I recently returned home after a seven-week, 12,000-mile sojourn to the ‘Old West’… a land of majestic panoramas and jaw-dropping vistas. It was also a history lesson in pioneer character building. At one stop, Mt. Rushmore, I especially felt the need to reflect upon Americana. … our culture and the greatness of our leaders who not only shaped our national destiny, but, who, through their strength of character, left an indelible mark upon our national identity. Never in our history do we need to be reminded more of what true greatness is. 

Early in his administration, our president said he belonged on Mt. Rushmore because he is a better president than all of them with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Granted that his bravado was directed at a fawning political base, but, I believe he believes it. 

Few of us, but not all, would dispute there is little likelihood room would be made for our current president on Rushmore. Most of us, but not all, realize that he is far removed from the ideals Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt personified. I say this because we, as Americans, honor integrity, vision, compassion and courage. We do not immortalize weakness. And, make no bones about it, our president is weak. 

Weak people surround themselves with sycophants and relish in false praise. They distort truth through their merchants of doubt and create disharmony as a control mechanism. They deride the achievements of others while touting their own questionable accomplishments. They are pettily tyrannous, engage in the blame game, and bully others who do not fall into line. And, when they do not get their way; pout, fly into rages, plan revenges and administer payback.  

Strong people, on the other hand, have a sense of equilibrium and are in control of themselves. They work honestly and openly with others to accomplish goals and acknowledge diversity as a positive influence. They have vision, take responsibility, and, at the crucial moment, stand up to be counted. These are not only the characteristics of the strong, but also of the winner who recognizes that the only true authority is moral authority. 

If these observations are correct, then why does a third of the country still support this president? 

I have heard repeatedly from my neighbors, who are representative of his base, that they do take exception with his corrupting hand, his lack of truthfulness and the chaos he constantly creates. But, they also say, “You need to fight fire with fire.” And, “His style is aggressive because it needs to be in order to confront the political dysfunction around him.”

I understand their point of view, but my argument is not so much with the message as it is with the messenger. To me it is not a matter of style but character, which is essential in dealing with domestic and international challenges. 

In regard to these challenges, I believe our president consistently fails on substance. He fails because he distorts reality in order to claim the adulation that comes from dubious victory. He does not seek the accomplishment of meaningful goals that benefit the common good. 

Teddy Roosevelt once said the strong man is the one who is actually in the arena, who, though his face is marred by dust and sweat, strives valiantly and spends himself in a worthy cause. This is true strength of character.

As Americans, we yearn for national greatness. Some of us say, ”I want America to be great again.” I agree with this yearning. And, we achieve this greatness not by turning away from the values and ideals that helped shape our national identity, but by embracing them. It is our heritage.  

Mt. Rushmore is built on a foundation of granite as were the presidents honored there. They stood up to the challenges of their times and did not crumble under the burdens placed upon them. We must stand up to the challenges of our times. If we exhibit the character traits that we as Americans avow and have immortalized on Rushmore, we will find our way.  

Don Bachmann


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