Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Ronald Reagan

On President’s Day, Who is Your Pick for the Most Influential President?

In honor of President’s Day, which president do you think was the most influential? The American Presidency is the most honored and revered political office in the world. Great Generals, Attorneys and even Actors have had the honor of being referred as the Chief Executive of the United States of America.

Many lists have the same presidents on their rosters, and below is the list that Martin Kelly, a historian and teacher, put together for Guide. The list of 10 most influential presidents generally has the same seven or eight but a few different presidents sneak in, depending on who is compiling the list. You will find Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt but sometimes John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton will make the list. These men, as well as the rest that make up the list of US presidents, have all left their imprint on this country.

To narrow it down and choose one president who left the biggest mark is nearly impossible. Do you choose Lincoln and the changes he implemented on an entire race, which sent shock waves in the economic and social worlds? On the other hand, would you choose FDR for his economic plans that we still have today . . . that we either applaud or mourn? Each president has influenced history in his own way.

I probably would be undecided in choosing the top five most influential presidents, but in my opinion, there is only one who set the most traditions and tried to create a model for all future presidents. I choose George Washington, the very first US president as the most influential. Washington kept the extremely frail nation from falling apart in spite of the issue of taxes and slavery. He understood that did not know everything and was willing to have men of different beliefs than his own help shape the decisions of the country.

I am curious; who do you think the top five most influential presidents are? On my list, I would add Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman to George Washington, but the fifth influential president is hard . . . Reagan, Eisenhower, Kennedy? I do not know who I would add to my list of 5 most influential presidents . . . some would suggest Bill Clinton. Do you agree with Martin Kelly’s list below?

Top 10 Most Influential Presidents
By Martin Kelly Guide

Of the 43 men who have been president of the United States, there are some truly clear choices of who were the most important and influential presidents. There were also many who would never have made the list. My picks for the top ten influential presidents were based on their historical influence and their actions while in office. This was a tough list to create – especially once we move past the 7th president. If one more could be added it would be Ronald Reagan. He helped bring the Cold War to an end after years of struggle. He definitely gets an honorable mention for this list of influential presidents.

1. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln saved the Union during the American Civil War. His leadership during the war was one of no compromise but at the same time understanding that he would eventually have to unite the states once the North won the war. His actions eventually led to the abolition of slavery across the United States.

2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Having won four terms as president, FDR was sure to have a huge impact on the United States. His leadership throughout World War II was key to our victory. Further, he worked tirelessly to end the Great Depression including the creation of numerous programs through his New Deal to help Americans get back on their feet.

3. George Washington
As the first president, Washington couldn’t help but set precedents that were followed by later presidents. His lack of a desire to be seen as a ‘monarch’ was an extremely important part of creating a citizen president. Also, the fact that he retired after two terms set a precedent only broken by Franklin Roosevelt. After Roosevelt’s death, the two-term limit was added as the 22nd amendment to the Constitution.

4. Thomas Jefferson
Through Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the size of the United States doubled overnight. Jefferson was a strong states’ rightest who also realized the need for consolidating power in the federal government in certain instances.

5. Andrew Jackson
Jackson’s election showed the rise of the common man. He was the first president elected from humble beginnings. His popularity was huge. Further, he was a strong nationalist who often made controversial decisions such as the removal of Native Americans east of the Mississippi. He was president during the ‘Trail of Tears’. He also fought against the national bank.

6. Theodore Roosevelt
TR was an extremely influential president. Not only did he earn the title of ‘Trust Buster’ as president by fighting against corrupt businesses, but he also was deeply committed to conservation. He established numerous national parks to preserve the wildlife that was quickly being overtaken through industrialization.

7. Woodrow Wilson
Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington’s tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements. He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

8. Harry S Truman
Harry S Truman took over after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He made one of the hardest decisions in American History by deciding to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He presided over the end of World War II and set precedents for leadership during the beginning of the Cold War.

9. James K. Polk
After Thomas Jefferson, James K. Polk increased the size of the United States more than any other president through the acquisition of California and New Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American War. He also claimed Oregon Territory after a treaty with England. He was a key figure in Manifest Destiny. He was also an extremely effective leader during the Mexican-American War. He is considered to be the best one-term president.

10. Dwight Eisenhower
During Eisenhower’s time in office, America experienced a great amount of economic prosperity. Eisenhower also provided crucial leadership during the Cold War.

Remembering our 40th President . . . President Ronald Reagan Would be 100 Years Old Today

Today, February 6, 2011 marks what would have been former President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. Falling on the same day as America’s mega-event, Super Bowl Sunday, a tribute to the 40th president will be displayed on the massive jumbotron at Cowboys Stadium in Texas just before kickoff.

Whether you considered yourself a Reaganite or were opposed to his conservative principles, you always knew that President Reagan loved his country and his presidency was filled with eloquence and passion.

In 1976, then President Reagan offered these words, “Today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: a better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings . . .

“This may not sound too exciting, but there is something magnificent about it. On the farm, on the street corner, in the factory and in the kitchen, millions of us ask nothing more, but certainly nothing less, than to live our own lives according to our values – at peace with ourselves, our neighbors and the world.”

Reagan’s words are as important today as they were thirty-five years ago. Is not this what we all want, to “live our own lives according to our values – at peace with ourselves, our neighbors and the world”?

Reagan often spoke of the “shining city on a hill,” a phrase coined by John Winthrop, a pilgrim who arrived in America in search of freedom. Describing his own vision in his 1989 farewell address, Reagan said “it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.”

It makes you wonder what President Reagan would have to say about our world in 2011. A couple of days ago, I found this interesting essay by Ken Blackwell, What Would Reagan Do about Egypt? Although I may not have agreed with all of President Reagan’s values, he left an indelible mark on American history. Reading this thoughtful essay, reminded me of the why we need to remember our 40th president. Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan!

What Would Reagan Do About Egypt?
By Ken Blackwell, Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration & the Family Research Council

We’re about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth. As much as I would like to praise that great and good man, I have to wonder what he would do about Egypt?

Would he shepherd Egypt along the path to democracy — as he did successfully with South Korea and the Philippines? Or would he maintain a “constructive engagement” policy with Mubarak as he attempted with the apartheid regime in South Africa? That policy frankly failed, and we had to await F.W. de Klerk moves to release Nelson Mandela and allow the African National Congress to compete in democratic elections.

Reagan’s greatest success — of course — was in pressing for reforms behind the Iron Curtain, and for publicly demanding that Soviet ruler Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall.” A key part of Reagan’s success was his recognition that religious liberty was central to ending Communist totalitarianism.

As a candidate for president, Reagan had watched, as indeed the world watched, in awe as the Polish Pope John Paul II celebrated an outdoor Mass in Warsaw. One million Poles cried out “We Want God!” Reagan, unashamed, teared up. “I want to work with him,” he said. And how he did.

As president, Ronald Reagan ordered his CIA Director William Casey to make sure that Poland’s Solidarity union got fax machines and copiers — surreptitiously via the Vatican’s Washington embassy. Reagan would not allow Solidarity to be crushed by Poland’s Communist puppet regime.

Reagan publicly confronted the Soviet dictators, and loudly demanded they keep the agreements they made on human rights in the Helsinki Accords. Deep in the Gulag, Natan Scharansky heard of Reagan’s calling the USSR an “evil empire.” He tapped out the words to fellow prisoners — zeks — on the plumbing pipes. It gave them all such great heart.

Reagan understood the importance of religion behind the Iron Curtain. He kept a list of Jewish refuseniks in his suit coat pocket and would press Mikhail Gorbachev to release them from the Gulag at every meeting. He worked behind the scenes, as well, to gain the free emigration of the Siberian Seven, a family of Russian Pentecostals who had taken refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

When he went to West Berlin in 1987, President Reagan rejected the advice of virtually all of his counselors to take that ringing phrase — Tear Down This Wall! — out of his speech. Romesh Ratnesar, an editor for TIME Magazine recognized these four words as the short, sharp hammer strokes they were.

Reagan also spoke of the radio tower built by the East German Communist regime on their side of the Wall. It was intended to overshadow all the old church steeples in that captive city. Reagan noted a “defect” in the sphere atop the tower. The Communists sought to paint it out, to blot it with acid, even to sandblast it, but the defect remained. When the sun struck that sphere, Reagan said, it made the sign of the cross.

No other American president in 200 years had publicly invoked the Sign of the Cross. And when, shortly thereafter, the Wall came down, the Iron Curtain was cast away, TIME Magazine editors, of course, named Mikhail Gorbachev their Man of the Decade.

What we learned from Ronald Reagan can guide us as we deal with Egypt. Obviously, Mubarak must go. But can we find a partner with whom we can do business in Cairo?

Early indications are not favorable. The Muslim Brotherhood murdered Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat. Any government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood will be hostile to human rights, repudiate Egypt’s treaty with Israel, and threaten us.

There is even a deeper concern. Although high percentages of Egypt’s people say they want democracy, 84% of them also say you should be killed if you leave Islam. Believing that, they will never be a democracy. The first human right is the right to life. Next must come the right to worship God as your conscience dictates. This right was eloquently championed for Americans by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These great Founders knew that human rights are endowed by our Creator.

State Department careerists — the folks who tried to get President Reagan to scrap Tear Down This Wall — often fail to defend religious freedom. They forget that Jefferson and Madison were not only great advocates for religious liberty, they were also skilled diplomats. Madison knew that defending religious liberty could only add to “the lustre of our country.” Ronald Reagan knew that, too.

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