Presidents come and go. They make their mark. For sure, not all had perfect personal lives. Take, for example, Grover Cleveland. He legally paid an immigrant $300 to take his place in the Civil War (legal for the sole supporter of a family at that time). He had a child out of wedlock when he was a bachelor. While in the White House, he married a woman who was 27 years younger. (The press thought he would propose to her widowed mother, but Cleveland wondered aloud why the press wanted him to marry an older woman!). He had quite a record as a veto politician, especially when it came to spending federal money. The guy was frugal. Yet, he was the only president to be elected to 2 non-consecutive terms.
Recognizing that presidents have inconsistencies and imperfections, let’s lay that all aside and look at Cleveland’s respect for the American people and the Constitution. In his first inaugural address, Cleveland claims that he’s not the only one taking an oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He believed that oath was one that We the People should take as well. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
“…But he (Cleveland) who takes the oath (of office) today to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States only assumes the solemn obligation which every patriotic citizen–on the farm, in the workshop, in the busy marts of trade, and everywhere–should share with him (Cleveland).
The Constitution which prescribes his oath, my countryman, is yours;
The Government you have chosen him to administer for a time is yours;
The suffrage which executes the will of freemen is yours;
The laws and the entire scheme of our civil rule from the town meeting to the site capitals and the national capital, is yours;
Your every voter, as surely as your Chief Magistrate (the president), under the same high sanction, though in a different sphere, exercises a public trust.”
Cleveland goes on to say that American citizens owe it to their country to be vigilant in assessing a president and all officeholders for their “fidelity and usefulness.” In other words, we are to determine how well the Constitution is being upheld and how faithful to our republic these candidates will be.
He delivered his inaugural address without a script.
Presidents come and go. They make their mark. They are imperfect people. It’s up to us to elect people who will be faithful to the Constitution and the Republic because these belong to us.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??