Presidential Power (And Yours) – Words

In our personal ambitions we are individuals. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.
To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

– President Franklin D. Roosevelt
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say . . . we did all that could be done.

– President Ronald Reagan
America is the greatest nation on the planet!  This coronavirus doesn’t stand a chance against us.  Be a true patriot and wear a mask and make sure your neighbors and your children do too!

– President Donald Trump

President Roosevelt’s words rallied a depressed and terrified nation. He inspired people to build a military that played a major role in defeating the Nazis and Japanese – and ending WWII. US forces grew from 174,000 in 1939 to 16 million at wars end. American industry and workers built 2710 liberty ships between 1941 and 1945, an unheard of three ships every two days, and more than 30,000 B-17 and B-24 bombers. (1) People made huge sacrifices in the ways they lived, worked and raised their children.

President Reagan’s words gained the support of many liberal Democrats for his conservative Republican agenda. When he left office in January 1989, his approval rating was 68%, matching that of President Roosevelt as the highest ratings for departing presidents up to that time in modern history.

President Trump’s words elevated the US to the position of most successful nation in the world at ending COVID-19.

Just kidding. . .

As you probably already realized, President Trump never uttered those words. The Roosevelt and Reagan quotes are real – their own words. But I imagined Trump’s words; he never spoke or even tweeted them. And as I visualized the president of the United States urging people to wear masks, I wondered, as all of us should, what a different country we might have if he had in fact spoken those words.

Just imagine. . .

  • All the Trump followers donning masks and taking to the streets to shame unmasked miscreants into wearing Donald-approved masks;
  • The misery and lives saved of the more than 13.6 million COVID cases and 270,000 deaths that have already happened;
  • Our schools, restaurants, gyms, and theaters open and thriving, our stores filled with holiday shoppers – right now;
  • The world respecting the wealthiest country in history as a leader, a winner, instead of mocking us as a loser.


Nice imaginings. But it could have been our reality. We would be there today if President Trump had found the courage and wisdom of an FDR or a Ronald Reagan.

And for all you Trump supporters, here’s one more thing to imagine:

  • Trump in the White House for a second term because he encouraged people to follow the science, wear masks and social distance.

The power of words – what’s known as “moral suasion” – is one of the US president’s most potent weapons. And the power is available to all of us.

There would be no United States had it not been for the unknown pamphleteers, preachers, and people in taverns who spoke about the need to break from the British monarchy. Words – pure words – like those of Rachel Carson and Greta Thunberg change the world.

When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring she had no idea it would ever be published, much less that it would start a global environmental movement. When 15-year-old Greta Thunberg started spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to advocate for stronger actions to stop climate change, she had no idea that she would end up speaking at the United Nations and that her voice would inspire billions of people on every continent.

The words you speak, write, sing, tweet, and post are extremely important. The words spoken and the words not spoken by President Trump have made that so very clear. What you say and the way you say it affects everyone you meet and everyone in your social networks.

This post was originally published on John Perkins.