Another 4th of July has come upon us and I reflect on this country that I have lived all my life. My parents came to this country from the Philippines 60 years ago and they both deeply love this country. They instilled in me and my siblings a deep love of this democratic republic, a love of the history and the great reformers, and a reverence of the American ideals of freedom and equality. I’m a big fan of the sports, the arts, and the culture of this land: the music of Gershwin and Frank Sinatra and Brian Wilson; the athletic feats of Ken Stabler, Larry Bird, and Bo Jackson; the art of Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Schulz, and Jack Kirby. Though this country has its faults, it is a wonderful country.
These past few years have been very partisan times. I have to admit, as a liberal Democrat, that I have been very frustrated and angry at times at the actions of my conservative Republican fellow Americans. Though I have deep disagreements with conservative Republicans, I do not questions their patriotism or their genuine love of this country. I think one of the good things about this country is the constant clash of ideas that revitalizes this country. When this country was first founded, Federalists and Republicans clashed over their disagreements about a strong federal government versus strong state governments, an economy based on strong mercantile industry versus an economy of individual farmers, whether this country should ally with France or whether it should side with England. Though the partisan fight grew especially bitter in the 1790s, there were also close friendships among political opposites like the famous friendship between Federalist John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson.
Right now I’m reading a wonderful book by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy called The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity about the private relationship between America’s President and the ex-Presidents. It’s a wonderful reminder that the people who hold the Presidency are human beings, and that each person who holds the office, no matter their politics, gets overwhelmed by the complexity of the office. These men have a sympathy towards all those who sat in the Oval Office, as it is an experience that few others have. So even with the political differences, they often form friendships and they try to offer advice and counsel, and support each other in tough times. Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman gave private support to Lyndon Johnson, for instance, after JFK was assassinated. Richard Nixon offered Ronald Reagan advice on how to set up his White House staff and offered Bill Clinton advice on foreign affairs.
Though I often disagree with the policies of Republican Presidents, I try not to demonize them or to attack their person. I hated much of Reagan’s economic and foreign policies, but I thought that as a person, Reagan was a kind and gracious man who was able to form friendships with both Democrats and Republicans. I was against Bush’s invasion of Iraq and didn’t like his tax cuts and deregulation of financial institutions, but think he is a sincere and devout Christian who should be commended for overcoming alcoholism and trying to put some compassion to conservative politics. And I do give credit to Republican Presidents for their accomplishments. I think the two biggest accomplishments of Reagan were the START treat that reduced the number of nuclear weapons for the first time, and that Reagan got this country to feel good about itself again after the malaise of the Vietnam War, Watergate, high inflation, and the Iran hostage crisis. I thought the first Bush was courageous in raising taxes after promising not to, for signing the American With Disabilities Act, for cutting back on the military spending and closing military bases after the fall of communism in the early 1990s. I think the younger Bush should be commended for collaborating with Ted Kennedy on the prescription drug law and on education reform, his efforts to fight AIDs in Africa, his efforts to fight the stigmatization of Muslims after 9/11, and his efforts to collaborate with Ted Kennedy and John McCain on immigration reform.
Democrats, Republicans. Liberals, conservatives. Liberatarians, democratic socialists. We’re all Americans. Though we strongly disagree, we all have the best interests of our country. As a liberal Democrat, I will speak out and fight for the things that I believe in, which means I will frequently clash with fellow Americans who hold a more conservative Republican viewpoint. But as someone who deeply believes in the First Amendment and the freedom of speech, I will also defend the right of conservative Republicans to express their point of views and lobby for their causes. As I hope they will defend my freedom of speech. These freedoms were first expressed in the Declaration of Independence and were expanded by the great reformers and activists to include all Americans. This democratic spirit is the great legacy that all Americans cherish. This is what we celebrate this 4th of July.
A youtube video of the Fourth of July 2012 in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
At President-elect Barack Obama’s request in 2009, he met with President Bush as well as former presidents Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton
Former Presidents and political rivals Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter visit with Tim Russert at the LBJ Library
President Bill Clinton discusses his strong friendship with President George H. W. Bush, founder of Points of Light, and how President Bush asked him to preserve the Points of Light program
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush for the unveiling of their official portraits. May 31, 2012
Former First Lady Barbara Bush talks about her and President Bush’s relationship with former President Bill Clinton
Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter and their wives all attended the opening of the newest presidential library in 2013
President Bill Clinton spoke at the Dedication of the George W. Bush Library in 2013
Children of former Presidents shared their views of life in the White House. Jean Becker, Chief of Staff for former President George H. W. Bush and former Deputy Press Secretary to First Lady Barbara Bush, speaks to Barbara Bush, Jenna Bush, Steve Ford and Lynda Johnson Robb