How do you create a presidential library for a man who doesn’t read books? Who can’t complete a coherent sentence? Who has no personal code of ethics?
And, if not a library, then what enduring monument might the country erect to preserve for all time the unique leadership style, policies and decisions that will mark the Trump years? After all, every president starting with Franklin Roosevelt has had a library created to house his papers and memorabilia. The libraries are paid for by private donations and sustained by their home states.
But a Trump library? I suppose it could be housed in Trump Tower, or at a golf course. It could have a collection of his tweets and a vast array of video and mixed media. And it might feature Trump’s Top 10 Tirades, from the “Hollywood Access” tape to the Hillary chants, to the more recent rants on Nazism, Kim Jong-un, members of Congress and various officials in his own cabinet. We would have the opportunity to hear, over and over again and for all time, his offensive Charlottesville speech. And it must include clips from his rabid political rallies, beginning with the election and continuing up to and including today.
No matter how the Trump presidency unravels or limps along, we must never forget his tenure in the White House. We need a monument to the time in which America lost its way.
Right now, former President Barack Obama is busy with plans for his presidential library complex, which will open in Chicago’s Jackson Park in 2021. “If you ask a lot of people outside of Chicago about Chicago, what’s the first thing they talk about? They talk about the violence,” Obama said at a meeting to unveil the plans. “Jackson Park feels different than Lincoln Park or Millennium Park,” he added, referring to the downtown and North Side parks in more affluent areas of the city. “It’s not as good as it could be.” He spoke about the project in a New York Times story.
The plans call for Obama’s presidential museum to stand at one end of the complex, with the roofs of the library and forum covered in plantings to create green space. The total size of the center is estimated at 200,000 to 225,000 square feet. Obama said he imagined a sledding hill in the park — something he said his wife, Michelle, said she always wanted when she was growing up on the South Side — as well as playgrounds and paddleboats for the lagoon in the park.
The former president also said he hoped the center would draw artists like Bruce Springsteen, Chance the Rapper and Spike Lee to teach young people about music and film.
“What we want this to be is the world premier institution for training young people in leadership to [help them] make a difference in their communities, in their country and in their world,” he said.
You know, I’ve forgotten how presidents are supposed to sound. Obama is clearly thinking about his legacy, and building community resources that will live on after him.
The only presidential library I’ve visited was the Kennedy Library, and the experience was uplifting. They have his PT boat and various objects that sat on his desk in the Oval Office, and family photos and documents JFK signed in his own hand. But that’s all different from a legacy. If a president were to get only a couple of lines in the history books, I imagine Kennedy’s claim to fame would be that he was assassinated. That’s all I really know about William McKinley, and he had a whole mountain named for him. Kennedy has the airport. Hoover got a dam. George Washington has a bridge. FDR has an island and a drive.
If you ask the average school child about Lincoln, he or she would say, “He freed the slaves,” and that is an awesome legacy, He is remembered well and honored for his morality and his eloquence and his leadership. Good legacies are hard to come by.
President Trump has only just begun, but in any imaginable scenario, he comes up short in the legacy department. He is not, nor will he likely become, an honorable world leader, determined to leave the world a better place. “Honorable” doesn’t sync with avaricious, grasping and egocentric.
If I were on the Donald Trump Presidential Library Planning Commission, I’d be thinking “casino” or “solid gold pyramid.” Or — I’ve got it: a big, gaudy shopping mall, with only Trump brands on sale.
Now that would speak to the man who is our president.
Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.