In 1967, Paul Simon was asked to write songs for the movie “The Graduation”.
One song he strummed around on an acoustic guitar was the line, “Miss Roosevelt’s here for you.” It was about Eleanor Roosevelt.
The song, of course, “Mrs. Robinson” to fit the soundtrack for the upcoming movie. But in memory of the original version, today I begin with Eleanor’s uncle, Teddy Roosevelt.
Teddy Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. At 42, he is the youngest ever to assume the presidency.
But Roosevelt was already a celebrity when he became president. He was a famous writer, reformer, soldier, outdoorsman, conservative and even a politician.
He served as a New York State legislator, New York City Police Commissioner, New York Governor, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Vice President.
No, folks, celebrity politicians are nothing new. Nor is a politician who, like Teddy Roosevelt, commands attention.
“My father always wanted to be the dead man at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every birth,” said his daughter Alice.
But still, Teddy Roosevelt was a man who got things done. Fame was important to him. But the gains were significant.
Teddy said, “In every moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
But what if you don’t know what to do? Politicians are facing serious problems. Teddy said, “When you’re asked if you can do something, say, ‘Of course I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.
I have written about the need for IRS funding. Not to become a demonic intervention in our lives. Only to recover the manpower lost through willful neglect.
Will Teddy approve of the strong IRS? Well, first, Teddy said “We are the government. We are the government, you and me.”
Teddy also said, “No man is above the law, and no man is under it: neither do we ask permission from any man when we obey him.”
Teddy reminds me that a popular politician might be okay if he is also a figure of action. Today we have politicians who want to hold office just to enhance their reputation.
You and I are facing many problems as a government. What will be done to solve these problems in the next two years? The next four years?
Budget deficit? Meeting the needs of an aging population’s social safety net? The worst thing you can do is nothing.
People ask if you can do a job. Just tell them how bad you think the other guy acted. We are the government. Why don’t we accept these celebrities?
Oglethorpe University is a small liberal arts institution in Atlanta. It has no football team. It was the site of a famous speech given by Teddy Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, President Franklin Roosevelt.
Franklin said, “It’s common sense to take one method and try it. If it fails, admit it openly and try another. But above all, try something.
This must have been a feature of Roosevelt. Do something, even if it doesn’t work. The worst thing to do is to do nothing.
Done with a hard, action-packed day at work? Sit back in your favorite chair, turn on the TV and listen to a famous politician tell you how the other side hates you and the country and needs to be investigated.
Innovative organizations (businesses, not-for-profits, youth sports organizations, etc.) solve problems with diverse people working together to try something. If that fails, try something else.
You know how you see things done in institutions, including your family, that you participate in.
Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. Perhaps said by a friend of Mark Twain, and it describes our political fate.
We prefer non-Roosevelts. Coo, coo ca-choo, Mrs. Roosevelt. Laugh about it, scream about it when you choose, any way you look at it you lose it.
James R. Hamill is a director of the tax practice at Reynolds, Hicks & Co. in Albuquerque. He can be reached at [email protected]