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My Political Heroes, Part I

Historical Figures

  • George Washington – Commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington returned to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon, prompting an incredulous King George III to state, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Despite many attempts to get him to become king, most notably by his friend Alexander Hamilton, he resisted and set an important precedence in US history. Six years later the Constitution was drafted and ratified, and he became our first US president. Washington’s farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.  Sadly much all of these ideals have fallen by the wayside in modern day politics.  The president’s power has ever increased and now rivals those of modern day kings, we are trapped in a system of bi-partisan politics, and we police the world instead of minding our own business.
  • Patrick Henry – A prominent figure in the American Revolution, known and remembered for his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential (and radical) advocates of the American Revolution. He was a strong opponent against a strong federal government and was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution.
  • Thomas Jefferson – Third president of the US, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of republicanism in the United States. He idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of republican virtues, opposed a central bank, distrusted cities and financiers, favored states’ rights, separation of church and state, and a strictly limited federal government. A polymath, Jefferson achieved distinction as, among other things, a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
  • Andrew Jackson – Seventh President of the United States and military governor of Florida.  Renowned for his toughness in combat, Jackson was nicknamed “Old Hickory.” He was strongly opposed the central bank and vowed to shut it down when he became president.  After a titanic struggle, Jackson succeeded in destroying the Second Bank of the United States by vetoing its 1832 re-charter by Congress and by withdrawing U.S. funds. Another key achievement was that Jackson is the only president in United States history to have paid off the national debt. Although Jackson had many great political and economic achievements, his historical image is marred by his American Indian policies, such as his Indian Removal Act, which later resulted in the “Trail of Tears.”
  • Robert Taft – Republican United States Senator that was such a prominent conservative spokesman that he was nicknamed “Mr. Republican.” Throughout his early career in senate, Taft  was a leading opponent of the New Deal and fought to curb the legal privileges of labor unions.  Taft was also a major proponent of the foreign policy of non-interventionism, arguing against the new United Nations Charter citing that it undermined US sovereignty and sacrificed “law and justice” to “force and expediency.”  He also opposed NATO as unnecessary and provocative. As a true conservative non-interventionist, he stated that the danger to the US in the 40’s was not Communism, but big government and runaway spending.  In 1957, a Senate committee chaired by John F. Kennedy named Taft as one of the five greatest senators in American history.
  • John F Kennedy – 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.  Narrowly avoided nuclear conflict with Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis. On June 4, 1963, John F Kennedy signed Executive Order No. 11110. This gave the U.S. Treasury the power “to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury.” This meant that for every ounce of silver in the U.S. Treasury’s vault, the government could introduce new money into circulation. This gave the U.S. government back its power to issue currency, while stripping the Federal Reserve’s power to loan money to the government at interest.
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