“The person of the President – anyPresident – is touched with magic. The office illuminates the man. And as we meet the country’s leader, in person or by reading a good biography, we shake hands with history.”
– Melville Bell Grosvenor.
This column is about the 13 Presidents who were sufficiently “illuminated” by the office to be re-elected. The latest, of course, is Ronald Wilson Reagan.
For good measure, let’s mention an additional President Grover Cleveland – who barely was rejected in his reelection bid, but came back four years later to win a separate second term.
Cleveland generally is listed as the 24th President as well as the 22nd one. This accounts for the tact that Reagan is shown as the doth chief executive although only 39 men actually have held the post.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President, soared to political heights inhabited only by himself. He won four presidential victories, spanning the Great Depression and World War II.
When George Washington – the first President and first to serve two terms – delivered his inaugural address in 1789 he was acutely aware of his own responsibilities and role of the presidency in preserving “the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the Republican model of government.”
Since Washington’s time, the presidency has grown in scope and complexity. Meantime population bas climbed from about 4 million to 237 million. Global responsibilities multiplied as America became the prime bulwark of world democracy.
Second President John Adams was the first of eight chief executives in U.S. history to lose his bid for re-election.
After his single term came a 24-year dynasty of three two term Presidents from Virginia – Thomas Jefferson, famed as the author of the Declaration of Independence; James Madison, distinguished for his valuable contribution at the Constitutional Convention, and James Monroe, remembered for the Monroe Doctrine: basically that the Americas were not open to exploitation from the outside.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh President, was next to serve two terms, epitomizing the common man and the frontier ideal.
The Civil War period produced two Presidents who won re-election – Abraham Lincoln who rallied the North to victory and reunited the nation, and Ulysses S. Grant wartime Union general whose campaign theme became, “Let us have peace.”
Lincoln was assassinated one month into his second term.
Cleveland accomplished his split-term double presidency in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The 25th President, William McKinley, was re-elected but like Lincoln, died of an assassin’s bullet a short time after his second inauguration.
Woodrow Wilson’s second term is best remembered for his mobilizing of American participation which helped bring an Allied victory in World War I.
We’ve already mentioned Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four election victories. His death three months after his fourth inauguration shocked the world. Vice President Harry Truman took over and presided during the closing months of World War II.
Since then, three Presidents have entered the golden circle of those re-elected:
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President, victorious commanding general in Europe in War II; Richard M. Nixon, whose second term ended in disaster when he resigned in the face of almost certain impeacement for his role in the Watergate cover-up, and Reagan, who will take the oath in January for his second term.
As Reagan tackles new and old challenges, he also will be pursuing the responsibility of the presidency in preserving “the sacred fire of liberty,” perhaps in some ways George Washington could not have envisioned in his day.