COMMENTARY: Recalling presidents past

Last month I heard the president of the United States speak at a Make Attorneys Get Attorneys rally. It was frightening and disgusting. But most of all it was sad and disheartening.

At a Florida rally in May, President Trump said the following to a group of his followers: “The government is unable to violently attack immigrants.” Someone in the crowd shouted, “Shoot them!”

To so openly and brazenly utter such contemptible words and such sickening thoughts at a political rally (or anywhere) shows the acceptance of depravity that is the central part of his message. More frightening was the willingness of his followers to blindly and so enthusiastically accept the unacceptable.

At another rally, Trump accused Joe Biden of only being viewed favorably because Biden “understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” and his followers cheered loudly, as some children in the audience looked on approvingly and lovingly at their parents and at Trump.

And quite frankly, I don’t know whom to be more terrified of — Trump or his mindless followers. Both epitomize the worst of us and the vilest of our humanity.

I remember, like I’m sure many of you do, the eloquence of what used to be. I remember the presidency as the pinnacle of the greatness that defined us as a nation and as Americans. I remember being inspired, aroused and even awed by the words of presidents past. They represented all that I could be, and how I should be, as an American. And the world saw America and each one of us, with envy and with glee.

It was the eloquence of what used to be that made America great. Words like, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” or “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”

Other moving and challenging words uttered from the office of the presidency include, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Those words were uttered by Abraham Lincoln when character and values meant something.

He also said, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” But more apropos for our situation today, he once said, “You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry.”

Great leaders say great things that can change and uplift a nation and its people. John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Andrew Jackson uttered these words: “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.” And Franklin Pierce said, “While men inhabiting different parts of this vast continent cannot be expected to hold the same opinions, they can unite in a common objective and sustain common principles.”

Today, we hear only vulgarity and crudeness from our president, as he utters such memorable phrases as “And you can tell them to go f*** themselves”; “‘Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that”; and on how to treat women, our president suggested to a reporter that he believed “you have to treat them like s***.” How much more inspirational or motivating could a president be? And these were some of the tamer utterances coming out of his mouth.

I remember the eloquence of what used to be. Those were the days of our greatness and of our prominence. The days when we looked forward to hearing our president speak and inspire us and uplift us. And when our president spoke we listened, and the world listened with us.

Today, our president makes us cringe at the thought of what might be coming out of his mouth next or what might be coming on his Twitter account. He seldom if ever elevates us or our nation, but always himself. And yet, he has his hangers-on and disciples who for some strange reason accept the derision and contempt that defiles the dignity and distinction of the office of the president and the character of our nation.

I miss the eloquence of what used to be.

Al Garcia lives in Palm Valley.