The Four Dead Presidents

The Convention Speeches of Four Dead Presidents
By Greg K. Stewart


For the past few months, I have been taking a US history course at one of our community colleges, here in Denver, Colorado for a course requirement, to obtain my degree in international business. Although, it was a required course, history has always been one of my favorite subjects. Nevertheless, I found it compelling, not only learning but observing what was being taught. The textbook I had to buy was called The American Promise: A History of the United authored by James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson, and Susan Hartman (Roark et al). In general, the text was “complete” and non-bias, for the most part. However, the last few chapters seem to slant a little far to the left; the last chapter, however, clearly made up for the slanted leanings of the previous works. I felt all to propagandize, when the explanation of the first gulf war, by way of this explanation, was a result of the terrorist incident of September 11 2001, but that is a discussion for another time, and my experience turned rather ambivalent. Nonetheless, I found a topic, I could expound about, my four favorite presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Do not let the list fool you; I am large Libertarian, but these gentlemen captured my fancy for various reasons, and I had to contain my enthusiasm for the last, but certainly, not the least—Ronald Reagan. So, as a tribute to them and my rather leaning professor, here were some of my thoughts….

A Thoughtful Repose

It may seem inane to write about four dead men, and the words they spoke before a nation of ideologues, Republicans and Democrats, but these words spoken set forth a path of divinity that has been recorded by history. They have lasted the passage of time and immemorial in respect to the currency of divination that has played out in the cost of American lives, blood, and tears.
I will not review the past three presidencies; in the fact, that they are not dead, nor will I expound on their toils and words of Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Dwight Eisenhower. But I will, very briefly, explore the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. The aforementioned are all great men in their own right; after all, it takes a great deal of will and passion to successfully be elected in the environs of American political office. Nevertheless, the latter four have qualities which resonate with the public and have made decisions that no other succeeding president would have to face. So, I looked at their nomination speeches, to examine their quality of their words in order to divine an understanding at what type of men they were.

No Fear President

I begin with the first three: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy all of whom I was unable to observe as men, since I was not I alive to make value judgments of their stature. Beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, obtain from the website of The American Presidency (APW-FDR) in his 1936 nomination acceptance speech, he speaks on the events of what he refer to as the nation’s duty for charity, he states “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference,” these ideas of his, are put in place before I am born. His idea of the “New Deal” (Roark et al) saved democracy and the republic for me to observe, and be part of a great country, the after affects of his policy in the years that followed would set the stage for equality among men, women, and the races— but especially from the ranks of the “lower classes.”
He would touch on class elitism in his acceptance speech; he told his audience that Americans mission to save itself from economic adversity was far from over. The “economic royalist,” those who would subject the labor of the hardworking man, the farmer, and people in between, would be costly if he did not aid in the finishing of his mission (APW-FDR).
Americans are a product of their fore fathers, he explained, who sought “freedom from tyranny of a political autocracy, from the eighteenth century royalist who held privileges from the crown” (APW-FDR). He said the “economic royalist” of the 20th century that came as a result from the Gilded Age of the 19th century (Roark et al) and transformed the 20th century classes to the extremes have’s-and-have-not’s . The depression had taken its toll on the people of America, and it was time for a correction. He exclaimed, he took up the mantle, the challenge, and saved them from their “fears” (APW-FDR). He gave them a “New Deal”; thus, returning dignity and humanity to the common man.

The Fair Deal Truman

Harry S. Truman felt that his “Fair Deal” would propel Americans forward. But in order to succeed, America would have to have a “square deal” of opportunity for all. He would say in, according again to the website The American Presidency, in his nomination acceptance speech of 1948, in Philadelphia, that the failure of the, “80th Republican Congress…was dodg[ing] their responsibility” (APW-HST). Their promises to serve the American public were getting bogged down in “committees,” or stuck in the respective legislative “houses” (APW-HST). Truman, at least from my perceptions, perceived, in order to resolve the crisis of the American spirit; the government duty was to carry the torch of hope for the people. Harry Truman made the “big” decision, when it was time to decide to drop the A-bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima—he made it. He also believed, in my humble opine, that the role of government was to “attack the citadel of special privilege and greed” (APW-HST) in order to provide for the less fortunate.

Snapshot of JFK

It is, however, unfortunate that President Kennedy was unable to be see the conclusion of his dream: To see Neil Armstrong walk and land on the moon for the United State of America. Nonetheless, John F. Kennedy's nomination speech in the Memorial Coliseum, in Los Angeles (APW-JFK), saw the “great challenge” was not the concern for his religion, if elected, he was a Catholic, but for the social equality for all of those who had suffered at the hands of the economic oppressors. He recaps the accomplishments, horrors, and the presidents—but his ascription to the spirit of Americans was unfathomable. He would say, referencing from The American Presidency website, “It would be easier to shrink back from the new frontier …to the safe mediocrity…[of] good intentions and high rhetoric,” he would ask, “of each of [us] to be pioneers on that new frontier [and of ] invention, innovation, imagination, [and] decision.” The decade to follow would shine his vision in not only cultural upheaval of the 1960’s, of music and deaths. But in his missile crisis with Cuba compelling us to examine, and never step so close to brink of disaster, that we could never step back from the line of a nuclear war….

The Electric Speaker

Lastly, Ronald Reagan, known as the Great Communicator, would be first nominated in 1980 and win during the time of an economic down turn (Roark et al), but in his 1984 nomination speech in Texas, before his re-election, he campaigns from the pulpit in Texas. He says, in his speech, of which I paraphrase, that the citizens of the country were helping to build a greater America. He felt that life was on the mend. He would state, “We can all be proud that pessimism is ended. America is coming back and is more confident than ever about the future” (APW-RR). Ronald Reagan portrayed the father figure the country desperately needed after the 1970’s, where double-digit inflation was on the rise, and the economy had virtually hit rock bottom (Roark et al). Ronald Reagan was the man who clearly understood and felt he could lead the charge of rational economic spending (APW-RR). He had guided us through the evils of communism, and that nuclear war served only one master—and that was death. He would defend the use of troops in Grenada, and quickly extricate the forces from the beautiful Caribbean island and restore its democracy. As previously stated, I was not around for the first three presidential greats, but Ronald Reagan, I observed. He played the every man, father, and grandfather. At times, and mostly through my stubbornness, I would disagree with the ideals, beliefs, and programs to cure the ills of the day. I was young, but looking back, admittedly through the eyes of nostalgia and wisdom, his steady hand and course provided the touch Americans needed. He remarked of “United States resiliency,” and poetically decried that “Miss Liberty’s torch the ‘lamp beside the golden door’” was still opened for “our children to walk into tomorrow with knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.”

His words were inspirational and yet infuriating at the same time. How could a man be so naïve? I used to think, but in the end, his diligence led to the fall of communism. Kennedy's crisis with Cuba shielded us from harm, while Truman and FDR established that this country during war and in peace would do what we needed to survive. These men and their greatness provided the guiding touch that America needed in the time of crises; my hope for today is that we have that in our current president.

Cited Work

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Los Angeles, July 15, 1960: 4 May 2005: website of The American Presidency cited from the
Reagan, Ronald. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Dallas, August 23, 1984. 4 May 2005: website of The American Presidency cited from the
Roark, James L. et al (2005). The American Promise: A History of the United States—Volume II: From 1865. Boston / New York. Bedford/St. Martin’s
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Philadelphia, June 27, 1936: 4 May 2005: website of The American Presidency cited from the
Truman, Harry S. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Philadelphia, July 25, 1948: 4 May 2005: website The American Presidency cited from the


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