On Friday, the 11th presidency of my lifetime will start. I don’t like to think I’m that old, but I have lived through 55 of the most interesting years in American history. Here’s a rundown.
Of those 11 presidents, 5 have been Democrat and 6 Republican.
Two presidents got elected without a popular majority.
In my lifetime, California went from Republican to Democrat, and the South went from Democrat to Republican.
I’ve lived through an assassination and three assassination attempts.
I’ve seen two impeachments and the resignations of a president and vice-president.
Of my 55 years, my country has been at war for 27 of them (not including police actions, military advisors, proxy wars, and peacekeeping missions). None of these wars were formerly declared.
Among my 11 presidencies are the first Catholic president, the first divorced president, the first African American president, and the first president who never was elected to the office.
I’ve seen 18 minutes of blank tape, a stained dress, Iran-Contra, and plenty of politicians and cabinet members resign in disgrace.
I have seen made into law despite strong opposition: voting rights, civil rights, bans against discrimination, environmental protection, Medicare, Medicaid, reproductive rights, legalization of marijuana in a growing number of states, interracial marriage, and marriage equality. And have fun trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act without a viable alternative. You’ll be looking for jobs as lobbyists or guests on Dancing with the Stars after your next election.
I’ve been told, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I heard President Nixon talk to astronauts on the moon, and President Reagan comfort us when astronauts were killed in flight. I saw President George W. Bush with a megaphone at Ground Zero and President Obama at Sandy Hook. I’ve also been told, “I am not a crook” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
I tell you this not to comment on my past, but to give hope us for the future.
I’ve been through some of the scariest times in history. I’ve seen periods of civil unrest, political violence, terrorism (both foreign and domestic in origin), economic collapse, and the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation. I’ve been through Watergate when the press was targeted, we distrusted the FBI and our intelligence agencies, and we felt our whole political system would fall apart. We got through those times not with wishful thinking or blind obedience, but with vigilance and a desire to make America as good as we believe it is. We need those things to get through whatever lies ahead. We must demand the best of whoever occupies the White House and whatever party is in the majority. The government works for us based on principles our Founders set over two centuries ago. It is up to us to ensure it continues that way.
No matter how many presidencies we go through in our lifetimes, we must make sure that they serve us well.