Wanted: A President Fit For A Coin

<b>Andy Rooney</b> Shares His Thoughts On Great Presidents

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.



Monday, Feb. 20 is what's called "Presidents' Day". Originally it was for honoring George Washington but then we wanted to honor Abraham Lincoln, too, and their birthdays were both in February so we combined them. Presidents' Day has changed again because now it's for honoring all the presidents we've ever had. I'm not so sure about that.

Considering how much faith we have in the democratic way we elect our leaders, it's disappointing to look at some of the leaders we've elected. Even the word we use to describe them as public officials is kind of disparaging. When we call someone a politician, we don't mean it as flattery.

There's no doubt about it: too many of our elected officials are not good enough and I don't know why that is. It must have something to do with the kind of people who are attracted to politics.

They aren't paid enough for them to want the job because of the money so about all politicians get is a little power over the rest of us. It must be the power that appeals to politicians and it doesn't always attract the best people.

Just for example, think how few really great presidents there have been over the years. Whoever our president has been, he has hardly ever been the smartest person in the country. And he should be.

There's so often been a shortage of greatness in the White House. Lots of mediocrity - or even worse. Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Chester Arthur, William McKinley, Warren Harding.

Since 1789 we've had 43 presidents and only six have been considered good enough to have their picture put on one of our coins. Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eisenhower is on the silver dollar. John F. Kennedy on the 50 cent piece. There aren't many 50 cent pieces of course but it's pretty good for Kennedy anyway because his picture on the 50 cent piece is a lot bigger than Franklin Roosevelt's is on the dime.

Roosevelt is probably the only modern president that future historians will list as great.

If you're the president, you wouldn't be human if you didn't think about what you're going to look like in the history books 50 or 100 years from now. President Bush must think about it once in a while lying in bed at night.

We could sure use a great president - someone whose face we'd be proud to have on a few billion of our coins.
By Andy Rooney
  • Daniel Schorn

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