In 1967, Paul Simon was asked to write songs for the film “The Graduate.”
The song he played with him on the shrill guitar had the line, “Here’s to you, Mrs. Roosevelt.” It belonged to Eleanor Roosevelt.
The song, of course, became “Mrs. Robinson” to fit the soundtrack of the upcoming movie. But in memory of the original version, today I start with Eleanor’s uncle, Teddy Roosevelt.
Teddy Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. At the age of 42, he is the youngest person to ever assume the presidency.
But Roosevelt was already famous when he became president. He was a famous writer, translator, soldier, foreigner, conservative and even politician.
He had served as a New York state representative, New York City police commissioner, New York governor, deputy secretary of the Navy, and vice president.
No, folks, a celebrity politician is nothing new. Or a politician who, like Teddy Roosevelt, craved attention.
His daughter Alice said, “My father always wanted to be the pallbearer at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every baptism.”
But even so, Teddy Roosevelt was a man who made things happen. A celebrity was important to him. But success was more important.
Teddy said, “In any given decision, the best thing you can do is a good thing, the next best thing is a bad thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
But what if you don’t know what to do? Politicians face difficult issues. Teddy said, “If you’re asked if you can do a job, tell them, ‘Of course I can!’ Then get busy and figure out how to do it.”
I wrote about the need for the IRS to get money. Not to be a terrible distraction in our lives. Just to recover the manpower lost from willful neglect.
Would Teddy approve of a certified IRS? Well, first, Teddy said “The government is us. We are the government, you and me.”
Teddy also said, “No one is above the law and no one is under it: and we do not ask permission from anyone if we ask him to obey it.”
Teddy reminds me that a famous politician can be good if he is a man of action. Today we seem to have politicians who want to hold office only to build their image of popularity.
You and I are faced with many issues as a government. What will be done to address these issues in the next two years? The next four years?
Budget shortfall? Meeting the social security needs of the elderly? The worst thing you can do is nothing.
People ask if you can do the job? Just tell them how bad you think the other guy did the job. We are the government. Why do we accept these famous people?
Oglethorpe University is a small liberal arts institution in Atlanta. It doesn’t have a football team. It was the site of a famous speech given by Teddy Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, also president, Franklin Roosevelt.
Franklin said, “It makes sense to take a path and try it. If it fails, admit it openly and try another one. But above all, try something else.”
That must be a characteristic of Roosevelt. Do something, even if it doesn’t work. The worst thing is to do nothing.
Ended a hard, to-do-filled day at work? Relax in your favorite chair, turn on the television and listen to a famous politician tell you how the other side hates you and the country and needs to be investigated.
Innovative organizations (business, not-for-profit, youth sports organizations, etc.) solve problems with different people working together to try something. If that fails, try something else.
You know that’s how you see things being done in organizations, including your family, that you participate in.
Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. It was probably said by a friend of Mark Twain, and it describes our current political situation.
We take the un-Roosevelts. Coo, coo ca-choo, Mrs. Roosevelt. Laugh about it, shout about it when you have to choose, every way you look at it you lose.
James R. Hamill is the director of the tax practice at Reynolds, Hix & Co. in Albuquerque. He can be reached at [email protected]