Respecting The Presidency And What It Represents (Robert Coon On Politics)

by Robert Coon  on Wednesday, May. 14, 2014 11:30 am  

Robert Coon

You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything. And you have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes.”

There are certain commitments only a president can make. President Bill Clinton made this vow at the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial event in the days following the terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured nearly 700 others.

Six years later, on Sept. 14, 2001, President George W. Bush stood with first responders in the ashes and rubble of the Twin Towers and famously declared, “I want you all to know that America today, America today, is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn.  This nation stands with the good people of New York City, and New Jersey, and Connecticut, as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.”

The tragic events in Oklahoma City and New York were times of sadness, despair, anger, frustration, and mourning. But they were also moments that called for unity – for all Americans to come together, to help each other, to clean up and to rebuild.

It didn’t matter that Clinton was battling some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency at that time, or that he’d lost the state of Oklahoma in the 1992 presidential race with only 34.02 percent of the vote.  Nor did it matter that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lost the state of New York by 25 points less than a year earlier.  

In these moments, these presidents were delivering the condolences of a nation, and giving the nation’s commitment to these communities that we would be there for them, helping them respond and recover.  

The Presidency Represents Us

President Obama’s visit to the tornado-ravaged communities in central Arkansas should be viewed no differently. His visit was not about his policies, his politics or his personal beliefs. He came to Arkansas to give the nation’s assurances to the people of Pulaski, Faulkner and White counties who suffered greatly that our nation is thinking about them, praying for them, and that we’re ready to come give them a hand.

The president is the preeminent symbol of our nation. His comfort is our comfort. His shoulder to cry on is our shoulder to cry on. His promise to help is our promise to help. 

For many of us the world of politics is inspiring, engaging and sometimes all consuming. And in some respects it should be, as the choices we make at the ballot box shape the direction our country is headed. 

But there are also times when we must put politics on pause and remember who it is that the president ultimately represents, and that’s each of us.

(Robert Coon is a partner at Impact Management Group, a public relations, public opinion and public affairs firm in Little Rock and Baton Rouge, La. You can follow him on Twitter at RobertWCoon. His column appears every other Wednesday in the weekly Government & Politics e-newsletter. You can subscribe for free here.)



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