Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Honoring Our Leaders

For this week's family history blogging/journaling prompt over at AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants, Miriam has chosen the topic of Honoring Our Leaders.

As a child, do you remember celebrating either Lincoln or Washington's birthdays? How did you celebrate them? What do you remember learning about either of these men?

I am old enough to remember there being separate holidays, one for Washington and one for Lincoln. However, Washington's Birthday was always the 3rd Monday in February, not the actual day. In New York we did have February 12th off for Lincoln's Birthday, which here in Illinois, is still a statewide holiday.

Did you get a day off of school, have an assembly, or was there a play performed?

We were off from school. In fact, between the standard Federal holidays, the Christian holidays, and the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hoshanah, Yom Kippur and the first two days of Passover, then throw in a few snow days, our school year ran until the last week of June!

Do you ever remember reading any books or watching any movies about these two leaders?

As a kid we really didn't have access to "movies" the way we do today as in video tapes or DVDs. We had the dreaded "filmstrip" in school which I later found out was how our teacher Ms. Harris dealt with a hangover. LOL.

In your opinion, who was the greatest leader of our country, and why?

This is a very difficult question but in this election year it is so important and relevant. I believe that Americans suffer from trying to see their leaders as "saints" and do the same when they attempt to elect someone for office. Our media has coaxed us to see basic human frailties in officials as "sins" and something which requires discouraging someone from running for office. Take the case of Muskie and his tears or Collin Powell and his wife's history of mental illness. I don't mean outright crimes or misdeeds that truly make someone unfit for office. But for once I'd just like someone who isn't plucked and tweezed both physically and behaviorally.

History has also glamorized our past leaders to the point of disregarding their missteps. Washington and Jefferson, among others, were slave owners. Grant drank. Kennedy philandered. But we choose to put them up on a pedestal and only tout their achievements to the point of glorification.

That's why I like Harry Truman - you knew where you stood with him. He really was just the haberdasher down the street. But one who had to make tough decisions such as using the A-bomb in August of 1945. They really don't make 'em like Harry anymore and I wonder if we'll ever see another leader in this country who could unite a country after a war and put it on the road to prosperity.

In your current career, do you get Presidents Day off? Why or why not?

I do get Presidents Day off as well as Martin Luther King Day. I think the reason I do is this: I am lucky enough to work for a progressive firm that even gives a 6-week sabbatical to all employees after the first 10 years of service, and then every 5 years after that. Our employees are encouraged to volunteer at the local level and can arrange flexible schedules to do so or even receive paid time off. And fathers can arrange for paternity leave in order to bond with a new child.

In many communities, Presidents Day weekend is well-known for sales and special deals. How do you feel about this? Do you like to go shopping on this weekend? Or do you feel this emphasis on commercialism is disrespectful?

I think due to the over-commercialization of life and events in general in this country, you'd think we could avoid a Presidents Day sale. We've come up with Sweetest Day (?), Secretary's Day (sorry, I am not being PC: Administrative Assistant Day or Support Staff Day) and even Bosses Day. I await a Sleazy Landlord Day and a corresponding card from Hallmark.

Once the 3rd Monday in January was made a Federal holiday in honor of Dr. King, I thought for certain there would never be a commercialization of this day with "sales" and special deals. But again, I'm proven wrong.

Presidents Day is also a day when veterans and Purple Heart recipients are honored. Are or were there any Purple Heart recipients in your family or ancestry? Have you written about what they did to earn this great award?

My cousin, Sgt. Kenney Von Ronn, did receive the Purple Heart post-humously after his death in Iraq in January 2005. I have written about him here and intend to remember him and other family veterans killed in battle with several posts around Memorial Day this year.

1 comment:

footnoteMaven said...

As a girl from Missouri, it was so good to see your photo and article about Harry Truman.

One of my favorite stories of him was when he was leaving office and a reporter asked him what he was going to do when he got home.

His answer, take the suitcases up to the attic. No nonsense, just a regular guy.