I must begin by admitting that I have no memories of Dwight Eisenhower. I might have liked Ike; but, I was born less than two months before he left office, so my memories are of an old statesman living out his final days, not of an actual seated president.
I must also admit that my memories of John F. Kennedy are based more upon what I have read and pictures I have seen than of the actual man. I do remember my mother taking us over to Bo and Bert McLemore's house to watch news of his assassination. I don't really remember that event either, so much as I remember that something emotional and traumatic had happened; but, once I knew it wasn't an immediate family member, I went outside to play.
With the death of Camelot came the era of the Pedernales. I knew we had a president from Texas; but, was unclear about how he had arrived at that office.
I would meet LBJ, after he was retired and living back out on the ranch, at a Boy Scout retreat at the park across the river from his home. While he issued a non-committal "no comment" to our dedication of a marker, Lady Bird praised our work and spoke for 15 minutes on how proud she was of all of us. I seem to remember LBJ shifting in his chair and looking off into the distance, ready to be back home.
My memories of Richard Nixon are more vivid. I remember the fall of Saigon and the tumultuous run for his second term. I vividly remember watching the Watergate hearings, and I recall being confused at how a president could violate the trust of his nation in such a way.
Never the less, I felt compelled to send President and Mrs. Nixon a Christmas card, and received one in response. Everyone at the Katemcy post office was in a stir wondering how I had rated such an honor. Years later, I learned that several hundred thousand such cards are sent; but, I still have mine as a souvenir.
Then there was Gerald Ford. We didn't vote for him. In reality, he was never elected vice-president or president. He had stepped in to replace a disgraced Sprio Agnew, then had to step up to the ultimate position when the president stepped down to avoid prosecution. He has shouldered the burden of history for having pardoned Richard Nixon; but, he saved the country from months of pain and torment, so he took the best path for the nation even while tarnishing his own reputation.
Jimmy Carter. He seemed to have emerged from nowhere. He was folksy and sincere. He was open and honest when discussing his faith, and his children, like Gerald Fords, were always human. His mother and brother snapped up headlines when he didn't need them to. And then came Iran.
Americans taken hostage. A botched rescue attempt. A nation reeling and unsure of where they would go next.
They went to Ronald Reagan. I was at UT, and this was my first presidential election in which I could cast a vote. For all the talk of liberal Austin, one would never have known it to have been on campus during 1980. The Young Republicans were highly visible, extremely vocal, and ultimately effective.
For eight years, Reagan would lead the nation. Through assassination attempts, the spread of AIDS, the fall of the Berlin Wall (which actually came after he had left office), and the birth of a new conservative movement in American politics.
He would be followed by his vice president, George H. W. Bush. It didn't become necessary to include his initials in his name till 12 years later; but, I get ahead of myself. There was 1,000 points of light, a staggering debt, and a successful, and brief, war to put down the aggression of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. It was not enough to gain a second term.
I remember being in Little Rock, after Bill Clinton had won the election but prior to the inauguration. The town was electric, and everyone had a story. I later learned that the hotel where I was staying would figure prominently in one of those stories.
Clinton captivated the nation, and enraged it, for two terms. People either loved him or hated him, and there seemed little room for anyone in between. After a failed impeachment proceeding, it came as no surprise that Al Gore lost to George W. Bush.
Except, it took weeks to determine that outcome. And it would be Vice President Al Gore, as President of the Senate, who would end the debate and move the country along to its 43rd president.
The eight years of George W. Bush are still fresh in my mind. The uneventful first year. Then came 9/11. Nothing was the same after that. The Patriot Act. Invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Then the economy began to falter. Then it came close to failing. As the 44th president prepares to take office, bailout is a verb referring to anyone who didn't handle their affairs very well.
Barrack H. Obama has tremendous challenges ahead of him. His most recent speeches have attempted to temper the expectations, and that is a wise move. People should not expect anything to change too quickly.
Probably, the best take I've heard was at Sunday school this last week.
"I'm praying that in ten years, we will look back and say, Barrack Obama is the best president we have ever had."
For my part, I just urge President Obama to know that, unlike with Eisenhower, I am aware of him, and will be watching his term carefully. In a few years, I will update my list to include his accomplishments/failures, and I hope there is something good to say.
It’s all just my opinion, but it’s what I wish would happen.