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    • Teachers Ian Guthrie and Richard Thornburgh kick off their campaign in custom T-shirts.

Hopkins Community Reflects on the Legacy of Presidents

Lily Meyers ’20, Assistant Features Editor and Emmet Dowd ’21
In honor of President’s Day, students and teachers share their views on the complex legacy of presidents.
Many agree that when determining how a president should be remembered, context is crucial. History teacher Zoe Resch said, “As an historian, I believe that we cannot ignore context in evaluating why events occurred and why people acted as they did, but neither should context be used to erase the actions that we see as wrong today, such as slavery, Indian removal, and the treatment of victims of deadly diseases.”

Simon Bazelon ’21 suggests that one way to account for the context of a presidency is to consider where a president’s beliefs fell in relation to his contemporaries. He explained that, “Abraham Lincoln had some views that would now be considered racist. But at the same time, Lincoln’s views were more progressive than most politicians of the 1860s, and he deserves credit for that.”

Lilly Delise ’20 warns that people can lose sight of the complexities of a president by viewing them in a polar lens, “There are good presidents who have made morally wrong decisions, but are remembered as heroes due to one or two actions that shaped the country. For example, Thomas Jeferson is known for the Declaration of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase but infamously owned slaves. In other cases, like Lyndon Johnson, a president is only known for his bad actions, but he had the most productive presidency in US history in terms of passing legislation, passing core pieces like Education Funding, Food Stamps, Expansions to Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act. All his hard work was forgotten because of the Vietnam War.”

History teacher Ian Guthrie agrees that presidents should not be simplifed. He explained that, “any figure, contemporary or historical, should be remembered as the complex, multidimensional fgures that they are and were. We do a disservice to the memory of individuals and to our collective capacity for critical thinking when we attempt to reduce any individual to any singular event, personality trait, deed, political position, campaign promise, personal failing, or public glory. Human beings are complex and multifaceted, and we would do well to learn to how to collectively hold complex thoughts and feelings about them.”

There are times when presidents can be glorifed without simplifying their presidencies. Delise believes that, “For the sake of the unification of our nation, I believe that the earlier presidents can be glorifed.”

However, relying on emotions to define a presidency can wash out the complexities of their term. Sana Patel ’19 thinks that the way society usually remembers presidents is different from how they should be remembered: “I think a president should be remembered by how they actually impacted the country as a whole, but I don’t think that is the case. When you live through presidents you see how they interact with the community and that creates emotions within you, either positive or negative, and we typically remember instances of a president being charismatic or kind, or horrifc and socially harmful.”

Guthrie suggests that when determining how a president should be remembered, “we should first try to sort out our own feelings about our collective national history. I think we should engage in dialogue with those in our communities, and we should endeavor to be comfortable with different opinions. We should never submit to group think.”
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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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 an open forum publication, is published monthly during the school year by students of: 
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