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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Kent Bush: Are we too shallow for greatness?

  • It's all about image.
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  • Digging deep into American history repeatedly proves that we are stupid.
    We aren't stupid because of the things that happened in our history. We are stupid because many of the great things that happened in history could never be repeated because our society grows less involved and more shallow with every passing second.
    It has been 80 years since Franklin Roosevelt gave his first inaugural address as President. Not only was FDR the only man to serve more than two terms as the leader of the free world, he was also one of the most aggressive and effective leaders the country has ever had.
    He topped Herbert Hoover thanks to the great depression in 1932. But unlike today's political climate, FDR didn't just use his opponent's problems against him, he had ideas to actually solve them.
    Eight decades later, we still have the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that protects people who have deposits in American banks and the Social Security program.
    Those two programs have benefited almost every American in some way. We should all have such a legacy.
    But to focus on FDR leading America out of the great Depression is to miss much of his impact on the country. After the economy improved, a bi-partisan Conservative Coalition formed to stymie FDR's policy agenda. (Yes, American politics used to use the word bi-partisan and the representatives didn't have to worry about being "primaried" because of a lack of party loyalty.)
    Despite rising opposition, FDR was able to push his idea that America should stay out of the second world war that was raging across the Atlantic Ocean. FDR tried to support democratic forces overseas without joining the fighting.
    But when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Roosevelt was quick to respond to what he famously called a "date which will live in infamy."
    America was engaged.
    FDR proved to be equally aggressive in resolving conflict as he was in battling the country's economic woes. He was instrumental in developing the two-front strategy that helped the Allies overcome the Axis powers.
    Because of World War II and the country's desire to maintain stable leadership, FDR was elected four times. Of course, he died soon after his fourth term began.
    But he would have never been elected today.
    FDR had contracted Polio about a dozen years before his first election. He was unable to walk without braces and crutches and often used a wheel chair.
    Americans in the age of television and the internet would never vote for someone with even a minor disability.
    It's all about image.
    Even Barack Obama, who leans further left than most Presidents have still maintains a little of that machismo.
    Page 2 of 2 - A modern president has to be able to strut.
    Don't think for a second that John McCain's unusual gait and difficulty in moving his arms didn't affect voter perception in his run against Obama in 2008.
    We've lost a lot of our ability to be great because we try so hard to find cardboard cut-outs for candidates who are all too often revealed to be well-funded empty suits when it comes time to lead.
    If we could recapture anything in America, I hope it would be our ability to judge people for their ideas and not their persona.
    It is more important to do something well than look good doing it.
    One of my favorite FDR quotes is, "Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds."
    That is especially true in politics. Voters have grown increasingly dependent on ideology over ideas.
    We need to remember to look past party affiliation and personality and do the hard work to find out what candidates really believe and what they hope to accomplish.
    FDR would never be elected today. Yet, he has to be near the top of the list of American Presidents with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
    It makes you wonder what the shallowness of the electronic media has cost us by leading voters to superficial choices based on hairstyle and 30-second sound bites.
    Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: publisher@augustagazette.com
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