By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
While channel-surfing last week, I caught bits and pieces of the President’s State of the Union, although I admit I very seldom watch those political forays.
One Presidential address that stands out is the first Inaugural speech by George W. Bush. Mesmerized by his eloquent words, I was captivated throughout the speech. I listened again when he addressed the nation following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on our country.
Another time that my eyes were glued to the television was President Ronald Reagan’s speech when he put a deadline for the release of the Americans held hostage in Iran in 1980. Reagan gave an ultimatum and just one week after being sworn in to office — on Jan. 27, 1981 — the American people watched our hostages return home on live TV. I watched partially because I found it heartwarming and courageous, and also because I was lying in the labor and delivery room in Chattanooga, Tenn., giving birth to my daughter LeeAnn, and I was in too much pain to change the channel!
Through the years, I’ve listened to many political discussions, arguments and opinions. I’ve heard the good, bad and ugly. My first true remembrance is of President Kennedy. I remember sitting in my first grade class at Colony Elementary and our teacher, Mrs. Roberta Fiechter, leaving the room briefly. She was visibly shaken when she re-entered the classroom.
“Boys and girls, President Kennedy has just been shot,” she said.
While Kennedy has been immortalized over the years and is considered one of the country’s most outstanding leaders, my childhood memories are that he often interrupted my Saturday morning cartoons, and those addresses always occurred on days that our antennae reception was actually coming in well.
Reagan, too, has been heralded for his achievements. Notwithstanding his excellent communication and resolution to worldwide challenges, his “Reagan-omics” left cutbacks in our military benefits that provided only $150 toward funeral expenses when my father died in 1983. A man who served during three wartimes, who was injured in the front lines of Korea, and who retired with 30 years of military service deserved a little more honor than the government paying for the cost of digging his grave and supplying a flat bronze marker with his name and service time listed. After Reagan’s cutbacks were lifted, another man who was drafted and served only three years received $450 toward his burial expenses. It is disgusting to know that my father’s life was only valued at $50 per war.
There is little to be said about Bill Clinton that will override the memories of the Monica Luwenski and Paula Jones scandals, just as Watergate will always damn the legacy and achievements of Richard Nixon. George Bush will always be associated with his son, George W. Bush, and whatever gains were made during his administration are likely to be discredited by the critics of his son.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a historic landmark in both political and racial achievements. His re-election last November was proof that even those from the most humble circumstances, regardless of creed, color, and religion, have the opportunity to achieve through diligence, intelligence, and support.
Though missing the actual content of last week’s address, I was disheartened at the responses from Republican party leaders. Our Kentucky leaders were quick to speak out, bringing in the political turmoil that clouds Washington D.C. that has brought hardships on the American people. Supporting one’s own party is vital to its survival, but criticizing every word from an opposing party is detrimental to both the country and the voters who comprise it.
On this President’s Day, we should set aside our political differences and be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy that are restricted in other countries. Regardless of our political beliefs, we should always support and honor our president — not just on Presidents’ Day, but every day.
I know I sure wouldn’t want his job.