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    1. Michelle: "Wise" is exactly the correct word.

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  3. Very good remembrances. You have more education than I have so I would like to ask you a question, if I may. I have trouble defining the difference between sedition and treason. I've seen what the dictionary says but isn't the line very fine between them?
    We are supposed to have freedom of speech but we can't speak out against the government.

    This has been on my mind since I saw the video of That Dr. Ben Carson at the prayer breakfast and there is much controversy surrounding what he said in front of high government officials. It seems he used his freedom to speak out and at the same time protected his back by doing it publicly. People criticized him for speaking out at the wrong place. What would be the right place?
    I think I like him. What do you say?
    Manzie

    What exactly is a benevolent dictator?
    Do you think Castro was a benevolent dictator?
    Do you mind that I ask you these questions?

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    1. Manzie: I love these discussions, but you must understand these are only my opinions. I don’t profess to be “right,” only sincere in my beliefs.

      In law, treason is disloyalty to one's nation by betrayal. It involve in some way willfully cooperating with an enemy, helping a foreign government to overthrow the country, making war against one's own country, or conspiring to overthrow the government. Treason requires taking action against the government.

      Sedition is a similar, but lesser offense. It does not involve acts against the government, but rather inciting insurrection or rebellion, without actually doing it.

      These days, both are rare. Actions to undermine the USA that were considered treasonous from the days of George Washington to the 1960s were dealt with severely, even by the application of the death penalty. Today, your guess is as good as mine.

      Neither treason nor sedition is even close to conflicting with our First Amendment right to free speech. However, I think they are closing the gap. Our present government appears to be promoting free speech, but only if one says what the government wants to hear. I call that oxymoron. Once they start actually punishing people for their words, it is all over but the crying. Dr. Ben Carson, in my opinion, is a patriot.

      A Benevolent Dictatorship is a form of government by which a totalitarian leader holds all the political power, but professes to use that power solely for the benefit of the people, rather than himself or herself. I suggest that unless he or she is God, lots of luck.

      I consider Fidel Castro a Marxist/Communist malevolent dictator, who used his political ideology to justify the oppression of his own people. He repressed religion, utilized firing squads, opened forced labor camps, starved citizens, and separated family members from their loved ones. The Cuban people have suffered mercilessly since 1959. The beautiful island of Cuba, with its wonderful, family-oriented citizens has been demonized by that monster.

      I don’t know if I have all the answers, but I hope my opinions are clear. I also respect everyone else’s opinions and I am always willing to learn.

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    2. Dear JJ,
      Thank you for your well-worded and thoughtful comment in response to my questions. Yes, your answers were very clear and I appreciate the time you took to answer. If you're curious as to why I'm asking these questions, I do have a definite reason and I don't think it's wise to write it in a comment.
      So, the word treason would only be applied to a person or group IF they tried to overthrow a government and lost. And if the founders of our country had lost the battles with England, they all would have been killed for their acts of treason. As for Cuba, Batista was elected to the presidency by the people and from there did a takeover as a dictator. Castro would have committed treason if his plot to take over the government from Batista had failed. But it didn't. This is as I now understand it.
      Oh, I just see that down below, my question is answered.

      Suddenly, I want to know and understand all the political and historical facts that I've taken for granted all along since I truly believe our own country is in peril. I have many books to read but my eyes are growing dim and my reading has unfortunately become limited.

      Thank you again, JJ. I appreciate it. Any time you have a history lesson for me, I'm your willing student.

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  4. Loaded comment above. Excellent quotes all. I haven't gotten to George Washington yet in my reading. He's probably the next book? Right now, he just defeated the British at Yorktown with the help of the French and everybody is happy that the revolution has turned back to favor the Americans. The turn of events won the financial support of the Dutch, something Adams had been negotiating for months. Interesting reading in time for this holiday.

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    1. Linda: Of course it's loaded. Would you expect less from me? As for your reading, it is fabulous. I can't think of a bigger American hero than George Washington. He would have been the first one hanged if the Revolution failed. Eventually, when the new country wanted to crown him King, he refused, forcing the colonists to form a new kind of government. I hope some day we give him back his own day. He should not have to share his honor with with others.

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  5. Robin: There is much food for thought from those words spoken so long ago.

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  6. This is an excellent array of powerful speeches. The fact that three belong to John F. Kennedy shows how many important events took place during his short presidency, and what a gifted orator he was.
    Julie

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    1. Julie: Absolutely! He inspired a country, brought the nation together, and saved us from the horrors of nuclear war. We might not agree with every action a President takes, but we should give respect and honor to those who earn it. That is common ground for all Americans.

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  7. Nice collection of speeches. In my opinion Lincoln resides in a class at the top.
    With regards to your previous post, your man Hemingway might have said, "Some resume."

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    1. #167 Dad: I agree that Abe is in a class of his own. I feel strongly that had he lived, Reconstruction might have been real.

      With regard to the previous post, Ernie had a loose bolt or two, but he knew how to squeeze the most out of traditions.

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  8. #167 Dad: I agree that Abe is in a class of his own. I feel strongly that had he lived, Reconstruction might have been real.

    With regard to the previous post, Ernie had a loose bolt or two, but he knew how to squeeze the most out of traditions.

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  9. For the men that I have actually heard their voice, you've made me hear it again today and it was wonderful! I only wish that I could have actually heard the others. It adds so much to the experience of their words. I think it's important to give attention to the positive actions of our leadership, even if we must look to the past to do so. I want to be positive whenever possible and you do such a good job of that!

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    1. Jasmine: Yes. As you know, it is harder to be positive in some eras.

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  10. Those are some fabulous addresses. Some of the best, actually.

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  11. Interesting stuff! As a Brit, we learn very little about the history of the US at school (most of the stuff I covered was WW1 and WW2) and, whilst I knew some of the speeches, others were new to me. I always enjoy coming here...I learn new things :-)

    C x

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  12. heart full of respect to the great leaders of America...I am from India and we all fully aware of these most inspiring speeches of all times..

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  13. Heart full of respect to them. I am from India and we Indians are aware of these great speeches of all times....

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