Presidents Day, 2017

Simple patriotism was not the motivation behind early planning for Mount Rushmore. An original objective was to boost South Dakota’s economy. Promoters wanted to create something magnificent to draw tourists, as though the Black Hills needed improvement. So before settling on the presidential visages we know today, suggestions included Buffalo Bill and Chief Red Cloud. But sculptor Gutzon Borglum wanted presidents. He is said to have selected four who had preserved the Republic and expanded its territory. But partisanship also seems to have had a say: then President Coolidge expressed his desire that, besides Washington, the other three should include two Republicans and one Democrat.

Saving the Union, expanding our borders and party affiliation – quite a mixed bag to express what we value in presidents. Today’s preoccupation with our expectations of presidents seems to be about very different considerations, although always-present partisanship influences every argument, and we might even fear that preservation of the union is at stake. But Presidents Day is an occasion to think about those expectations not by easily itemizing what we may not like, but by naming qualities we do want to see in presidents or even in government generally. Reading the Earth Charter with those kinds of questions in mind, we find ample helpful language about transparency, citizen access, respecting differences, ensuring opportunity for everyone.

All good. But a discussion of our expectations of government also calls for essentially personal, introspective deliberation, asking what expectations we have of ourselves as members of a democracy. That is, what strengths and habits do I possess, or which do I need to live genuinely in society? Does being an American born to relative privilege and power interfere with my ability to see others’ circumstances? Am I complacent or in denial about injustices? Do I understand the history that gave rise to those disparities, and do I see my role in change? Am I willing and sufficiently informed to speak for sharing power with those without? Our Jeffersonian belief is that the very foundation of democratic society is to share knowledge and responsibility for each other.

Thanks for reading Monday Memos,


Upcoming opportunities for action:

Our youth-led Climate Recovery Resolution for Indianapolis successfully passed out of committee last week, a victory for our Indy youth and for the climate. On Monday, Feb. 27, the full City-County Council will vote on the Resolution; meeting is at the City County Building, 200 E. Washington, downtown Indy, starting at 7 p.m. More information here.

Last year our youth were recognized at Earth Charter Indiana Night at the Indiana Pacers. Our youth took over Pacers Square before the game and shared presentations on sustainability and climate action. If you would like to join us for this year's ECI Night at the Pacers, go here for more details and to purchase tickets. And/or, if you like you can make a donation to us on behalf of us sending even more kids to this game vs. the Utah Jazz.

Earth Charter