A President A Day for Presidents’ Day

Yesterday was Presidents’ Day.

It’s become a bit of tradition for my son and I to spend the month or two leading up to Presidents’ Day reading about one president each day. It’s a fascinating trip through American history for me, and hopefully, for him.

I’m always struck by the stories of these people. Some honorable. Some, not so much.

Some visionary. Some, not so much.

There’s the son of a tavern owner who served Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (Van Buren). There’s a hard-scrabble brawler who had a cursing parrot (Andrew Jackson). There’s the one who liked to skinny dip in the Potomac (Adams).

But perhaps even more interesting than the stories of the individual presidents are the ways that each of them built upon the other – in good ways and in bad.

Reading about them one after the other, you can feel the power of good policies and administrations stacked upon one another.

And you can feel the trajectory of bad decisions – and bad administrations – over time.

Each time we do this – we’re on year three – I see that the struggles that we are going through right now are echoes of those we’ve heard before. They’re like history’s reverberations. Aftershocks.

Or maybe it’s more like a chorus that we return to again and again before each unique stanza.

My husband and I were talking about how the last “normal” day that we remember was in 2016. That is true for our family, and perhaps it’s the same for you.

But looking at all of these presidents, and all of these American eras, it’s clear that it’s normal for normal to be fleeting. Even for the U.S., struggle has been more common than full-throated success.

There’s just been one constant – one through-line – in our country’s relatively short history.

It’s the tenacity, and the sheer stubbornness, of the American people.

It’s what has kept things going all this time.

And it’s what will ultimately carry us through this time, as well.

Let’s get to work.

P.S. This week, just after my son and I finished reading about Jimmy Carter, news broke that he was entering hospice care.

Honorable men are not always the ones with the highest honors. And – as we’ve seen firsthand – the men with the highest honors are not always honorable men.

Jimmy Carter is a truly honorable, and good, man.

He has lived an exceptional life. He will be missed. But his memory – and his example – will continue to be a blessing to us all.

Actions for the Week of February 21, 2023

Send A Message to President Carter

President Jimmy Carter has entered hospice care. The Carter Center has a message board to which you can share your thoughts and what President Carter has meant to you. It’s also a wonderful place to see the incredible impact he has had. Go here: https://cartercenter.kudoboard.com/boards/wellwishes

Notice and Comment:  Support a Rule Change to End Penalties for SSI Beneficiaries Receiving Food Assistance

Right now anyone who relies upon SSI benefits gets a maximum of $914 per month (which is 75% of the poverty level). It’s already terrible, but that amount is further reduced if someone gives you a bag of groceries or otherwise brings you food.

There is a rule change in the works that would eliminate that penalty for “in kind food assistance” and the comment period is open. Matthew Cortland has created a truly wonderful primer about the rule change, the need for it, and how you can write an effective and personal comment. Please check it out, and submit a comment. Then forward to some friends. Here’s the link to Matt’s great work: https://www.patreon.com/posts/78711749

Help the People of East Palatine

On February 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying cars of incredibly hazardous chemicals derailed just outside of East Palatine, OH – and the aftermath has been the stuff of nightmares. Thick black clouds of dangerous chemicals blanketed the sky. And now the people living in and around the derailment need help – especially with water and personal care items.

Brightside Project, a local non-profit, (https://www.brightsideprojectohio.org/) has been providing water and personal care items to people in the area (you can see their list here). They’re vetted and legit and providing real help to people.

In the coming weeks we’ll need to flex our advocacy muscles to lobby for better railroad regulations and accountability for Norfolk Southern. But for right now let’s do what we can for these people who need help.

Go here: https://donorbox.org/east-palestine-crisis-relief

Visit the Carter Center Website and Pledge to Attend an Upcoming Event

The Carter Center hosts a lot of events – many of them virtual. (Find them here: https://www.cartercenter.org/news/upcoming_events/index.html)

An upcoming event (that I imagine will be postponed, but perhaps not) is being put on by the Center’s Conflict Resolution Program. It sounds fascinating.

It’s called Faith Forward Democracy, scheduled for Feb. 23 at noon eastern.


“The 2022 U.S. election is behind us, but the country remains deeply divided. As a nation, we increasingly struggle to find common purpose and connection with our fellow citizens. Learn what people of faith can do ahead of the 2024 presidential election to help create a healthier democratic republic.

Join The Carter Center and Northern Ireland’s Rev. Gary Mason for a cross-partisan conversation with lay leaders and news personalities Rashad Richey and Martha Zoller.

Rev. Gary Mason
Mason is a pastor and peacemaker who has spent his life working in divided societies, including his native Northern Ireland as well as Israel and Palestine. He is the founder of Rethinking Conflict, and he is a frequent visitor to the United States.”


If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

P.P.S: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

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