2016 | Week of February 15 | #1137
We’ve had 43 different men serve as President of the United States. And of those 43, only 4 were born in February. Yet, 3 of those 4 are of such great stature and importance in our nation that February has become the month when we recognize and celebrate all US Presidents.
The three presidents with stature and importance are, of course, George Washington born on February 22, 1732, Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809, and Ronald Reagan, born February 6, 1911. William Henry Harrison, who died after just 30 days in office, was born February 9, 1773, and rounds out the February presidential birthdays.
Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan. While each was born in a different century, there are more similarities than differences among these notable Americans and it is in those similarities that we find their greatness. They each faced significant challenges. George Washington presided as the first president, tasked with nurturing this young country and making sure it survived its infancy—all with little to no money and a constitution as yet not tested. Abraham Lincoln endured what no president ever wants to face—a civil war that while it ultimately preserved the Union and ended slavery, took an enormous toll on both the president and his fellow countrymen. Ronald Reagan dealt with a country whose morale was flagging, whose military was depleted and disrespected, whose enemies were sworn to destroy it, and whose economy was more than challenging.
History records that each of these presidents experienced success in their terms of office. I believe the reason we remember these men as successful is that they all had two of the most important characteristics for a president: a stated and observed dependency on God and character.
George Washington’s speeches and private writings make it abundantly clear that he believed in God and his working in the affairs of nations. In 1789 Washington called for a day of “fasting and prayer.” Lincoln’s public statements leave little room to doubt his acknowledgement of God and His working. In 1863, Lincoln too called for a day of prayer and fasting: In part he said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us….”
Likewise Reagan’s statements are many in which he publicly declared a recognition of God and His authority. Said Reagan, “I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.”
And character—the courage of one’s convictions. Doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, in the right way. Washington, Lincoln and Reagan were constantly being tested. In the midst of severe testing, their character made the difference. Can you really imagine any one of these being concerned about public opinion polls on issues of great importance? Or consulting with their “handlers” daily on every message? These were not men who wet a finger and lifted it to discern the direction of the wind before they made bold moves when they were convinced they were right.
Not one of the three was perfect. Under the scrutiny of modern investigation and tell-all biographies, we know they each made mistakes and even showed intemperance and bad judgment at times—just as we all do. But on the whole, because of their firm belief in God and because of their strong character shaped through years of discipline and right influences and teachings, these were men who led our nation to a brighter and even more prosperous future.
In this year of presidential politics, with so very much at stake, from critical judicial appointments to our nation’s highest courts to dealing with ISIS and more, may we each be guided in our decisions using something more than campaign promises and smooth rhetoric on issues affecting our wallets. We have the opportunity to determine whether our next president will join Washington, Lincoln and Reagan or will be among those whose names are largely forgotten or are disparaged. Reliance on God and character…not a bad combination for a US President.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”