‘The Times They Are A-Changin’

Bob Dylan released his third studio album in January 1964 just prior to The Beatles landing in New York for their American debut in February on The Ed Sullivan Show, ushering in the musical “British Invasion” era.  The album’s title was the featured seminal anthem, The Times They Are A-ChanginThe song was unusually appropriate when it was released, and can easily be applied before or after that specific time period.

Focusing on a few Democratic presidents of the United States, we can build a pretty strong argument for changing times and the country’s acceptance of change and moral well being.  Starting with the 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in the most difficult of times.  The 1929 stock market crash threw the country into The Great Depression, whereas FDR blamed the cause of such great and widespread pain and suffering on bankers, the money men of Wall Street, and their unrelenting pursuit of greater and greater profits.  Sound familiar?

To help bolster confidence, FDR made a bold statement, among others, during his first inaugural speech in March 1934: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That declaration has endured as a great leadership posture, helping set the foundation for one of our greatest presidents.

Following an unprecedented four victorious elections, FDR passed away in April 1945, transferring the reins of power to a relatively unknown Vice President from Missouri, Harry S. Truman.  As the 33rd President, Truman was a no nonsense man who took accountability seriously.  So seriously that on his desk in the Oval Office sat another bold proclamation: The Buck Stops Here. Strong and focused, Truman made many difficult and bold decisions, none more so than the decision to drop not one, but two atomic bombs on Japan in a successful attempt to bring the Second World War to an end.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a veteran of that war, took office in January 1961 as our 35th president. Kennedy, bright and youthful by comparison to the previous White House occupant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said that the torch had been passed to a new generation.  Challenging the country in his inauguration speech, JFK said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In concert with his predecessors, Kennedy came out strong and fearless, upholding the tradition visionary phrases from the recent past.

Then came the 60’s with Dylan, The Beatles, et. al, Viet Nam, Nixon, the Ford pardon, and then as Monty Python would say, “And now for something completely different.” A Southern peanut farmer was elected as our 39th President in 1976: Jimmy Carter of Plains, GA. This was a definitive changing of the guard. Despite rumors of multiple presidential sexual dalliances within the Kennedy White House, Carter was the first president to actually mention anything at all regarding sex. He said, I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This was revolutionary way back then. But that is no longer so.

The next Democratic live-in at the White House not only lusted in his heart, and not only did he leave a trail of lust in his home state of Arkansas, but he lusted to new levels within the Oval Office itself. Bill Clinton, the 42nd President, was proven, thanks to a stain on a little blue dress, to have had his schwanstucker cleaned by an intern inside his office. An intern! For those of you playing at home, why don’t you try to have sex with an intern at the office and see how your career and life unfolds. Nevertheless, Mr. Clinton, attempting to play legal word games with the nation, claimed, I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” But he did, so he lied. He wasn’t given the nickname Slick Willie for nothing.

Which brings us to one of the other statements he made when asked about Cannabis Sativa.  Clinton said on camera: “I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. And didn’t inhale. And never tried it again.” Hello! How do you know if you don’t like it if you didn’t inhale?  Under moral guidance in honesty, see the above paragraph on truth.

Which segues very nicely to our current president, number 44, Barack Obama.  As all candidates during the 2008 presidential primaries were asked about prior marijuana use, the eventual winner was forthright when he said, “I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” Hello again! With that statement, we appear to have come full circle in leadership. FDR, Truman, and JFK made bold statements in leadership, personal accountability, and commitment. After a few turns here and there, we’ve returned to a strong, truthful statement. Albeit, those previous POTUS occupants never discussed their Wildwood Weed habits, but it is refreshing to hear someone essentially say, yeah I did it, so what, move on.


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