Several years ago The History Channel produced a hit movie titled Band of Brothers.  The made for television mini-series took an Army Airborne company and followed it from the time it formed in America and tracked one of the most decorated units in the Army to a point that it walked into Hitler’s castle in the Alps at the end of the war.  One of the eventual commanders and leadership heroes had originally had a confrontational exchange with his senior officer when the unit was being formed.  As luck would have it the  young officer had moved up through the ranks and through battle and leadership he had become a high ranking and respected officer.  His earlier nemesis had remained state side or behind the lines and had little promotion during the war.  As World War II ended the two met an Germany and the lower ranking officer walked past the senior office without acknowledging the man he had earlier berated.  “You salute the rank, not the man”, the now senior officer said.  After hearing this repeated, his nemesis stopped, turned and snapped a quick solute.  The senior officer was correct, it is the rank being saluted with al the respect that goes with that rank.  Regardless of what is thought of the person wearing the rank, a salute respecting the position is appropriate.

Right after the first Gulf War, Desert Storm, we got Armed Forces Radio beamed around the Dhahran, Saudi Arabia area.  I was shocked when I heard Rush Limbaugh attacking the President.  I enjoy listening to Limbaugh but this struck a nerve for a person that had lived in a live radio vacuum for almost fifteen years.  When I had left the United States the office was held in respect and reverence.  By the 1990s this had all changed.  This office degradation has continued to perpetuated to a point that the highest elected position in the greatest country in the world has become a joke of the late night talk shows and an attach point for talk radio.

Why this has happened is a complex discussion around social etiquette, changing norms, education and good ole southern manners.  One thing is for certain, respect for the office of the President does not demand the respect if once held.  I have often said that you can demand discipline but you have to earn respect; however, this is pointed at the individual level and not at the actual position.  The office of the President of the United does demand respect.  Unfortunately, this election period has diminished this respect even more and it is not only attacks from political adversaries that are causing the continued erosion of the office.  It was saddening last week following the presidential debates when the Republican candidate was labeled as a “liar”.  This term has continued through the week and leads to diminishing the level of professionalism placed on the presidency.  A term such as this could be handled with a more respectful term and diplomatic manner.

How can we change the image of the office held by such leaders as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy.  It starts at home and in our schools but it has to be manifested in the position itself.  The leadership displayed in the office goes a long way to changing attitudes.  One thing is for certain, how can we expect the world to respect our own country when we don’t display a reverent respect for our own president.


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