Guest speaker talks about presidents' legacies, character at Kiwanis meetingBy MARIANNE THOMASSON
The most respected woman in American history was blind.
“Fanny Crosby didn’t say, ‘I’m blind. Where is my check?’ She stood before the U.S. Congress and said we are all called to do the best we can, regardless of our disadvantages,” according to Lawrence Reed.
“It’s a commentary that so few Americans know Crosby’s name. She is noted for her charity work in New York City during the cholera epidemic. She contracted and recovered from cholera herself. She was the first woman to address the U.S. Congress,” he told the Kiwanians.
“Completely blind from the age of six months, Crosby wrote more tunes than anyone else in human history, mostly hymns. She lived to be 95, met 21 U.S. presidents and wrote such hymns as ‘Blessed Assurance’ and ‘To God be the Glory,’” Reed continued.
In reviewing all 44 presidents, Reed said he came up with six criteria of presidential leadership.
“First, they led by the example they set,” he said. He chose George Washington as the best example. “America was blessed by having George Washington as its first president, getting us off to a good start. He was the epitome of how he dropped his plow and went off to war to fight for his country. Then he returned to the plow when the job was done. He was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his country.”
Thomas Jefferson was his choice for the second criteria, which is “the vision they offer.”
“They told you what they wanted to do an it was workable. John Kennedy spoke to a group of Nobel prize winners at dinner and said, ‘I think this is the most extraordinary collection of human knowledge gathered at the White House except when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’ Jefferson wrote, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident...’ You can’t get any more eloquent than that.”
Andrew Jackson was the president most able to handle a crisis, according to Reed. “He won the battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 in one of the most lopsided battles in our history.”
The fourth criteria, Reed said, was the caliber of people presidents choose to help govern. Calvin Coolidge was in bed at 1 a.m. Aug. 23 when word came that President Harding had died. Coolidge got up, took the oath of office and went right back to bed. “Coolidge kept Andrew Melon to bring down tax rates,” Reed said. “As he brought down income tax rates, revenues rose.”
Reed said the president most able to motivate and inspire was Teddy Roosevelt. “He was a solid man with a strong character. He always wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral,” but had “tremendous ability.”
The sixth criteria Reed mentioned was “the legacy they left behind.”
“Did they leave a better country or not? James Madison was the father of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. He understood the nature of man and government,” he said. “If men were angels, there’d be no need for government. Our constitution is a brilliant document intended to preserve freedom and put shackles on central government,” he said.
Reed concluded by saying that the erosion of character is the number one issue in the country. He quoted Peggy Noonan, one of President Reagan’s speechwriters, “In a president, character is everything. A president doesn’t have to be clever. You can hire clever. But you can’t buy courage, decency and a vision of the future he wishes to create.”
The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is one of the oldest free-market organizations in the United States and is non-profit. It is currently headquartered in New York and is in the process of moving to Atlanta. It was founded in 1946 with the intent to study and advance freedom philosophy. FEE’s mission is to offer the most consistent case for the “first principles” of freedom; the sanctity of private property, individual liberty, the rule of law, the free market and the moral superiority of individual choice and responsibility over coercion.”
Besides being the author of several articles and five books, Reed is a resident of Coweta County and writes a weekly column for the Times-Herald.