Donald Trump — his legacy
In 1939, the presidential library system of the United States was inaugurated when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt donated all his personal and presidential papers to the federal government. These documents now form part of the FDR library, the first of its kind, located at Hyde Park, New York. Since then, several American presidents have established their own libraries and museums to house the papers, photographs, recordings, and other memorabilia associated with their years in office. The Harry Truman Library and Museum can be found in Independence, Missouri, Dwight Eisenhower’s in Abilene, Kansas, and Jimmy Carter’s in Atlanta, Georgia, just to name a few.
In 2004, the Clinton Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, was inaugurated with the man Clinton defeated for the presidency, former president George H.W. Bush in attendance. A year later, President George W. Bush, formally dedicated the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, part of the Lincoln Library Complex, in Springfield, Illinois, the State capital. In his remarks, President Bush declared that “the mission of this library is essential to our country because to understand the life and the sacrifice of Abraham Lincoln is to understand the meaning and promise of America.”
During my trips to the United States, whenever possible I took the opportunity to visit some of the more readily accessible presidential libraries/museums in the country. My wife and I spent time at The Richard Nixon Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, California; The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia; and The Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. They were all very fruitful and educational trips, providing us with a better understanding and appreciation of some of the men who led this nation during times of conflict and controversy.
On one occasion together with our daughter Carmela, we traveled to Springfield, Illinois, some three and a half hours from Chicago by Amtrak. Like many state capitals, Springfield is not a very large city; neither is it a busy commercial center. It is best known as the home of the 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln, considered by many historians as one of the greatest American chief executives. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum brings together the largest collection of documentary material on the life of the Great Emancipator. What makes the museum different from others are its hi-tech exhibits, holographic and special effects theater, and a reproduction of the White House as it looked in 1861. Here one can view the original handwritten copy of his famous Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. (I recall that in grade school, we were required to memorize this three-minute speech, actually only 10 sentences, as part of the classwork on US history. Today I wonder if our schoolchildren are called upon to learn by heart some of the more memorable lines from the speeches of our political leaders. Perhaps, Manuel L. Quezon’s “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins,” would be a good starting point.)
As president, Lincoln was subjected to some of the most vicious and personal attacks by his opponents, particularly in the media. Nothing in Philippine political mudslinging comes close to the kind of abuse that was heaped upon him. He was called all sorts of names: a baboon, a provincial hick, a beast, the Illinois ape. But he refused to react to the journalistic vilification and considered it as part of the job.
On a wall in the Lincoln Museum are the words of President Franklin Roosevelt: “To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of the men and women in the future, a nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people to learn from the past so that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”
Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, prepares to leave office after just one term, still refusing to concede, claiming all kinds of electoral fraud with no evidence to back up the rhetoric. Instead of “Making America Great Again,” he leaves behind a bitterly divided nation wracked by chaos and anarchy bordering on sedition that was, to a large extent, of his own doing. While thousands of Americans were dying on a daily basis from the COVID-19 pandemic, he was totally focused on trying to overturn the results of an election that he lost by more than seven million in the popular vote count. A Trump presidential museum seems unlikely in the years ahead.
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