American Leadership: Remembering The Great Ones Of Our Past As We Look To Our Future

Written by Larry Usoff on March 12, 2018

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”–Thomas Jefferson.

I truly believe that this country was brought about because of men who were visionaries. Certainly Jefferson was a man who was way ahead of his time. He served in various political offices, including governor of Virginia, Secretary of State and eventually President. While he was in the White House he vanquished the Barbary pirates who had been capturing American merchant ships, pillaging valuable cargoes and enslaving crew members, demanding huge ransoms for their release.

President John F. Kennedy made the following opening remarks at a White House dinner honoring a gathering of Nobel Prize winners, April 29, 1962. “I have been impressed by the intellect of Thomas Jefferson. Ladies and gentlemen: I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Navy hero, Senator and 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until he was assassinated in November 1963. Notable events during his presidency included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race — by initiating Project Apollo (which would culminate in the moon landing), the building of the Berlin Wall, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

He was greatly assisted by his wife, Jackie, as she brought a veneer of culture. Some of the great words that he said were, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He was proud of his Naval service and about that he said, “And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’ ” If he had lived, I believe that he would have been ranked as one of our great presidents.

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”, so said President Theodore Roosevelt, December 2nd 1902, in his second annual message to Congress. Teddy was an American of the first magnitude. He ate, slept, and lived to be an American. Roosevelt was a sickly child who suffered from asthma. To overcome his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. He is known for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his “cowboy” persona and robust masculinity.

His book The Naval War of 1812, published in 1882 established him as a learned historian and writer, but he was much, much more than that. Following the death of his first wife, Alice, Roosevelt, he temporarily left politics and became a cattle rancher in the Dakotas. He was a governor of New York, the police commissioner of New York City and, of course, there was the Rough Riders. His position on being an American went like this…” There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance.”

Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States, and succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when FDR died after months of declining health. Under Truman, the U.S. successfully concluded World War II; in the aftermath of the conflict, tensions with the Soviet Union increased, marking the start of the Cold War. Harry was a plain-talking man from Missouri, a US Senator, and a veteran of World War I. He said civil rights was a moral priority, and submitted the first comprehensive legislation in 1948, and issued Executive Orders to start racial integration of the military and federal agencies that year.

One of his quotes is, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”, and it is indicative of his no-nonsense approach to everything. He will always be remembered because, on his desk sat this pledge: “The buck stops here.”

With men like these, and others, the United States rose to prominence in the 20th Century. We’ve not fared well in the 21st Century, so far, but my expectation is that when a hero is needed, one (or more) will come forward. For me, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, and to the republic for which it stands — now, and forever. Wake up, America, your country needs you…desperately.

photo credit: Excerpted from: Christian Collins president’s day via photopin (license)

Larry Usoff
Larry Usoff, US Navy Retired. Articulate. Opinionated. Patriotic. Conservative. Cultured enough so that I can be taken almost anywhere. Makes no excuses for what I say or do, but takes responsibility for them. Duty. Honor. Country. E-mail me at: