President’s Day – February 20, 2012

Pennireef Papers

President’s Day – February 20, 2012

The person of the President – any President – is touched with magic. The Office illuminates the man. When we meet the country’s leader, whether in person or reading a good biography, we shake hands with history.

In 1789, when President George Washington delivered his first Inaugural Address, he was well aware of the momentous nature of the enterprise upon which he and the fledging United States of America were embarked. On that memorable April day he said, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the  experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

The Presidency was the heart of the experiment. Washington was well aware that he must carry a large part of the responsibility for the success or failure of the new Government. The framers of the Constitution had provided in outline for a strong Chief Executive, but had filled in few of the details.

No change has been more spectacular over the past 223 years than the sheer increase in the scope of the Office. The Nation of 4 million agricultural people, which began as a hazardous experiment in the “Age of Enlightenment,” now has a population that exceeds 300 million – and has become the prime bulwark of freedom and democracy in the world. Strong presidents entered the scene at the beginning of the 20th Century with Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed energetic command in shaping both domestic programs and
foreign policy. He too had to face a recalcitrant Congress and is reported once to have said, “Sometimes I wish I could be President and Congress too.” FDR quoted this and added, “If the truth were told, he is not the only President that has had that idea.”
Hence, the wisdom of our Founding Father’s in establishing the separation of powers.

The first President I can remember was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aka FDR, the 32nd President of the United States, 1933–1945

FDR entered the Oval office in the height of the Great Depression. He began immediately to initiate many programs to get American’s back to work. There were real “shovelready” jobs available at that time. I remember the CCC (Civilian Conservation Core) and the WPA (Work Progress Association). I remember seeing FDR drive past in his opentop sedan when he came to dedicate the Chickamauga Dam on the Tennessee River near my home in Chattanooga. It was part of the extensive TVA program which built a series of dams for electric power generation, flood control and to make a navigateable channel all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

War came to Europe in 1939 as Hitler’s army goose–stepped into Poland. When the blitz- Krieg roared across the Continent, FDR persuaded Americans to loan Britain and our Allies the means to defend themselves – it was called “lend-lease.” I remember him
saying in one of his Fire-side chats, “If your neighbor’s house is on fire, certainly you would lend him a fire hose to extinguish the blaze.” It seemed reasonable then.

Seventy years ago the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and plunged the US into the Second World War. President Roosevelt called this “…a Day of infamy.” I was 14 years old and remember hearing his words on the gothic-shaped Philco radio in our living room at 318 Crestway Drive, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

As the war dragged on, Roosevelt’s health deteriorated. Toward the end of the War, in 1945, he met with Churchill and Stalin at the Black Sea resort of Yalta. There the three leaders planned the post-war geography for Europe. Stalin was adamant. He demanded a “buffer zone” to protect his Russia from repeated invasions of the Motherland by west- European nations led by such men as Napoleon and Hitler.
Churchill was against such a “zone” because he knew it would be dominated by Communists. But by that time FDR was tired, sick and feeble. He was also heavily influenced by his wife, Eleanor, a quasi-communist. It was 2 to 1 in favor of the buffer zone. Within two months, FDR would die of a cerebral hemorrhage at the “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia. Unfortunately, He didn’t have to live with the consequences of what he had advocated. Millions in Eastern Europe did.

Later, in 1946, in a speech at Fulton, Missouri, Churchill would sadly observe, “From Szczecin in the north, to Trieste in the south, an Iron Curtain has descended across Europe. Behind it lay all the ancient capitals of Europe; Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest… and Sophia.”

That vast area became our mission field for over three decades during the Cold War as we took Bibles and medical supplies to persecuted Christians living there. I wrote a book about it: Going Through, Even if the Door is Closed.

One Roosevelt I have long appreciated is FDR’s fifth-cousin, Theodore. Something overlooked by history books, is the aspect of his fervent Christian faith. In some ways, he might be seen as the most Christian and the most religious of all presidents. Some might be surprised (as I was) at this assertion, but that surprise would itself bear witness to the nature of his faith, which he held privately, – but it permeating countless speeches, writings, and actions. His favorite verse was Micah 6:8 – “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

He was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. He participated in missions work with his father, a noted philanthropist. He taught weekly Sunday School classes during his four years at Harvard. He wrote for Christian publications. He closed perhaps the most important speech of his life, the clarion-call acceptance of the Progressive Party nomination that year, with the words, “We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord!” That convention featured evangelical hymns and closed with “Onward Christian

He titled one his books Foes of Our Own Household (after Matthew 10:36) and another, Fear God and Take Your Own Part. He once wrote an article for The Ladies’ Home Journal, “Nine Reasons Why Men Should Go To Church.”

After Teddy Roosevelt left the White House, he was offered university presidencies and many other prominent jobs. He chose instead to become Contributing Editor of The Outlook, a relatively small Christian weekly magazine.

He was invited to deliver the “Earl Lectures” at Pacific Theological Seminary in 1911, but due to a heavy schedule on a speaking tour, he requested to deliver the lectures extemporaneously, not having time to prepare written texts of the five lectures, as was the school’s customary requirement. It was agreed, and Teddy Roosevelt spoke for 90 minutes each evening – from the heart and without notes – on the “Christian’s role in modern society.”

Teddy Roosevelt was not perfect, but he knew the One who is. He was fond of saying that he would “speak softly and carry a big stick.” It can also be truly said, that Theodore Roosevelt hid the Word of God in his heart, and acted boldly. He was a great American because he was thoroughgoing good man; and he was a good man because he was a humble believer.

Today, we have a President who has defaulted on his oath to “uphold and defend the United States Constitution from all enemies – both foreign and domestic.”

In Denver on October 26, he declared: “We decided to take matters into our own hands. We can’t wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won’t act, I will.”
He repeated the assertion on November 8 in Yeadon, Penn. and added, “I’m going to move ahead without them. I told my Administration I want you to keep on looking for actions we can take without Congress.”

Earlier, in a September 15th speech he said, “Until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again, I’d like to work my way around Congress.”

Ken Klukowski of the Center for Religious Liberty observed: “His ‘we can’t wait,’ is code for ‘I know better.'”

Barack Obama has instituted programs, developed policies and burdened future generations with a debt that is unsustainable and un–repayable. He doesn’t have to live with the consequences of what he advocates, while Millions of future generation Americans will! This, in my view, is immoral.

With this Executive decision to by-pass Congress we now effectively have a dictatorship.
Dinesh D’Souza, the president of the King’s College in New York City, sums up our present situation in his powerful, best-selling book: The Roots of Obama’s Rage.

“Colonialism today is a dead issue. No one cares about it except the man in the White House. He is the last anti-colonial. Emerging market economies such as China , India , Chile and Indonesia have solved the problem of backwardness; they are exploiting their labor advantage and growing much faster than the U.S. If America is going to remain on top, we have to compete in an increasingly tough environment.
“But instead of readying us for the challenge, President Obama is trapped in his father’s time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial ambitions, is now setting our nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father’s dream. So, – the invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.”

Bill Bathman – Mesa, Arizona 2/23/12

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