While Presidents Day used to be reserved for celebrating the United States’ inaugural leader, President George Washington, it has morphed into a time to look back at all of our nation’s past leaders.
On Monday, various media outlets used the day of remembrance to remind President Donald Trump of the lessons he should heed from his predecessors.Image Credit: Screenshot/Google
George Washington, #1:Image Credit: Getty Images/GraphicaArtis
In 1789, Washington was elected as the first president of the United States. Without any precedent, Washington was responsible for creating an administration from scratch, and establishing the foundation of the free world.
Although he was surrounded by only a few people, Washington sought the advice of those closest to him. According to a letter he wrote before he began forming the country, Washington asked his advisers, “to impress me with a full, precise, and distinct general idea of the affairs of the United States.”
Early into his presidency, Trump was criticized for not properly vetting his controversial executive order on immigration ahead of time. After it was enacted, the Department of Justice openly questioned the order’s legality.
The Washington Post noted that President Washington acknowledged that many of the new Americans whom he represented still held the fear of a “dictator.” Therefore, he sought advice on his policies, instead of giving off the impression that he ruled alone.
The article claimed Trump would be better off if he stopped “acting solo without any advice,” and started presenting himself as a representative of the collective will of the people.
Abraham Lincoln, #16:Image Credit: Getty Images/Buyenlarge
Donald Trump campaigned heavily on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. Although he’s pledged to invest $1 trillion, Fortune claims there’s a big lesson to be learned from Lincoln’s infrastructure policy.
The 1862 Pacific Railroad Act gave companies the go-ahead to build a railroad that linked the United States from coast to coast. Just as the transcontinental railroad transformed the United States, Forbes believes Trump must use his infrastructure to fix more than “potholes.”
Alan Wolff wrote at Fortune:
He should look beyond potholes and have a vision of a grand accomplishment that will be celebrated in future history books. Perhaps it will take the form of high-speed rail linking cities, or intelligent highways and vehicles (that dramatically reduce the annual automobile death rate and shorten driving times), or state-of-the-art airports.
During presidential debates, Trump referred to America’s airports as akin to “third-world countries,” and a complete revamp that changes the way Americans travel could solidify his infrastructure policy in history.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, #32:Image Credit: Getty Images/Hulton Archive
The Immigration Act of 1924 established regulations, quotas, and controls for anyone wishing to immigrate to the United States. However, when Adolf Hitler rose to power, FDR circumnavigated that law and ordered the State Department to expedite visas for Jewish refugees.
According to The Hill, he combined German and Austrian quota numbers to enable more people to get allowed in. Although he was criticized for overstepping his power, Roosevelt’s actions reportedly saved some 50,000 people’s lives.
Now, America is faced with what the article’s author Thomas Lee considers to be the “greatest humanitarian disaster” of the 21st century. He claims we are “protecting ourselves as we did in 1924,” but urges Trump to use history as a guide and learn from FDR. He wrote:
As President, Trump has a constitutional duty to keep the country safe and wields great power to do so … he can and should order the State Department to conduct more rigorous screening of them. But … history will judge him harshly if he continues to stand for what is worst in America, turning our back on unfortunates facing horrific death and destruction.
It’s been reported that Trump will issue an updated executive order on immigration that will exclude green card holders and visas that have already been issued, according to CNN.
Ronald Reagan, #40:Image Credit: Getty Images/David Hume Kennerly
In a piece written by former President Ronald Reagan’s son Michael, he compares Trump to his father and offers advice on how the current administration could benefit from the lessons of his father.
Both Reagan and Trump were outspoken “outsiders” who shocked the nation and the media by their presidential victories.
However, while Trump has hit the ground running and signed a sweeping haul of executive orders, Michael Reagan feels there’s an important takeaway from his father’s ability to work with Democrats, despite their different views. He described his father’s legacy:
My father set out to accomplish three things as president: lower taxes to boost the economy, win the Cold War without blowing up the world, and close down the Department of Education. He did two of those three things while keeping America safe and he’s considered one of the greatest presidents this country ever had.
In order to lower taxes, Reagan was able to get the Economic Recovery Tax Act passed by a Democrat-controlled House — a bill that the Tax Foundation considered a turning point in the “history of federal taxation.”
Reagan’s son’s advice to President Trump is to start working with the “other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” if he really wants to make America great again.
Bill Clinton, #42:Image Credit: Getty Images/Graham Denholm
After a tumultuous campaign season against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it may come as a shock that one news outlet would draw on a lesson from her husband’s time in office.
Both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump entered office with low approval ratings and administrations marred by chaos and disconnect. However, the Omaha World Herald claimed Trump has an opportunity to learn from Clinton’s stalemate with Congress.
For the first two years of his term, Clinton’s administration was seen as incompetent. This resulted in the president getting nowhere on health care reform in 1993 and 1994. The article said:
A similar fate could await Trump if his administration doesn’t find its bearings.
Trump outlined an aggressive, 100-day plan and based on the similarities between his start and Clinton’s, the Omaha World Herald thinks he may want to rein in his administration to instill confidence in his leadership.
Over 228 years, the United States has seen 45 presidents with many different leadership styles and policy opinions. Every president has the opportunity to make a unique contribution to the American experiment, and it seems that there are lessons can be learned from each one.