Tags Posts tagged with "Presidents"


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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Elections have ended and the newly elected and reelected officials are going to have to cope with a disturbing fact: people don’t trust government. This change in attitude has been a long time coming. It didn’t just happen suddenly. I know, I have lived through the change.

Trust started to fall apart with the Vietnam War. Maybe it even started earlier than that, with the assassination of President Kennedy.  I was in my early 20s then, just graduated from college, newly married, in my dream job, looking forward to an unbounded future filled with joyful events. The nation was at peace, there was a young and vigorous president talking about making life better with civil rights legislation, women were speaking up for themselves, it was a hopeful time.

Friday afternoon, a sunny day, business lunch in a midtown Manhattan restaurant with a television on over the bar in the distance, a movie playing about a president who had been shot in the head. But wait. Wait! It wasn’t a movie, it was a news broadcast from Dallas interrupting the regular programming, it was our president, everyone standing up, crying, paying their checks, rushing back to their offices, trying to deal with the unthinkable. 

How could this happen? How could Secret Service let this happen? In our country! A president, the President of the United States, could not be protected! Our bubble of safety was bursting, slowly, excruciatingly. Lee Harvey Oswald shot on television while under arrest. In what could you trust?

Who killed Kennedy? All kinds of conspiracy theories, the Warren Commission, an end but never a certainty. Was the government lying to us? Was there a cover-up?

Next came the Vietnam War. First only “advisors,” then military, then body counts, always more Viet Cong than Americans lay on the battlefields. Promises of progress and victory by the government, as casualties and numbers drafted rose. This even as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara privately expressed doubts of victory as early as 1966. But President Johnson was afraid of losing the 1968 election should the United States withdraw. Instead we lost thousands of young men, all of which eventually was revealed to the public. Protests were the order of the day, and more violence, including the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy and the chaos at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. What’s happening to the nation’s authority figures?

We rolled right into Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. Our President accused of being a liar and a crook. What’s left to believe in? President Jimmy Carter held hostage by the Iranians, the Iran-Contra deception of Ronald Reagan’s second term, Bill Clinton making Monica Lewinsky a household name around the globe. Then the Weapons of Mass Destruction lies by the senior administration officials manipulating us into the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Whom to believe? 

Whom to trust? Each lie, each governmental deception blew away more trust, leading to the climax: the disbelief in the COVID-19 vaccine. Even when ex-President Donald Trump urged his audience to get vaccinated on Aug. 21, in Cullman, Alabama, one of the areas struggling to cope with COVID cases and hospitalization, he was booed. “But I recommend take the vaccines,” Trump said. “I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.” After that experience, he hasn’t again mentioned vaccination at a rally. But the reaction wasn’t partisan. They were, like Trump, all Republicans who had come to hear him, It was symptomatic of the larger distrust in government.

I was in my early teens when I received the polio vaccination. Polio was a dreaded disease by parents the world over, more so as I remember, than COVID-19. Like today, we were discouraged from assembling in groups or joining crowds. The virus attacks the brain and spinal cord, leaving paralysis and even causing death. When Jonas Salk and his colleagues created the vaccine, we all lined up to take the shot. It was the Eisenhower years. We believed our president.

Those vaccines have eliminated polio from most of the world. That’s what approved vaccinations can do.

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By Kevin Redding

In celebration of Presidents’ Day, local elected officials weighed in on the occupants of the Oval Office who inspired them to do what they do.

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) – Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush

“It would have to be Ronald Reagan. He was the first president that I became familiar with as a young adult, in terms of my interest in politics. He had such a unique ability to communicate a conservative message to the country in a way that wasn’t divisive, in a way that was inspiring and uplifting, and so I really admire him for that and so many other things.

And, of course, George H.W. Bush, who took over the Oval Office after Reagan. He was the first politician I ever helped campaign for and that was during his re-election effort in which he lost to Bill Clinton. That same year Rick Lazio ran for Congress against Thomas Downey and I got pretty heavily involved in volunteering. If it hadn’t been for that, honestly, I would not be sitting here today.

From that experience, I met a former county legislator I ended up working for for a short period of time and he introduced me to county government and lots of different folks in the party, so I would say: purely from an inspirational point of view, it would be Reagan and in terms of the one president that really motivated me to get actively involved in politics, it was George H.W. Bush.”:

Legislator Al Krupski (D) – George Washington

“I think he was someone that really believed in a cause. In his case, the cause was an independent America and he was willing to sacrifice his time and his family’s time to make that happen. He certainly took great personal risks as a general and, again, as president, he sacrificed his time and the rest of his life was dedicated towards the country.

The way he was able to handle power was admirable. The rest of the world thought he was going to become a dictator, and he could’ve, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to be the dictator. He wanted America to be a democracy; he believed in that. I’ve always liked history and I’ve always read about history and been [fascinated] by him pretty much my whole life. If you look at his cabinet, he surrounded himself with people with diverse backgrounds and ideologies and I’ve always listened to people with different viewpoints. I think that kind of mentality as a leader is important: to not just have a bunch of “yes men” but being able to listen to people with different viewpoints.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) John F. Kennedy

“Kennedy had a sense of humor, had a sense of history, and he learned from his mistakes. His mistake early in the administration was to follow through with Eisenhower’s decision that he did not execute well, with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and he learned from that. I think that’s why he was so successful thereafter when, in 1962, a year and a half after, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he was able to diffuse that despite the urging that we invade or bomb Cuba. He avoided that and avoided a crisis and potentially a World War.

I was also extremely impressed with his June 1963 speech at American University about how we all live on one planet and talked about peace being a much nobler goal while we were in the middle of the Cold War and he could see beyond that, so I think he had vision.

Obviously as a person, he had a lot of shortcomings, which a lot of people have dwelled on since the time of his death, but I think as a man and as a leader, people wanted to follow him and I think he was a good president. I knew if he had lived, we would not have been in the Vietnam War. He spoke against getting involved. It was sad to see him go, because in going, the policies changed dramatically, and when we changed leaders, we committed an entire generation to war and turned a lot of people into cynics against their government.

[Inspired by him], I try not to rush to judgment, I try to step back and put things in context and have a sense of history. As someone who has all my degrees in history, I try to put things in context and that helps a lot.”

Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) – Barack Obama

“I’ve been in the Legislature for six years, and got elected in 2011, which was then-president Obama’s third year in office. I had been a physician and I was a big participant in getting involved in the hope and change … Obama being the first Black American president was inspirational for me as one of the few Black American elected officials.

I appreciated the fact that he started out working in the community, was someone that had all the education and training, and was a community organizer. I believe he exhibited the qualities of service and compassion for our fellow man and for those who have the smallest voice, and I believe in hard work and education as well. He had a very clear message that resonated and it got a lot of people involved, and I think that was transformative.

I don’t want it to appear that just because he was black, he encouraged me because I’m black. That had some significance but what I appreciated most was his character. He was a slow and steady hand and he brought qualities of dignity and respect … I also admired the way he conducted himself personally with his family.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson) – Barack Obama

“I think Obama, who was a law school professor, intimately understood how to use the law to help others and he actually worked his way up through government, so he took all the steps and is a bottom-up leader. Obama being an activist and community organizer really impressed me. I think it’s important that we [as elected officials] are in the community, and talk to people face-to-face about their issues. I think that he is, arguably, the most eloquent, dignified, and diplomatic president of my time and I try to emulate his qualities.”

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) – Ronald Reagan

“He was a fiscally conservative guy who was socially moderate; he would try to save money and have less government … and keep government out of things. That’s what I believe: we shouldn’t be involved in a lot of these things.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) – Harry S. Truman

“Harry Truman’s my favorite president. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things and demonstrated that you can reach the highest levels of our government while maintaining your integrity. More than 20 years ago, I read David McCullough’s book “Truman” and it was one of the best political biographies I’ve ever read. When I served on active duty in the U.S. Army, I was based in Missouri — which is the home state of Truman — and I visited his home and library in Independence.

What was inspiring to me, and it really represents what our country is about, was that anyone can be president and that you can reach the highest levels of our government and really maintain your integrity. Truman’s honesty really impressed me.”

Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) – Abraham Lincoln

“If you were in my office, whether in Albany or here in the district, you would see lots of pictures of Abraham Lincoln. When you’re growing up and you’re reading about different presidents, the idea of Lincoln being kind of a frontiersman and the way he grew up and the stories about him are very exciting. As you get older and you start looking into Lincoln’s life, you see the kind of person that he is. He cared very deeply about people and if you look at photos of Lincoln, you could see the deep lines, as some people call “worry lines,” because he cared so much. During the Civil War, he visited wounded soldiers and was very touched by their lives.

I have great concern for people and try to be very helpful to people, and I think Lincoln certainly reinforces those goals.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) – Ronald Reagan

“Reagan was the president I admired most. When you’re an elected official, I think you have to have two great traits: good decision-making skills and the ability to articulate the message you want to get across to people in an effective, understandable and inspiring way, [which he had]. Reagan came into office in 1981, a point in our country’s history where, internationally, we were in the middle of the Cold War, just got done with the Iranian hostage situation, and the economy wasn’t doing well and the morale in the country was at an all-time low — so he had a lot that he was getting ready to take on. He lowered taxes, attacked the problems we had, deregulated the government and opened up the economy, which triggered a boom throughout the decade. He stood up and brought pride back into being American.”

Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) – Abraham Lincoln

“First of all, he was honest, he truly preserved the unity of our nation and he freed the slaves. He was brought into office during what was probably one of our nation’s first economic crises, and he dealt with the Civil War, dealt with issues of taxation and imports and exports, and handled it in a thoughtful, intellectual way. Those were difficult times and he made our nation what it is.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) – John F. Kennedy

“His presidency changed America. I think so many presidents bring so many different skillsets, and Kennedy believed in America, was passionate about America, put people to work, held the line on taxes, and was a compassionate person. Then there’s the whole history of Kennedy and how he was raised and groomed, and how his life was tragically cut short, and I think that adds an air to his [legacy] as well.”


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Taking credit is easy. It usually means you are patting yourself on the back for something you did or helped do that went well, or that went the way you desired.

In annual reviews, in résumés or on college applications, it’s a great idea to take credit for the ways you contributed, led or facilitated positive outcomes. It’s a way of sharing your potential for future successes with other colleagues, co-workers, bosses or schools.

It’s a fine line because taking credit for, say, the weather on the day of a picnic seems inappropriate and far fetched; or taking credit for something for which your primary role was to cheer for a particular outcome also seems inaccurate.

The other side of the credit coin is accepting responsibility for mistakes or results that fell short of your expectations or hopes.

I read that President-elect Donald Trump has congratulated himself on consumer confidence and the stock market surge since the election.

His election could be a contributing factor in the optimism of consumers or in the personified mind of the stock market.

I wonder, though, when life for Americans doesn’t go the way we would all like, will he also accept responsibility? Will the man who will be the leader of the free world be able to see his role in problems, learn from mistakes and show the kind of flexibility that other world leaders will consider inspiring or redemptive?

When things don’t go the way he or we the people might like, he has blamed others. His favorite target, and a favorite villain for many presidents over the years, has been the media. It’s an easy target because someone can always disagree with the facts or can come up with an alternative theory for them.

I would encourage the man who is so comfortable patting himself on the back — and who seems to be surrounding himself with people who are so supportive of him — to learn to look in the mirror and grow with this enormous job.

Learning isn’t easy or necessarily natural. That’s especially true when you’re confident you know more than anyone else, even intelligence officials, and when you rely on your business or street smarts to win every battle.

Maybe it’s especially challenging for him to accept that he needs educating as a president, in a job which requires him to be decisive and consistent.

At the same time, the president-elect has this opportunity to be a role model in the way he grows with the job.

I wonder, though, how he would deal with a leader with the same personality, self-confidence and strong will that he showed throughout the election cycle. Would he be able to adjust to the way someone else used his own playbook? Perhaps we have already seen glimpses of that, in the way he admires Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, with whom he seems to be sharing a daily global spotlight.

People on both sides of the political aisle probably agree that Trump is a character. It would be a wonderful moment if they all recognized at some point that he also had the kind of character that inspired others to learn, grow and compete against the best in the world.

Instead of recognizing and highlighting other people’s shortcomings, failures or deficiencies, Trump might also take a moment to see ways he himself can improve. If he shares his learning curve, he might provide a new route for others to do their best.