The Presidents on Mount Rushmore

Who are these presidents who are memorialized on Mount Rushmore? What do they have in common?

In some way, these four greats shaped and protected our democracy.

George Washington was the first president. He set the standard for all future presidents. He chose not to become king or dictator. He chose to become a public servant, a leader of what would eventually become the free world.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, a list of complaints against England as a reason to form our own government. The Constitution, a separate document, was a group effort, led by James Madison, who is therefore considered as father of the Constitution, the law of our government.

Abraham Lincoln kept our nation together and freed the slaves. Consequently our government of the people, by the people, and for the people, became of government for all the people, not just the white ruling class.

Theodore Roosevelt wrested government from the control of big business. He built the Panama Canal, and he advanced our national parks system. Many doctors recognize the health benefits of spending time in nature. More than that, the wilderness is our planet’s lungs. Because of this, we need to set aside more.

Other presidents have built on these advancements. Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped us during the Great Depression. My parents got their start from his programs. And to this day we benefit from his creation of Social Security.

Harry S. Truman ended segregation in the military.

We could go on telling how presidents added to the public welfare, enhancing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Then we arrive at Donald Trump and his supporters who vow to undo Barrack Obama’s legacy. By doing this, they are dismantling the legacies of all the great presidents who came before.

We need to see politicians for what they are, our elected representatives to serve our interests. Sure, some are crooked and don’t deserve their office. But many are our public servants, our warriors in a not-at-all cushy job, who are passionate about improving the lives of all the people in their district. Democracy is not to be taken for granted. We are all in this together. We are all responsible for protecting our freedoms. There is a great force for good in our country, and we must be part of that force. The way it looks now, Donald Trump may be president, but he can never call himself leader of the free world.

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It Never Snows in the Valley

In 1936 my parents-to-be took advantage of Roosevelt’s land-settlement project and drove in the winter from Colorado the Northern California. They arrived in a snow storm and marveled that the locals commented on it so much. Eventually it dawned on my not-yet-parents that people were acting so unsettled because it never snows in the valley. Except it did.

Fast forward to the early 1970s. I’m sitting in Sunday School at the Assembly of God Church in Chico when I look out the window to see snowflakes the size of pancakes. Wow! I didn’t know they got that big.

The storm didn’t last long. We emerged from church to a white world, beautiful and dangerous. Because it never snows in the valley, we were unprepared. I eased my Mustang onto the road for my usual route home, on up the ramp of the elevated freeway, which was nearly deserted.

My first mistake.

Not all people drive cautiously in foul weather. A pickup truck whizzed by in the fast lane and kicked snow onto my windows. I was completely blinded. What do you do on the freeway when you can’t see where it goes? It was wrong to hit the brakes, but I needed to slow down until the windshield wipers could clear a view. I risked a tap to the brakes.

Mistake number two.

Whatever traction I had was completely gone. I took my feet off the pedals and held a firm grip on the steering wheel to keep it steady. All that was left for me to do was put my life in the Lord’s hands. Would I plunge off the freeway to my death? Being young, I had never before considered my own mortality.

My car drifted leisurely. I sensed it turning and noticed a brush of oleander leaves by my side window. My car was turning 180 degrees. The engine died. I could now see that I was on the other side of the freeway, perfectly aligned to take the off ramp. The oleander bushes showed no break in them. Somehow I had passed through without a scrape or a bump, as if they didn’t exist then. The way had been as smooth as drifting on ice. To this day, I ponder how that could have happened, short of a miracle.

With no further problems, I fired up the engine, took the off ramp, and crept home to a house magnificent in a coat of snow.

Someday my time to pass over will come, but not yet. Not just yet.

And it does snow in the valley, perhaps once every ten years.

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