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Country Squire in the White House

October 19, 2006

Country Squire in the White House, by John T. Flynn, full text in PDF

The office of the president is the most powerful on earth. No sooner is a man made president than he is at once caught up in a glamorous cloud of popular esteem. The people generally pay homage to the great office. But men do not distinguish very nicely between the office and the man. And so the man himself becomes the beneficiary of the esteem that originates in the office he holds.

He moves about amid scenes of power. Senates, courts, diplomats rise at his approach. Multitudes gather to see the human being who wields such power. Everything he does, even his slightest whisper, is reported. If he speaks publicly, every radio station carries his words to every home.... If the President goes in his motorcar from one place to another, crowds gather in the streets, scores of roaring motorcycles precede and follow him, and a scene of great power and majesty is created. Now all this may very well do the President a very great injustice and often a great disservice. It is inevitable that people get the impression after a year or two of this that the man who is president is a figure of heroic mold—a greater orator, a greater student and thinker, wiser statesman, more resourceful leader than other public men. They therefore expect him to do only wise and resourceful things.

Having made a hero of him, they insist on his performing like one. They are prone to measure what he says and does, after a while, alongside this enormously exaggerated pattern of a leader. It is hardly fair to him. As a rule he is just a human being, usually honest, patriotic, intelligent and eager to do what he thinks is right and frequently as completely bewildered as any other public man.

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