The young family made quite a drive for this special summer vacation.
Unlike previous warm-weather sojourns, this trip was not to the beach, nor the mountains. Instead, the parents decided that it was high time for their kids to became better acquainted with their country or — more accurately — with its capital city.
The children, with the exuberance of youth, didn’t mind the dog days of summer, with even swampier conditions than those normally found on the banks of the Potomac. Instead, the youngsters were enraptured with the majesty of the landmarks they beheld with their own eyes.
The eldest of the three — a boy of 11 — was especially enthralled. As the family station wagon motored ever closer to the District of Columbia, his eyes scanned the horizon for a landmark that he had only seen heretofore on television screens.
Suddenly, he saw it.
Far in the distance, though the shimmering heat, was the Capitol dome.
“There it is!”
The young man could scarcely believe his eyes, and so he fixed his gaze on that sight, straining to keep it in view, even as his father negotiated the twists and turns of the wide boulevards originally envisioned by the French architect who designed the city.
The next few days proved hectic, as each family member was swept into the “Washington whirlwind.” So much to see! The White House. The Washington Monument. The memorials to Jefferson and Lincoln. The Smithsonian. And, of course, the Capitol.
Far too quickly, it seemed, the vacation ended. But the ride home was not drudgery as much as it was discussion time. Prompted by the historical nature of the sights they had seen, the parents entwined personal, familial and national history in a way that compelled their progeny to reflect upon what they had seen — and what they might become.
This subject matter struck a responsive chord in their first-born child. Maybe it was the way his mother made his personal timeline seem so promising: “You started first grade in 1964. So, you’ll graduate from high school in 1976, the year of our national bicentennial! What a special distinction! The class of ’76. … It sounds a lot like the ‘Spirit of ’76,’ doesn’t it?”
Perhaps it was the shared experience of his parents. Both of them were born in 1932, so they were third graders when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and they were just about to finish elementary school when FDR died in April 1945. Franklin Roosevelt had been in the Oval Office for almost the entirety of their lives until that point.
Nearly a quarter-century afterward, on a long drive home, with their kids in the backseat, they reflected on the reality — and the enormity — of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in their lives.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”
“Remember those Willkie buttons, ‘No third term for King Franklin?’”
“FDR had polio, but you wouldn’t know it. The newspapers never had pictures of him on crutches or in a wheelchair, but by the spring of ’45, he was in really bad health.
“Of course, there was a war on, so no one spoke publicly of his condition. That couldn’t happen now, of course. With television, people can see and judge for themselves.”
Over a half century later, most of those parental pronouncements still resonate, but the final observation about press coverage of presidential health unfortunately rings hollow.
Joe Biden loves to invoke the memory of FDR, but it’s the memory of the 46th president that prompts genuine concern.
Television cameras reveal his cognitive decline, but the major TV network anchors ignore it.
No one should wish bad things on Joe Biden, no matter the nature of policy and political disputes, but there’s no disputing this observation.
Kamala Harris is no Harry Truman.
J.D. Hayworth worked as a sportscaster at Channel 10 Phoenix from 1987 until 1994 and represented Arizona in Congress from 1995-2007.