EDITORIAL: Esteem due to all presidents

Feb. 22, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Who was our nation's greatest president?

The Herald’s impromptu “What Do You Think?” question, prompted by the President's Day holiday, predictably elicited a variety of opinions on this subject. Our respondents gave Abraham Lincoln three votes, and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton received one apiece.

Lincoln, a perennial favorite, earned the expected high praise.

“I don't have a favorite, but I've always liked Abraham Lincoln because of what he did during the Civil War,” one person said. Another said she "liked when he stood his ground,” and still another made mention of his trademark "big hat."

Pros and cons could be listed for each of our nation's commanders-in-chief. That list may be shorter for one, our ninth president William Henry Harrison, who died on his 32nd day in office.

Each president had his followers who strongly believed in his policies, as well as a complement of detractors. Each faced unique challenges, including those who have led through wars and other crises.

George Washington guided us through our rocky first days of independence. Lincoln preserved the union, and Franklin D. Roosevelt contended with the Great Depression — to name just a few.

Whatever one's opinion of these men and their respective administrations, their willingness to serve in this most challenging and visible of positions is worthy of admiration. It is the reason the office of the presidency, even if the person holding it may not be a particular favorite, continues to command respect at home and abroad.

These men understand criticism better than most — justified or not. It goes with the job. However, each of the 43 men who have been at our country's helm have shown courage and contributed positively in some way. Collectively and individually, they have changed the world. 

And whether each man's term has ultimately been successful — that verdict is left to history.