With President’s Day upon us and the “lovely” Presidential debates we are unfortunate to watch these days, I felt compelled to write about these two words. Together they represent so much to me. What does it mean to be Presidential? You look up the word and you actually don’t get much – def: presidency, or president. So, that made me really start to think about what it means to be President.president
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get political here. It’s not who I am. We are called the UNITED States of America for a reason. We are supposed to be united and our politics, at least these days, do nothing but divide us. That is the furthest from being excellent that any one of us can be. So, YES, I’ll be having nothing to do with being political here. (Sigh of relief)
I’m going to use the Presidential Seal as a backdrop here. The Presidential Seal is the official symbol of the office of the President of the United States. It includes the President’s coat of arms, an eagle on the great seal, a ring of stars and the words, Seal of the President of the United States. For me, symbolism is a fantastic way of communicating a message. So, let’s really take in the full meaning of the Presidential Seal . . .
The eagle’s right (or dexter) talon clutches an olive branch with 13 olives and 13 leaves to represent peace. The left (or sinister) talon clutches arrows which represent the need sometimes to go to war to protect the nation.
The eagle holds a ribbon bearing the words “E Pluribus Unum,” the motto of the U.S., which means “out of many, one.” The number 13 is used to represent the 13 original colonies.
A shield in front of the eagle has 13 red and white stripes, again representing the colonies, with a blue bar above, representing both the unity of colonies into one nation and Congress, which makes laws for all.
Above the eagle is a “glory Or” or halo of gold. In it are 13 white clouds, 13 white stars and many tiny stars. The 50 stars on a field of deep blue circle the eagle and represent the 50 states. The words, “Seal of the President of the United States” surround the seal on a tan field.
The origins of the seal are vague, but it is believed to have originated with the seal used by the President of the Continental Congress, a small oval with a constellation of 13 stars surrounded by clouds. It was used to seal envelopes containing correspondence sent to the Continental Congress. There is no documented history of the changes made to the seal over time, although a seal used by Andrew Jackson appears to have been similar: a small, round, red wax seal with a circle of clouds. The rest of the design is lost.
There are many interesting facts about the seal, which you can find here. But, one that I thought was interesting was this – In 1945, President Harry Truman began making important changes throughout the U.S. government, including changes to the Presidential Seal.
He ordered that the eagle be changed to face the olive branch, rather than the arrows. At the time, Truman was creating the Defense Department to replace the former War Department and Navy Department, and he wanted the seal to reflect an emphasis on the pursuit of peace.
So, what does all this mean? What does this have to do with Presidential Excellence and why should you care? The seal, the office of the President, being the President of the United State of America stands for something. Something that has tradition, honor, legacy, pride responsibility, courage, bravery and excellence all wrapped up into it.
As you may know, I grew up in a house built in 1894, The Grand Home, so I have a deep love and appreciation for history and how our ancestors pass on to us through symbols and things, a message; a way to appreciate, yet go beyond what they’ve done and created. Even the Resolute Desk, used by almost every President, has a message for each of us.
This desk was made from the timbers of the H.M.S. Resolute, a British ship abandoned by its crew in 1854 after it became stuck in the Arctic ice. An American ship found it the next year and brought it to Connecticut.
Congress spent $40,000 to rescue, repair, and completely refit the ship which was then given to the Queen of England as a token of friendship and goodwill.
After the H.M.S. Resolute was decommissioned, Queen Victoria had a desk made from its timbers. She presented the richly carved “Resolute desk” to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.
That story is Presidential Excellence in action, coming to fruition in another art form. Think about if this were in today’s time – would the same act of integrity, by returning the ship repaired and refitted, take place? Would another country respect us to the extent of returning our act of integrity, with the honorable gesture of hand carving a desk in return?
I’m not so sure on both parts. Sad to say, which brings me back to what does it mean to be President? What is Presidential Excellence to you?
I know we each have our own definition or degrees of definition for this and THAT is just one of the many reasons why we are blessed enough to live in the United States of America. Bottom line for me, it MEANS something and our future, regardless of party options, is quite scary to me. So, if my little blog can get more people to focus on what it means to really be the President and what Presidential Excellence is, then I know, little by little, it will create a “ripple” in the water of change. I choose to continue to hope . . .