Presidents and intelligence: Past and present (title he gave)

Hunter Kaap Rencis

Head: Presidents and intelligence: Past and present (title he gave)

By: Hunter Kaap Rencis

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In decades past, society as admired those we idolize, not only for their achievement, or their capacity for success, but because we valued one’s own intellect. *confused by this sentence*

Today however, we as a society tend to compensate our standards of intelligence, among other things, for what we have come to expect from those we admire. We fixated our interests and highest esteem for instantaneous entertainment and fame and based on a much different set of values than the idols of our past. One can only ponder what Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra would make of Selena Gomez, or the Biebs?

Sure, all of these American idols have stolen our hearts, and despite their less than perfect off-stage reputations, they have sealed their place in American culture for decades to come, for better or for worse. But in the world we see today, it’s hard to compare the substance, talent, and greatness that lies in many of the individuals we hold in the highest regard, and the Billboard Top 20 isn’t the only example. 

We have come to normalize instant gratification for entertainment, and instead of idolizing the best and the brightest, it’s as though we willingly sell ourselves short, retweeting the thoughts and ideas of our society’s famed individuals with what can only be said in 162 characters. 

Our nation’s highest office in the land has been brought down to new lows, and it’s difficult to imagine what the previous occupants of the Oval Office, like Teddy Roosevelt, would make of some of the one liners tweeted by our 45th president. There is no doubt that the way we communicate as a society will be forever impacted by the social networks we’ve adopted into our lives. But where exactly does it stop? As Donald Trump was busy tweeting himself into corners this month, two high-profile republican senators from two predominantly red states announced they won’t be running for re-election next term. 

Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake both announced they won’t be seeking re-election because they cannot sit idly by why the president continues to act and behave the way he does. In a speech to fellow members of Congress, Senator Flake stated:

“…The personal attacks. The threats against principles, freedoms, and institution. The flagrant disregard for truth, and decency, the reckless provocations most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.”

For the next 14 months that remain in office for Senators Flake and Corker, they will be joining a small but growing number of republicans from predominantly red states, who know they can’t win a reelection if they speak out against Trump. So instead of staying quiet, these two will join Arizona Senator John McCain in continuing to speak out against the policy and rhetoric coming from the White House.  

I believe wholeheartedly that there couldn’t be a more meaningful and worthwhile use of a term in Congress than for these lawmakers to speak out for what they believe in, in spite of the political consequence. One of the things I like about Senator Flake’s conviction is his appreciation for the wisdom and intellect of presidents from decades passed, many of whom, like Teddy Roosevelt would continue writing (not tweeting) long after their time in office. In Flakes book, he references a quote by President Roosevelt, who wrote for the “Kansas City Star” until his death:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.”