As a rule, I generally remain pretty quiet when I am on the train. I sit in the same seat with my right leg on the aisle side to alleviate cramping. There, I read my book and take a short nap. It is a nice little routine if I can pull it off three times a week.
Imagine my surprise when I looked up one recent morning and this very nice lady was staring at me with that earnest look.
“I know you from somewhere,” she said. Finally, after a few seconds, she said, “You write for the paper. I read your columns every Sunday.”
I had been exposed. There was nothing for me to do but to beg modesty and go back to my book, with a smile of course. I am writing this President's Day column to my anonymous reader – be sure to give me your name next time.
The men (and I hope someday to add women) who have served at the head of our national government have all had a much more difficult time remaining incognito. They are, after all, the very symbol of our hopes and aspirations (and in many cases our ire and frustration).
As we look over the course of our nation’s history, we can say with no small amount of modesty that we have elected people who most closely reflect our times.
With George Washington, the fledgling U.S. found a leader who would set the tone for our nation. He would be both regal and modest in equal measure. His administration would take care to make decisions in a way that would not entangle us in affairs overseas, thus saving the young nation from a premature demise.
In Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. fell upon a country lawyer who had in his makeup the ability to stand firm while remaining humane. During his tenure, the country went through a wrenching Civil War that would leave an impact on the nation for more than a half century. Every presidential contest between the Civil War and World War I featured a tribute or reference to President Lincoln.
These two giants of the more than 40 that have held that office are now safely ensconced in history. They trade places among the historians as No. 1 or 2 on the list of greatest presidents. Scarcely a day goes by when we don't find a reference to them either at school or among our daily lives.
There is the news coming out of Washington D.C. as you travel the Lincoln Highway. There are the parks, recreation centers, schools, streets, elementary schools and a host of other places where we honor the likes of Washington and Lincoln, and the other presidents.
In their time, each hoped to accomplish much and succeeded in varying degrees. In their honor, here's some trivia on this Presidents Day.
We know that Franklin D. Roosevelt served the longest tenure in office, and William Henry Harrison the shortest. We also know that Grover Cleveland served two, non-consecutive terms. Fair enough. But what two times in U.S. history did we have three presidents serve in one calendar year? Want a hint? Both years ended with the number ‘1.’ If you come up with the answer, send me an email.