I love to read about presidents, especially Lincoln. I have more books about Lincoln than I will ever read (three shelves), but I cherish having them and, yes, I do read some. I am targeting another Lincoln book for February, his birthday month. I have another shelf of books about other presidents.
The two I am reading now are both indirect. That is, neither one is a biography. Both are by people close to that president, with unusual access. One is “Sisters First,” by presidential twins Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hagar, daughters of George W. and Laura Bush. The other is “Thanks, Obama,” by David Litt, one of Barack Obama’s speechwriters. I was drawn to the second because of my professional and personal love of crunching words and trying to say things correctly and with desired effect. Before I preach a sermon I write it, as if I were a speech writer. I just happen to be the one that will be giving the speech (sermon) I have written. (Some of you may be thinking, he could use a better speechwriter! Some of you may be thinking that his writing could use a better speaker! I accept both critiques.)
I was drawn to the Bush sisters’ book by seeing how much Rachel was enjoying it and often reading parts of it to me. Now I am reading the books side-by-side. (I usually like to be reading two-three books in the same time frame. Don’t ask me why my brain works that way—I don’t know.)
I am reading about two presidents—indirectly—that served recently; one is my age; the other a bit younger. One is white and one black; one a Republican and one a Democrat. I followed them closely. I didn’t vote for Bush either time; I voted for Obama eagerly both times. Initially I thought Bush wasn’t quite up to the job. In the wake of 9/11, I thought he rose to the occasion and comported himself in commendatory ways. Concerning going to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, I think he listened to the wrong advisors, old cold-warriors Cheney and Rumsfeld, instead of Rice and Powell, whom I think would have counseled a more measured and appropriate response to the terrorism of 9/11. But I never questioned Bush’s intentions. Since his presidency, my admiration for him has grown considerably. I believe Bush to be a man of deep character, genuine faith, and informed patriotism.
Obama struck me as not only up to the job, but exceedingly intelligent and capable. Nothing has changed my view of him. While I think that Bush leaned too heavily on the counsel of his two cold-warrior advisors, I think Obama leaned too heavily on his own counsel at times. I expect that comes with his level of intelligence and natural introversion. I believe Obama to be a man of deep character, genuine faith, and informed patriotism.
Both men modeled character in the office and beyond it. Both have, by all appearances (we painfully know today that appearances can be misleading), wonderful marriages and well-adjusted children, in spite of the spotlight they, both wives and their children, were in for eight years by no choice of their own. Neither president ever embarrassed me (though some of Bush’s mangled word formulations brought me much laughter). I would love to spend time with either of them. In fact, I would love to spend time with them together. I believe both to be persons of deep character, genuine faith, and informed patriotism.
I see in both Bush and Obama humanity and humility. Those are two qualities I look for in leaders in all fields, especially presidents of our country.