Sixty years ago, on my sixth birthday, I could never have imagined what the future would bring.
At that time, my friends and I just loved playing in the woods behind our house. There was a stream, Twin Creek, that ran through our little woods. We played in the water, looking for crawdads and garter snakes, building forts and treehouses, skipping rocks and playing war. It was a great place to play. Germantown, in 1956, was a great place to be a kid.
The world beyond my hometown was a lot less friendly. In the world beyond Germantown, war was real.
As I sit here on my couch tonight, typing this column and watching the second debate, it is hard to believe that World War II had ended just five years before I was born. The Korean War started just four months before I was born.
Before this country and our soldiers had the chance to recover from the evils of fighting the armies of Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito, we were at war on the Korean peninsula. The enemies were different. The results were the same; battles were fought, soldiers died, families grieved. However, unlike many wars, the war in Korea never officially ended. A ceasefire was declared, but technically, North and South Korea are still at war.
The steady leadership of President Eisenhower, during most of the 1950s, brought us a feeling of peace and stability. This was reflected in the television programming of the day. “I Love Lucy,” “Leave it to Beaver,” and the “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” aired to a nation that enjoyed television in its infancy. Censorship kept us from the sexual humor and innuendo that seems to be the mainstay of virtually all television programming today.
Looking back, the TV programs we grew up with seem to be naïve and immature. Well, maybe we were naïve and immature, but “Father Knows Best,” “The Donna Reed Show,” and “The Real McCoys” gave us programs we could laugh with, and an example of life that we could follow without embarrassment.
President Kennedy inspired and moved the people of America to action at home and abroad when he said at his inauguration, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He spurred the scientists of this country to greatness when he challenged NASA to put Americans on the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, standing on the shoulders of brave astronauts and brilliant scientists of the 1960s, allowed us to leave this planet, allowed us to take small steps and giant leaps from the earth to the moon and back.
President Johnson carried on the commitment to civil rights that started with the Kennedy administration. It may be difficult, but it is important to remember the images from Alabama of African-Americans being blasted with water from fire hoses, beaten by police and attacked by police dogs. Under President Johnson, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968. A commitment was made to assure that senior citizens and children would be protected. That was the goal of most of Johnson’s “Great Society” legislation.
In the 1970s, I watched criminal and Constitutional challenges to the presidency. President Nixon went to China and opened the door to one of the largest trade partners we have ever had. Later, because of the criminal acts that took place under Nixon, he resigned. What an amazing time that was in our country!
Today, I’m 66 years old. Since childhood, I have been fascinated by politics and the actions taken by our world leaders. The world has changed greatly. I remember the “duck and cover” exercises we practiced in elementary school. We were taught to fall to our knees and crawl under our desks. I’m not sure this would have saved us from a nuclear attack, but it was the practice of the day. That was a scary time in our country!
Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama. That is 12 presidents who have lead this country since I was born. Each brought strengths and weaknesses. Each brought ideals and commitments. Each has brought different life experiences to the job. They have been fascinating to watch.
Frankly, I am worried about this election. I’m also disappointed in both or our major political parties. Is this the best we have? Are these the best two candidates we could recruit to run for the highest office of the land? I think it’s sad.
We need a strong, ethical, principled, experienced person to lead this nation. Before becoming president, 14 of our previous presidents had experience as vice president. Ten were governors. Five were either senators, cabinet members or military leaders before they were elected president.
We have never, in the history of this nation, elected a politically inexperienced business leader to the office of president. Also, we have never elected a candidate who could possibly face criminal indictment while running for the office of president.
The Washington Post doubts that Hillary Clinton will ever be indicted. However, some sources say the FBI is ready to proceed with a charges against her. It depends on what source you read. It has been reported that WikiLeaks is ready to publish new information that will be very harmful to the Clinton campaign. Who knows what is going to happen in this crazy election cycle?
It would be great to go back to the “Ozzie and Harriet” days of the Eisenhower years. That’s not going to happen.
It may sound simplistic, but the best we can do … is to do the best we can. Hang in there. Vote for someone.
Randy Riley is President of Wilmington Council.