Lesser known farewell addresses have imparted advice which only recently have revealed their worth.
It has been an American tradition for departing presidents to give farewell addresses to the nation and offer guidance for the country’s future. George Washington famously warned against foreign entanglements and Dwight Eisenhower urged Americans to beware of the military-industrial complex. Sadly, such advice has seldom been followed.
Apparently some lesser known presidents also provided useful advice in their valedictories, advice which only recently has shown its worth:
“It has been a rough eight years what with the death of my predecessor Warren G. Harding and the fallout from the Teapot Dome Scandal. My only advice to the American people would be if you see a presidential hopeful with a corrupt and checkered history, give him a pass.”
Rutherford B. Hayes
“I leave the office of the President reluctantly but with great hopes for our country’s hirsute future with one caveat: beware anyone seeking the White House whose hair and skin is an unnatural color or who insists on intricately weaving his hair to cover a giant bald spot.”
“Ouch! Was that a bullet? Anyway, before I expire, just let me warn you against anyone who claims he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and still get elected.”
“Take it from me; it’s not easy to prevent a civil war. That’s why I strongly urge you to avoid populist leaders who would divide the country in the pursuit of their own selfish personal interests.”
William H. Taft
“I leave the White House in shame, having presided over the 16th Amendment empowering Congress to levy income taxes. The only good that might come from this is to force future presidential candidates to release their income tax returns.”
“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: speak softly and carry a big stick. That is how one uses the office of the Presidency as what I call a bully pulpit. To that end, when looking for a president, avoid pretenders who are profane boisterous loudmouths and nothing more than real bullies.”
Harry S. Truman
“I’m really sorry about the atomic bombs. At the time, I didn’t think I had much of a choice. Anyway, when it comes to departing advice, all I can say is: beware of this newfangled invention called television. We’ve already seen how the movies can create popular stars. I’m afraid television might be even worse by bringing undeserved fame to hosts of television shows like Death Valley Days or maybe some future reality offering. It would be disastrous to allow such folks to control the levers of national power.”
“I was indeed proud to see in my final year the ascension of my son John Quincy to the Presidency. I assure you that he succeeded on his own merit as a diplomat, senator and Secretary of State and not because of his family connections. Thus, I would urge you to reject any presidential candidate committed to surrounding himself with unqualified family members be they sons, daughters or even sons-in-law.”
George H. W. Bush
“I can’t say that I was proud when my son George W. took office but nevertheless I heartily adopt and endorse John Adams’s warning against nepotism. After all, if I was going to favor any of my children, it would have been Jeb.”