A Political Lesson

29 March 2024

On a cold gray November morning, I crept into my parents’ warm bedroom to find the daily newspaper on the night stand.  It was the Chicago Tribune with the 1948 presidential election results emblazoned on its front page.  The headline all in caps read, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”  I was crestfallen. 

Our Greek immigrant family were Roosevelt Democrats, as were our neighbors, my classmates, and the people of Chicago.  President Roosevelt had died in 1945, leaving a bereft nation, but Vice President Harry Truman, a blunt speaking politician from Missouri had taken his place and was our president and carrying on Roosevelt’s noble works.  Truman had supported the Greek government against the communist antartes after WWII.  His opponent, Thomas Dewey, the sophisticated Republican Governor of New York threatened to undo all of the Roosevelt legacy, or so wrote the Tribune, on its editorial page.

The Chicago Tribune was the creature of Robert McCormick a conservative publisher who opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal and US entry into the second World War.  Its front page featured a daily political cartoon in the Thomas Nast tradition.  The 1940 Christmas Cartoon, a year before the US entry into the war, showed Uncle Sam on the sunny side of the globe having a festive dinner with his family, while on the dark side of the globe, darkened men with knives and clubs were battling each other. I grieve that Greece was on the dark side at the time.

Dejected over the election outcome, I had breakfast, but before leaving for school, my good Greek mother, Sophia, spoon-fed me cod liver oil, followed by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and a hug. Now fully immunized from colds and other diseases of winter, or so mom thought, I headed for school on 47th street Chicago, past the office of Dr. Isadore Neuman, whose daughter, Lynne was in my class.   I saw Lynne ahead as we strode to school with snowflakes swirling around face and nose.  Lynne was among the brightest pupils in my class.  She too, was disappointed over the election results.

Our class was fully abuzz with forty-nine noisy pupils, and we settled down after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Math class was proceeding as usual, when our teacher, the elegant Miss English left class momentarily.  She was a tall impeccably dressed woman who carried herself regally, and like many other Chicagoans, she voted for Truman.

Miss English returned to class smiling broadly.  She carried a revised version of the Chicago Tribune with a photo of the happy Harry Truman holding up a copy of the earlier version of the paper with the “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” headline.  Miss English informed the class that Harry Truman was to be our president for the next four years, not Thomas Dewey.  We cheered the outcome of the election in full throat.

Teachers play a significant role in how youngsters interpret the world, its politics and culture.  Weeks before the election, Miss English discussed the candidates and what each offered as policy in broad terms. While she did not express a preference for one candidate over the other, nonetheless, her partiality was evident.  For better or worse, I imagine that her lesson reinforced her students’ predilection to be democrats, in the great city of Chicago.

However, was Miss English’s political preference the only lesson she taught?  Indeed not. In her class, and in the classes of the other teachers at the Shakespeare Elementary School, more profound lessons were taught about the significance of democracy, and the role that citizens play in assuring sound government.  It is through, an understanding the issues, the policies of the candidates, and the needs of the community that political judgments about contenders for office should be made, not party affiliation.  Miss English taught us that democracy had its origins in ancient Athens and that it was the only form of government that assured the voice of the people through their vote.

About the Author

Dr. George Zimmar is adj. Senior Professor of Psychology at Pace University and has published many articles in peer referenced journals and edited volumes. He has served as Director and Publisher in several renowned publishing firms, and is an Archon of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. In 2023, he published his memoir titled “Go With The Fat Cats.”

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