Mediocrities, I absolve you, everyone, for I am your champion!

~ Salieri (Movie “Amadeus” (1984)

Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was a famous Greek philosopher from Athens who taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle. Socrates used a method of teaching by asking questions. The Greeks called this form “dialectic” – starting from a thesis or question, then discussing ideas and moving back and forth between points of view to determine how well ideas stand up to critical review with the ultimate principle of the dialogue being veritas – Truth.


  • Socrates

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Attorney ACLU

{Setting: Mount Rushmore, S.D., 2007}

Socrates: This symposium is held here today at Mount Rushmore, at the base of this colossal monument to America’s four greatest presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. It is a rare occasion for men so fabulously enshrined in stone to have the opportunity to view this tribute to their greatness in person, yet here we are.

Washington: Socrates, I have never been comfortable talking about myself and even less comfortable talking about my so-called “greatness.” When called upon by my country during our greatest hour of peril, I did my duty to fight the tyranny of King George III, to secure liberty for her people. I love America. I have no regrets.

Attorney ACLU: {as the Accuser} No regrets? Secure liberty? How do you justify your crimes against humanity, your genocide against black people by enslaving them like animals?

Washington: {silence}

Socrates: Indeed. You must first tell us why this day does America allow an average of 1.5 million abortions annually and 40-53 million abortions worldwide? Why have between 40-50 million abortions occurred in America alone since Roe v. Wade (1973)? This in a country that in your own Declaration promised each of her citizens “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?” Why, Mr. ACLU?

Attorney ACLU: {indignant} B-B-B-But, but, but, but abortions are an entirely different issue than slavery.

Socrates: I agree if by different you mean in the manner of execution. However, the public policy is the same: One person, the slave master with slavery and one woman/Supreme Court justice with abortion, has the legal authority to kill another human being, correct, Attorney ACLU?

Attorney ACLU: {profound silence}

Socrates: {turning to Jefferson} President Jefferson, will you answer the question: How does a man become a great president?

Jefferson: I was considered “great” by today’s historians for I was a man of letters, a man of culture, music, architecture, archaeology, paleontology, horticulture, politics, a statesman, author, inventor, a secular Renaissance man – a humanist. To a degree I was all these things, yet revisionist historians and leftist academics omitted my deep and well chronicled faith in God. Instead, they recast me in their own distorted image and made me to be this great deist – a person that believes in a “god” that doesn’t get involved in human affairs, a god of regulation, not revelation. Balderdash!

Attorney ACLU: But Jefferson, you were the man that gave us that great constitutional doctrine, “Separation of church and state.”

Jefferson: Sir, your ignorance of both history and the Constitution is both obtuse and perverse. First, I am not a deist; I am a Christian. In 1802, I, by congressional decree, instituted the public schools in Washington, D.C. In 1805, I was appointed president of the Board of Trustees and in that capacity recommended two books to serve as the principle textbooks of all the public schools in our nation’s capital: 1) the Isaac Watts Hymnal, and 2) the Bible. Does that sound like something a deist or a secular humanist would do, Attorney ACLU? {pause}

Socrates: Abraham Lincoln, will you answer the question: How does a man become a great president?

Lincoln: In my case, Socrates, I did not come to greatness; greatness came to me through a series of events that started from my humble beginnings in a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky. I helped found the Republican Party, the party that promised to outlaw polygamy, outlaw slavery and free all the slaves. I intended to keep that promise I made to the American people.

Socrates: Yes, indeed. Lincoln, those were all great acts, but what made you great? Did any of these acts singularly catapult you to Mt. Rushmore?

Lincoln: No, Socrates. What made me great was the person that caused me the most grief, the person that paradoxically caused my death – regrettably, I speak of my dear wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Socrates & all the presidents: {incredulous, in unison} Mary Todd Lincoln?

Lincoln: One evening in April 1865, we were to attend the play “Our American Cousin” at the Ford Theatre. Since Mary Todd acted so rudely the night before with Gen. and Mrs. Grant (who had many bodyguards), we had to at the last minute invite new guests – Maj. Henry Rathbone and his fianc?e, Clara, who graciously agreed to take their place. (They had no bodyguards.)

The die was cast. The plot was on as Destiny stood menacingly at my door. While we watched the play without a bodyguard at the ready, my adversary, John Wilkes Booth, easily slipped into my theatre box and murdered me in cold blood. This is what made me great. It was the ability to endure Mary Todd’s proclivities that allowed me to overcome the savage evils of slavery. {pause}

Socrates: President Theodore Roosevelt, will you answer the question: How does a man become a great president?

Roosevelt: {confident tone} Indeed, sir. My secret to becoming a great president was following my personal philosophy of the Strenuous Life.

Socrates: Mr. President, what is the philosophy of the Strenuous Life?

Roosevelt: It is a moral philosophy of redeeming the time, of each day utilizing all of your God-given human powers for good, for the glory of God and the helpfulness of humanity. You see, gentlemen, when I was a very young child I was physically very weak and anemic. I was so weak and fragile that the doctors told my parents to enjoy me as much as possible for surely I wouldn’t live to see much of my teenage years. I will soon be dead.

Socrates: What did you do?

Roosevelt: I obtained some weights and dumbbells and lifted them over and over and over. At first I could hardly lift 5 lbs., but soon my limbs began to succumb to the buffeting of my body and I felt myself getting stronger by the day. Yes, on Oct. 14, 1912, I took a bullet to the chest, yet finished my presidential campaign speech! I lived the Strenuous Life everyday henceforth, and this was my key to becoming a great president.

Socrates: Indeed. Now, the conclusion of this matter – How does a man become a great president? It is not by the way men (and women) do it in modern times – lying, manipulation, demonizing your opponents, selling out to corporate or extreme special interest groups, and every Machiavellian artifice. No, no, no. While those techniques will yield political power in the short term, history and the next generation will judge that leader to be the fraud he truly is.

Dear readers, these four men – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt – were ordinary men whose souls were tried in the furnace of affliction and they stood the trials, the tests, the tribulations and eventually the triumphs against all odds, not because they are intrinsically great men, but because they allowed the God in Heaven to work through them to achieve His will, for His glory and for the benefit of human civilization.

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