Don’t get me wrong, I like men. I am married to one. But, I am happy to see the United States of America has finally added a woman’s name to the Presidential Ballot. It doesn’t matter to me if you vote for her, and you don’t need to know who I am voting for. This is not a political piece, but rather an acknowledgment that in my lifetime, thus far, there has not been a female name below. How many of these Presidents were yours?
Harry S. Truman 1945-1953
This Democrat from Missouri succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945 upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was our 33rd President. During his seven years as President, Truman appointed more women to positions requiring Senate approval than his predecessor did and endorsed the concept of the Equal Rights Amendment. I was too young to understand the importance of this gesture toward women at the time but appreciate it now.
Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953-1961
Our 34th President was a Republican from Kansas and a five-star General in the US Army during World War II, serving as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. I remember seeing a letter he had written my father during the war thanking him for his service in Europe. My Great-Aunts were campaigning for him in the late 50’s and I remember a drawer in their dining room chest, filled with “I LIKE IKE” buttons and leaflets. His campaign was one of the first presidential campaigns to make an effort to win the female vote. He did this by recruiting female campaign workers, my Great-Aunts inlcuded, to make phone calls to women voters, have neighborhood parties to build support and distribute the information. A limited supporter of Civil Rights, Eisenhower had a constitutional responsiblity to uphold in the Brown v. Board of Education case and upheld the Supreme Court’s ruling. This action was the first time since Reconstruction that a President sent military forces to the South to enforce the federal law. Perhaps if he had believed in desegregation more pressure would have been placed on the steps needed to improve the situation. When he left the White House only 6 percent of African Americans attended integrated schools.
John F. Kennedy 1961-1963
Our 35th President, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was the youngest man elected as President and the youngest to die in office when assassinated in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. This was a day I remember vividly. It was unthinkable that this could happen and as a young teen, I was shaken to my core. Shortly before he died, Kennedy issued an executive order charging the Commission on the Status of Women with making recommendations to overcome discrimination in employment based on sex. He appointed Eleanor Rooseelt to the Commission and during her tenure we saw the establishment of the National Organization of Women (NOW). The Commission’s final report recommended that women have equal political, civil and economic rights. I suppose it seemed drastic to many back in 1963 but fifty plus years later it remains as the core principles in our quest for equality. Probably the most important outcome of the Commission was that it resulted in the development of Commissions in all fifty states. Baby steps, but I am grateful to this President for truly supporting the effort.
Lyndon B. Johnson 1963-1969
Our 36th President, a Democrat from from Texas and John F. Kennedy’s Vice President, assumed office upon Kennedy’s assassination. I remember him as brash but the creator of the Great Society legislation that upheld civil rights and the War on Poverty. Whether it was due to the economic situation or LBJ, his War on Poverty helped many Americans rise above poverty. He issued Civil Rights bills banning racial discrimination and also the Voting Rights Act which to help African Americans who had been restricted from voting. He escalated our involvement in the Vietnam war which birthed the anitwar movement and then of course the resultant summer riots broke out in most major cities and our crime rates soared. It was a very troubling time for me and most people around me. I lost a friend in Viet Nam and I spent a few short months in Mobile Alabama where I saw, firsthand, what Civil Rights was all about. We had a long, long way to go.
Richard Nixon 1969-1974
Our 37th Presient, a Republican from California ended the war in Viet Nam in 1973 and brought home the POW’s. He enforced desegregation in southern schools and made inroads with China. The Environmental Protection Agency was established and we landed a man on the moon, ending the moon race. But not all was well in the Nixon administation. In 1973 we saw an Arab oil embargo and our gasoline was rationed. I could buy gas on Tuesday or Friday. The lines were long. And then Watergate reared its ugly head. This scandal was so damaging to Nixon he resigned on August 9, 1974.
Gerald Ford 1974-1977
Our 38th President, a Republican from Michigan was called the “accidental President” because he was the first person appointed to the Vice Presidency under the 25th Amendment following the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. Agnew was Nixon’s Vice President and resigned due to bribery accusations. When Nixon resigned Ford became the only person to have served as both Vice President and President without being elected to either office. He thought about choosing a woman as his Vice President but backed away. It was 1974. He endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment. That was positive.
Jimmy Carter 1977-1981
Our 39th President, a Democrat from Georgia was a peanut farmer and Georgia State Senator. I remember he pardoned all evaders of the Viet Nam war draft during his first week in office. He established the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. I liked his southern charm and ease in connection with everyday people. But his charm didn’t give him a second term. By the end of his term in 1981, Carter had been dealing with the Iran hostage crisis, the continuing energy crisis and the Three Mile Island nuclear ascident. I almost forgot about the 1980 summer Olympic boycott. A second term was not to be. However, Carter went on to build the Carter Center to advance human rights and he has been instrumental in peace negotiations as well as disease prevention and civil rights throughout the world.
Ronald Reagan 1981-1989
A California Governor, former Hollywood actor and our 40th President. His two-term presidency implemented supply-side economic policies calling for tax rate reductions to improve our economic growth. He favored economic deregulation and reduced government spending. During his first term there was an attempt on his life. During his second term he was consumed with the end of the Cold War and the Iran-Contra affair. You may remember his famous speech at Brandeburg Gate where he challenged Gorbachev to tear down the wall. The Berlin Wall was felled five months after Reagan ended his term.
George H. W. Bush 1989-1993
Hailing from West Texas, our 41st President made millions in oil and then became active in politics as a member of the House of Representatives and later the Director of the CIA. He was chosen as Ronald Reagan’s running mate for Vice President. During Bush’s term in office he was focused on foreign policy with military operations in the Persian Gulf and Panama. The Soviet Union disolved in 1991 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the midst of an economic recession he lost his second term bid for re-election.
William J. Clinton 1993-2009
Our 42nd President served two terms. He was our country’s third youngest President and the first from my baby-boomer genreation. He was called a “New Democrat” reflecting his centrist philosophy of politics. He was President during our longest period of economic growth and passed welfare reform and set up the state run health insurance programs for children (CHIP). Clinton left office with the highest approval rating of any US President since the war and that was after being impeached in 1998, and later aquitted, for purjury and obstruction of justice relating to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
George W. Bush 2001-2009
Our 43rd President hailed from Texas, where he was Governor and son of our former President, Geroge H. W. Bush. The September 11th terrorist attacks hit less than one year after he took office. His war on terror included the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq war. During his second term we saw the great recession, our longest post-World War II recession. He signed laws that cut taxes, enacted the No Child Left Behind Act, offered Medicare Prescription drug coverage for seniors and established the AIDS relief program.His popularity after 9/11 diminished significantly during the economic recession and when women took his compassionate conservatism stance as untrue.
Barack Obama Since 2009
Our 44th and current President. Our first African-American President. A former community organizer and civil rights attorney. A teacher of constitutional law, a US Senator from Illinois. In his first term he ended our involvement in the Iraq War and increased involvement in Afghanistan. He signed the arms control treaty with Russia (START) and took down Osama bin Laden. His economic stimulus legislation was passed to help us out of the recession through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. During his second term he has ordered military intervention back into Iraq in response to ISIL. He has continued to work to ensure equal rights for women and LGBT Americans.
This is the longest blog I have written. Why? because I am older now and I have lived through 12 Presidents, some for two terms. I have lived through tubulent times in our political history. I am kind of humbled by that. As I look at each of my Presidents, Democrat and Republican, I am struck by how difficult their jobs have been. What they inherit as they step into office is incredible. Every mistake, every unsolved challenge that came before them is waiting to be dealt with. The accumulation of these mistakes and challenges are enormous. Even though they are “politicians” with larger than life egos it must be terrifying and in some sitations impossible.
Here we are on the precipice of a new election. One which offers a woman as our next President. I am humbled by that as well. It took a long time for that to happen, too long. I hope that in years to come we will continue to see women as equal candidates to men. Whoever wins the election on November 8th, I wish them well and hope they are up for what it will take to address the many issues we face.
Don’t forget to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 8th!