by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author’s program note. I admit it. I am a presidential buff. I have been for all of my 66 years. I like reading about them, can’t get enough of their early lives, campaigns, policies and peccadilloes, and the tragedies and obsequies which I regard with the same high seriousness and reverence as my own family’s.
For make no mistake about it, for most of us presidents are the Fathers of the Nation and deserve the admiration, consideration and respect we give our own fathers. And it is because of this admiration and respect that I advance the audacious proposals of this article, for it is past time to scrutinize and re-think the matter of the presidential legacies called Presidential Libraries and Museums.
For you see they are, as they stand today, obsolete, expensive, white elephants, inconvenient, grossly inadequate to the task they must perform but cannot perform under the present inefficient system which has grown up like Topsy without vision, efficiency, sufficient financing, organization and maximum utility. In short the “system” is a mess, more muddled with each new president’s addition of his library, the ultimate presidential “entitlement” of all. Here, now I draw the line:
Presidential ego (none more bloated anywhere on earth) must give way to public instruction and utility.
But before we begin, here’s the peppy campaign song I selected to accompany this article. It appears in no presidential library because none of the three presidents mentioned in it have such libraries. And that, of course, is just one more reason why the present flawed, inadequate, incomplete system ignoring most presidents, must be reconstructed for the benefit, first and foremost, of the presidential institution; the executive branch of our tri-partite government.
Such an institution must be a testament, an ornament, a monument to the presidency itself, infinitely more so than merely to the men who have, for a time, held the high office and wrestled with certain events occurring during their administrations, events which might very well have had, most likely did have their roots in earlier administrations and their conclusions still later, in others.
Intricate problems, intractable, interminable, incontrollable demand the talents of many presidents; to truncate such matters into one administration, one president warps, distorts and misrepresents history. Events must never be boxed into terms for mere ease but must be presented as they developed through the several presidents involved in each. In such a way is history best served as well as the various presidents who had a hand, deft or otherwise, in making it.
Now the tune… “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, originally published as “Tip and Ty” was a very popular and influential campaign song of the Whig Party’s colorful Log Cabin Campaign of 1840. With its catchy lyrics (and unlimited hard cider) it helped end the era of President Andrew Jackson and his hand-picked successor Martin Van Buren, ridiculed as a small man, effete, with small ideas, rumored to wear scent and a girdle. Find it now in any search engine and enjoy its infectious rhythms.
“What’s the cause of this commotion, motion, motion/ Our country through?/ It is the ball a-rolling on/ For Tippecanoe and Tyler too/ For Tippecanoe and Tyler too/ And with them we’ll beat little Van, Van, Van/ Van is a used-up man.”
General William Henry Harrison won, thereby becoming the first Whig president. He got a burial place in Vincennes, Indiana and a modest house museum in North Bend, Ohio. But no grandiose presidential library.
His successor John Tyler became the first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of the incumbent. He, too, warranted nothing more upon his death in 1862 than a respectable monument in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, engraved with suitably sonorous sentiments.
His private residence Sherwood Forest is still owned by his family, who, from their own resources, make the nation’s longest frame house open to the public. Because he died an avowed secessionist and supporter of the Confederacy, he was dropped from the honorable roll of American presidents, for all that he had tried, right into Abraham Lincoln’s early days as president to preserve the Union. When Virginia seceded, he went with her and so became a traitor, and that was that.
The man they defeated, Van Buren, ended up with an historic property called “Lindenwald” near Albany. It is thread bare and artifact-less to a degree. The day I visited with a friend, we were the only visitors. The park ranger asked if we might like to purchase Van Buren’s heavily ornate early Victorian dining table. He wasn’t kidding. It sold at auction in New York just a few months later!
The administrators couldn’t raise the few bucks needed to keep it in situ and so created another problem screaming for prompt resolution. With any luck one fine day His Excellency’s dining table and chairs will return to Old Kinderhook. Brief history of the U.S. presidential library system.
The presidential library system is a nationwide network of 13 libraries administered by the Office of Presidential Libraries, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These are repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover. Just 13 libraries, you say; what happened to all the other presidents? Good question; without a good answer.
Some presidents (but by no means all) have libraries and museums operated by private foundations, historical societies, or state governments. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is owned and operated by the State of Illinois, for instance. Thus some presidents are ignored, their deeds undervalued and forgotten whilst others reside through the years in elegance, luxury, their place in the nation’s history secure and comfortably maintained. This is not right; it is not fair; and it does not do justice either to the presidents so poorly treated, if treated at all, or their individual and collective work. “Hail to the Chief has taken precedence over all and thus is the republic undermined and the imperial presidency built.
It is time to take a new look at the entire business of Presidential Libraries and Museums, ob ovo, “from the egg.” For each addition to the present system only exacerbates its inefficiencies and makes the inadequacies even more glaring than they already are.
What needs to be done… and at once.
First, President Obama, the next slated for elevation to library and museum sainthood, must say “basta” to the nation, that enough is enough; that he is willing, in the greater interests of the nation and his office, to forego perhaps its greatest perquisite…
… That instead, he will use his position, his clout, his undeniable fund raising skills to create a new kind of museum with the explicit role of explaining and exalting the presidency, not just the presidents, much less just a handful of them.
This new institution, placed in a plum position in our great capital, would exist first of all to explain what our citizens need to know about the executive office and how it works. It is a scandal how little our citizens currently know about this essential function; a living, breathing, changing institution can change all that.
Look to the video games of our youngest citizens for inspiration. Their computer role plays, simulations, combats, interactions, holographics and strategies point the way to what must be done… and can be done if President Obama will lay down ego and take this opportunity to advance the greater good. He is now uniquely placed to make this decision and give the Great Republic a unique gift that will benefit the nation and all its citizens whilst giving him another historic role and feature. If he takes the long view, and not the selfish one, he will make the right decision….
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.
Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer http://SuccessClicks.com.