Wednesday, January 21, 2015

FUNERALS | How Many Should Presidents Attend?

I have been getting some emails recently that begin with a terribly sad story about someone who served their country well and then died, and people came from all over the country.

These stories are emotionally charged. They  capture my attention. Then, in the last paragraph, the point of the whole story turns out to be an attack on President Obama for not coming to the funeral.

He should have been there, says the email, and by not attending he is showing disrespect for the person or people who served their country heroically, or tragically, or very well, and so he is a bad person or at least a bad president...

Sometimes there is a comment to the effect that if President Obama can play golf, he can go to the funeral...

We need to put this kind of email in a box with a heavy weight attached and sink it to the bottom of the sea–at least the last paragraph that politicizes everything that went before.

We have only one President, and only four years between elections. How do we really want our Presidents to spend their time in office?

Think about the numbers.

In 2010 there were 2.5 million deaths in the United States. Let's say that a super-strong case for the virtue, nobility, courage and patriotism of the deceased can be made for one percent of these deaths. If we required the personal attendance of the President of the United States at each of these funerals, that means 250,000 funerals per year, or about 1,000 funerals per working day.

Factor in the overseas funerals and other events that the President is expected to attend, and good cases for his attendance make bad principles for how Presidents should spend their time.

Other countries solve the problem by having a head of state who is not the CEO. They have a person who is like a non-CEO Chairman–a monarch like the Queen of England is a good example. In this country the Vice President seems to serve this role. The problem of deciding which memorials to attend still remains, but the task is at least cut in half.

If we want our Presidents to keep their attention focused on national priorities like job creation and international relations, I think we should be critical of calls for them attend more ceremonies.

What do you think?