Do not put them on a pedestal

Presidents Day allows flawed politicians to be idolized

Perris Larson, Staff Writer

Illustration by Micky Flores-Nieves

When people read through history books, they see descriptions of notable figures in U.S. History that changed the country for the better. The United States celebrates Presidents Day on Feb. 15 to honor our past presidents for the good and just decisions they make during their term.

But this is not the case.

Many past presidents have become idolized because of the decisions they made during their terms. Past presidents and Founding Fathers are considered great heroes even though many owned slaves, but fought for independence and equality. They accomplished great things in their lifetime, but they were flawed nonetheless.

But in most cases, people focus on the good and ignore the bad. Americans forget that presidents are human beings; they are far from perfect. They look at the law, and not the reason the law was passed. There is always more to the story.

Take Abraham Lincoln for example; the man who freed the slaves, the Great Emancipator, Honest Abe. Admired greatly for his part in signing the Emancipation Proclamation. During the Civil War, people have erected memorials for him, fueling the belief that he was one of the best US presidents.

Being labeled as one of the best US presidents, it’s no surprise that many American citizens, current and previous presidents have held him in great admiration. “I do not have to tell you that my great hero is Abraham Lincoln,” said Theodore Roosevelt in a letter to his friend William Sewall in 1906.

Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which states that “all persons held as slaves” in rebellious states, “are, and henceforth will be free.” The Proclamation allowed slaves to fight in the Union Army and was just the beginning of what would lead to the abolition of slavery by the 13th Amendment. He signed the proclamation and fought the Civil War for one reason that governing officials today still use: politics.

Ending slavery wasn’t Lincoln’s goal at the beginning of the presidency, even though it became the biggest cause for the Civil War. “Just before taking the presidential oath, Lincoln reminded his ‘dissatisfied fellow-countrymen’ of the South, that he refused ‘to interfere with…slavery’ where it already existed and that they alone bore the onus of commencing civil war.”

Lincoln is not a hero, heroes have good intentions behind their actions, he didn’t. Lincoln didn’t see black people as equals, he saw them as pawns he could use to lead the Union to victory. But by being president during the Civil War, and by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, he became a hero and idol for many.

He didn’t believe black people should have the same rights as white people. In 1858, in a debate for the U.S Senate, Lincoln made his thoughts on equality clear. “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and Black races,” he said.

But America may continue with the issue of idolizing presidents. People look at politicians’ actions at face value, the meaning behind the actions matters too. When President Biden got elected, people celebrated in the streets. For many, his victory meant the end of an egotistical presidency. While celebrating the end of a toxic presidency is understandable, people should not see the next president as a hero who saved a nation.

After four years of the Trump administration, Biden was the better option. He promises to unite the country and return it to normal, which is great, but he is not a savior.

Biden isn’t the one saving the country, he got elected to do a job. If it weren’t for the people that voted for him he wouldn’t be president. The people play just as much of a role as presidents do in directing. In the 2020 election, voters were the heroes, not Biden.

He doesn’t deserve to be idolized and put on a pedestal; not like Lincoln was. Lincoln was president at one of the most pivotal points in our history, that doesn’t mean he was always on the side of good. People can make good decisions for selfish and political purposes. Biden may make good decisions during his term, he may not; he’s human. We can admire a president, but we must not idolize them for the decisions they make or the situations they fix; because in some cases, their reasoning might not always be so righteous.

Perris is a freshman studying journalism