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By Lew Avera
As the spectacle of the current presidential election has evolved, it has made me think of the many elections and presidents during my lifetime. The question that continually comes to mind today is, “Where have all the leaders gone?” It comes to mind because I know that presidents can make decisions that directly affect us as individuals.
The earliest president I remember is Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) from days prior to World War II and then into the war. He died in office prior to the end of the war with Vice President Harry Truman assuming the presidency. Truman subsequently ordered nuclear bombs be dropped on Japan, effectively ending the war.
I recall exactly where I was in a small store in my hometown when I heard of FDR’s death. Truman finished this term and then served an elected term until he was succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.
As indicated above, presidents often make decisions that impact our lives. Such was the case with Eisenhower. I was in college ROTC in 1952 with the goal of becoming a career non-pilot, ground officer in the Air Force. With the military bloated in size from WWII, Eisenhower made a policy that required any new officers into the Air Force be qualified and become pilots. I was aeronautically colorblind and could not pass the flight physical. Thus, my transfer to Army ROTC and eventually a direct commission into the U.S. Marine Corps led to my wonderful 20 years in the Marines. Looking back, this presidential decision was one of the most meaningful points of my life.
From Eisenhower on, we have been rewarded with true leaders, regardless of their political affiliation, notwithstanding some mistakes on their parts while in office, i.e. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, both Bushes and Obama. Again, remembering the famous song by Peter, Paul and Mary, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” I wonder, “Where have all the leaders gone?”
Remembering those earliest elections, media coverage consisted only of radio, magazines and newspapers. There were no live visuals such as television or the internet. Probably the highest impact change factors on our election process have been advancements in technology—the electronic media in all of its dimensions. This also embraces “transportation.” In the older days, there were no jet aircraft to transport candidates quickly to so many locations. Candidates had special “election trains” and buses that traveled along major arteries to a limited number of major cities for limited physical exposure to people.
If one factor can be singled out, “Technology has reinvented our entire presidential election process.” It’s fortunate that our younger generations, who will be around 35 years from now in 2050, will have grown up in this world. They will not only have to live with the changes in the election process, but more so with the impact that such a new way of governing will bring.
One final dynamic, as a matter of record, elected presidential political parties tend to change after an eight-year term of the other party. While this is not exact and precise, if you trace back presidents to the 1930s, there is a rotation back and forth in fairly symmetrical patterns. If this was precise, this would be a Republican year.
Again, where have all the leaders gone?
Lew Avera is a retired career officer, Lt. Col., U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a director of the Talega HOA since 2003 and served on the San Clemente Planning Commission from 2005 to 2013.