Presidents Day is a time to reflect on the incredible power we entrust to imperfect hands

Lindsay M. Chervinsky is a presidential historian and resident scholar at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College. She is the author ofThe Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.” Follow her on Twitter: @lmchervinsky. 这篇评论中表达的观点是她自己的观点. 查看有关CNN的更多评论文章. For more on the 16th president, watch CNN Original Series “林肯: Divided We StandSundays at 10 下午. ET/PT.

Every year on Presidents Day, the country celebrates our past leaders. 最近几年, 然而, many Americans have begun to question whether we have crossed the line between remembering and worshipping. If the past four years have taught us anything, we’ve learned that presidents are far from perfect, but they are central to American life. Presidents Day is an opportunity to reflect on the oversized impact of commanders-in-chief on our culture, safety and welfare, and democratic institutionsas well as a moment to think about what we might expect of future leaders.

The president’s bully pulpit is one of the most powerful tools at their disposal. Through their public actions, speeches and interviews, presidents can promote a certain type of American culture and values. More than any other president, Theodore Roosevelt embraced and exemplified the power of the bully pulpit. He adopted many progressive causes, including nature conservation, food quality controls, labor protections and trust busting. While these critical reforms were the result of decades of hard work and organizing by thousands of activists, they gained additional momentum when Roosevelt spoke out in favor of their causes and supported legislation to address these ills.
Lindsay M. Chervinsky

We’ve witnessed the contemporary power of the bully pulpit during the transition from Donald Trump’s administration to the Joe Biden presidency. Former President Trump encouraged nationalism and xenophobia, 妖魔化 medical professionals and expertise, and proposed cutting $ 180 十亿 from food stamp programs during the pandemic when millions of families struggled to put food on the table. In his first few weeks in office, Biden has presented a different set of American values that have welcomed 多样性, prioritized science and education, and welcomed the opportunity to assist our neighbors in need.
In the age of social media, there are more outlets and opportunities for information than ever, but if anything, the evolution of technology has highlighted the president’s unique platform. No one else can so effectively rise above the noise to reach most Americans and the international community. Every presidential address is covered by most major news outlets. No other person garners that level of media attention.
    In addition to shaping American culture, the president is uniquely situated to lead during a crisis. The president and the vice president are the only officials elected to represent all Americans, at home and abroad, and thus the only officials who can manage a national crisis. Presidents direct the flow of information to citizens, provide guidance to states, and form a national response.
    的 1860 election and the tension surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration offer a natural parallel for the 2021 Inauguration. But the beginning of Lincoln’s presidency provides another, less-discussed lesson for our current moment: the states in the Union couldn’t fight secession individually. 代替, the war effort required the cooperation of the states under the president’s centralized leadership. One war department, one financial system to pay for the troops and supplies, and one state department to keep foreign powers at bay.
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    When a president fails to provide unified direction during a crisis, the costs can be catastrophic. 在四月 13, 2020, Bob Woodward interviewed then-President Trump, WHO 承认的 that he knew about the dangers of the Covid-19 virus a month earlier, but downplayed the threat. Once the pandemic had reached the US, Trump refused to establish a national policy, forced each state government to purchase their own supplies, and when asked at a press conference about his role in the lag in testing, 陈述, “I don’t take responsibility at all.Without concentrated federal action, states were literally bidding against each other to purchase protective gear for their medical workers and other essential goods.
    Just a few weeks into his administration, Biden is only beginning to implement his strategy to contain the pandemic, but he has invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up the supply of vaccines, provided regular press briefings to keep citizens and local officials informed, 和 offered guidelines to the states on how to distribute vaccinescentral tenets of a unified federal response to the ongoing crisis.
    Our democracy and government institutions are delicate and require constant vigilance. Lincoln and the Union Army defeated the Confederacy and saved the Union, but Ulysses S. Grant knew that victory was fragile. When Grant took office in 1869, the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist groups were ramping up their efforts to undermine the civil rights of recently-emancipated African Americans and take back control of local governments. After the creation of the Department of Justice, then-President Grant appointed Amos Akerman as his attorney general and instructed him to prosecute cases against the KKK and defend civil rights for Black Americans.

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      The health of our governing institutions has improved and declined since Grant’s presidency, but our democracy hasn’t faced such historic threats in 160 年份. Free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the bedrock of American democracy. Trump’s lies about the November 2020 选举 (and their repetition and amplification by his Republican allies) undermined public faith in our electoral process. 然后, Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his loss represented the end of a 230-year tradition. No president has ever refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. These threats to our democracy culminated in the 一月 6 violent attack on the US Capitol, intended to prevent the certification of then President-elect Biden’s Electoral College victory.
      Presidents are deeply flawed, just like the rest of us. On Presidents Day, we shouldn’t obscure their failings, but acknowledge the incredible power we entrust to their imperfect hands, consider how they’ve shaped our history, and how we might want to reform the institution going forward.