Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Greatest American

Jack Kelly over at Irish Pennants reports on who the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" program named as the top American of our history. Now, watch carefully:

::::::::The Discovery Channel has been conducting a poll on who is the greatest American. The winner has been announced. It's Ronald Reagan.::::::::

Jack's a fairly conservative-friendly guy and I'm a card-carrying Republican. What do you think we think of Reagan's being announced as the Greatest American?

::::::::I'm appalled. Not because I don't think highly of Reagan, for whom I had the honor and pleasure of working, but because Reagan -- great as he was -- is not a greater president than Abraham Lincoln (#2) or George Washington (#4), or Franklin Roosevelt (#10).::::::::

You said it, Jack. Come on, people. Ronald Reagan was a great man and guided this nation through the end of the Cold War. His policies and directives during his presidency set up and executed the end game that saw the Soviet Union - as powerful as she was - destroyed and scattered. He deserves credit, make no mistake. But the "greatest?" Only if your knowledge of history is pathetically lacking and your scope of interest sadly narrow. Jack has his picks for the title. Here's mine.

My pick would have been Benjamin Franklin. Statesman, author, patriot, inventor - Franklin wore so many hats his desk would have looked like a haberdashery. He was engaged in the very formation of this experiment in governance, the United States. He literally put everything on the line to do that which was right and to create a nation where men could live free. If that sounds corny to you, then you've come to the wrong blog. Franklin's accomplishments were many, inventing bifocals and charting the Gulf Stream, serving as our first Postmaster General and as ambassador to France. He and Alexander Hamilton are the only non-Presidents whose portraits are featured on our paper currency in production circulation today. (The only other non-President featured on our paper money was Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time when the federal government first began printing money in 1862. He's on the $10,000 bill which, obviously, isn't in circulation.) Franklin was intelligent, wise, insightful and deeply convinced of democracy's promise. No offense to Ronald Reagan is met, but he's not in Franklin's class.

I note that Franklin came in at number 5. Like Jack, I can't really understand some of the other choices. Oprah Winfrey at #8? Ahead of Neil Armstrong and Thomas Edison? Our public education system needs a real reset in terms of history.