Theodore Roosevelt, the first President of the 20th century, came up with the term “Bully Pulpit” to describe his efforts to draw attention to emerging national issues that needed our attention, with him leading the charge from the White House, and the Presidency was never the same after that!
TR led the struggle against monopoly capitalism; for conservation of natural resources; for improvement of labor conditions; and for government regulation of our food and drugs–all as important national goals. He appealed to our “better angels” in his campaigns on these issues.
Franklin D. Roosevelt led from the “Bully Pulpit” on the need for government activism to deal with the Great Depression, and in getting us ready for the challenge of international Fascism’s threat to the democracies by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.
John F. Kennedy led us from his “Bully Pulpit” on the need to deal with civil rights as a moral crusade, and also the significance of learning to coexist in the world, so as to avoid an ultimate war that no one could win during the Cold War era.
Lyndon B. Johnson led from his “Bully Pulpit” on the issue of civil rights, and also on the reality of poverty in America and the need to take serious action on these issues.
And now Barack Obama has used the “Bully Pulpit” to address the issues of gay rights and the role of race in our society, and what he has done is draw attention and stature to issues that have long been ignored or overlooked as too controversial to deal with on the White House level, but he has the courage and principle that TR, FDR, JFK, and LBJ had before him!
So Barack Obama, with all of the positives and negatives that we find in any President, will be long remembered for challenging our better nature with his leadership on gay rights and race. And it is good already that New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks and 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, have endorsed his message on race as recently as the time when this author is writing this entry!