I have to admit that presidential words have changed, not just through the course of evolutionary linguistics, but in the attitude and demeanor through which they are delivered. Take the comparison between our first president, George Washington and our present president, who is leaving office. In George Washington’s farewell address he said these words: “Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”¹
Another difference in the words of these two presidents is the amount of mentions Mr. Obama made to himself and his accomplishments: well over 70 times by several estimates. There are other differences as well. Washington, as well as other presidents in recent memory have made a real decision to stay out of the public light and allow the next administration to function without a tug of war over the nation. President Obama has decided not to leave the city. There have been various reports with few concrete facts, but I read one recently that has the Obamas moving into a $5.3 million home in the Kalorama section of the city, where diplomats reside. They are supposedly renting it, with a rental tag of $22,000 a month.² I don’t know if that’s true, but it is rumored the Obamas own quite a few other homes; a $4.25 million home near a golf course in California and a vacation home worth $8.7 million in Hawaii.³
Unless and until they actually move into these abodes and we can see their tax returns, most of this is speculation. Albeit, it is better than guesswork. What we do know for a fact is that all of this has taken place on a salary worth $400,000 for 8 years. Let’s see, that’s $3.2 million, if he spent none of it. We have a pretty good idea, based on his last tax return that the mortgage for his home in Chicago is worth $7,598 a month.‡(4) We know he was a first-time senator for Illinois before upping the ante to the White House. Before that he was a state senator for the state of Illinois. From 1997 to 2004, he served the state legislature. From 1996 to 2008, he also worked as a lecturer for the University of Chicago Law School.†(5) I’ll use a little guess work here, but currently Illinois state senators make $67,836 a year. Illinois’ two senators sent to the Federal forum now make $174,000. During Mr. Obama’s short stint there he probably made $158,100 up to $169,300.†(6) That’s because they keep giving themselves pay raises, and those went up variously from 2004 to the present.
George Washington’s money came from his family. Mr. Obama, as you can see, is either living above his means or has ‘friends’ with very deep pockets. In an interview he did recently, it seems he is not going quietly into the sunset at all, but intends to become a political activist, trying to stir the proverbial pot.†(7) While this goes against everything American presidents have done in the past, it goes in line perfectly with progressive socialism.
Times really have changed, not only in speech, but in actions connected to speech. Obama at one time opined that the approximately $9 trillion debt he would later inherit was unpatriotic, and he was right.†(8) John Adams, who took notice of similar issues said: (Excerpted) . . . “The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own.” . . . John Adams, First Annual Message November 22, 1797.† (9) It seems Mr. Obama has not heeded his own, nor his predecessors’ concerns for national debt; accumulating more debt than all previous presidents combined, leaving Americans with almost $20 trillion of the stuff.
Another difference between our leaders of today and yesterday’s statesman is the desire for harmony, although politics has always been a fist fight waiting to happen. Think of today’s desire by some to make the new president’s job as hard as they can when you read these words, also by John Adams: “. . . If the leaders are divided into parties, will not one prevail at one year, and another the next? and will not this introduce the most wretched of servitudes, an uncertain jurisprudence?” John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America . . .†(10)
Our new president loves to connect with the American people via Twitter. Some like this, others do not. I love it, but wish he could tone it down just a little. I like the fact that, as Washington before him, Trump has his own money. I also appreciate that he understands the danger in the noose a national debt conveys. While he has supporters and detractors from both sides of the aisle, thus embodying Adams’ solution when he feared parties would create an “uncertain jurisprudence” for the country, it will be interesting to see if Trump can rein in the beast all presidents face. That beast was also mentioned by our second President: “. . . For the jaws of power are always opened to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of speaking, thinking and writing.” John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law †(11)
Well goes the saying with all its various iterations: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”† (12) Let’s pray our new president can avoid that unchangeable reality.
1. George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796 <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp> © 2008 Lillian Goldman Law Library, 127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511. Site accessed 1/11/17
3.<http://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/news/a8713/obamas-california-house/> <http://pagesix.com/2016/11/20/the-obamas-are-going-bicoastal/?_ga=1.164541820.231881914.1452126755> <http://nypost.com/2015/03/20/obama-plans-post-white-house-with-purchase-of-hawaiian-mansion/> <http://govtslaves.info/report-obama-buys-magnum-pis-hawaii-mansion-for-8-7-million/>
‡4. <http://www.mortgagecalculator.com/how-much-is-barack-obamas-house-worth/> <http://politicalcalculations.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-much-does-president-obama-still-owe.html>
†8.<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kuTG19Cu_Q> in case this URL, with a video of Mr. Obama’s speech gets moved, you can see a video and a short transcript here at a more partisan site, for some <http://nation.foxnews.com/president-obama/2011/08/24/flashback-obama-says-adding-4-trillion-national-debt-unpatriotic> This is from 2012, so it doesn’t carry the same baggage as more recent sites might.
†9.<http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/adamsme1.asp> 2008 Lillian Goldman Law Library, accessed 3/12/16
†10.John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856) Vol 4. 584. Public domain
†11.John Adams, “The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams” (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 3, 457