Monday, May 6, 2013

The Big Fat President and Purpose

“Nothing is really work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”

James Matthew Barrie

“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.”

“Flowers grow out of dark moments.”

Corita Kent


For some reason I’m thinking about William Howard Taft.  Taft, our heaviest U.S President, had a dream and it wasn’t to be the President of the United States.  No, his life’s ambition was to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  But his wife and his best friend at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, the previous president, talked him into being the next president.  Roosevelt thought that Taft would carry out Roosevelt’s policies.  But Taft’s heart really wasn’t in it.  He won the election and became president but he wasn’t a particularly good one.  He hated the job and this affected his health.  Already a heavyset man, his weight increased to nearly 300 pounds.

In addition to his physical problems, Taft’s personal and professional life suffered.  He was such a disappointment to his mentor, Roosevelt, that Roosevelt chose to run against his successor in the next election.  Because Roosevelt could not gather enough support from fellow Republicans, he created a new party, the Bull Moose Party.  Taft was forced to campaign against his former friend.  He went around the country by rail campaigning.  After a giving a speech denouncing Roosevelt, Taft went off by himself where someone found him crying.  With tears in his eyes, Taft said, “Roosevelt was my closest friend.” 

This split was not only personal; it was political.  It cost the Republicans the election.  In addition, Taft suffered the worst defeat in U.S. history ever handed to an incumbent President and Woodrow Wilson became President for the next eight years. 

Despite these setbacks, Taft stayed in public service and held on to his dream.  Eventually he went on to see his dream come true and he became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  He is the only U.S. President to do so.  He healed his relationship with Roosevelt and gained the admiration and respect of many for his work.  As Chief Justice he made the system more efficient.  In addition, the current site of the Supreme Court is due to Taft’s belief that it should not be in the halls of Congress, where it was, but on its own ground.  This was to prevent undue influence because of proximity.  

What strikes me most about this story is the contrast of Taft being out of Purpose and the incredible pain he suffered, and Taft being in Purpose and the legacy he left.

Look at the contrasts of Taft being in and out of Purpose and see if any of this seems familiar.

When Taft was out of Purpose, he

-          had health issues;

-          saw his relationships suffer;

-          damaged his reputation;

-          struggled with sadness and depression;

-          caused problems for those around him;

-          caused problems of historical proportion.


When Taft was in Purpose, he

-          felt better (and lost weight);

-          restored his relationships;

-          regained the public’s respect and admiration;

-          felt content and happy;

-          created a better life for those around him;

-          made positive contributions of historical significance.


Taft’s most telling statement about his presidency was, “I do not remember that I was ever President.”

Though not all of us may become a President or a Supreme Court Justice, the principles apply.  What we do matters.  Being in Purpose matters because it not only affects us, it affects those around us and it may even affect people we will never meet or know.  It affects our health, our self-esteem, our relationships and our place in small and large scheme of things. 

We are, all of us, here for a reason.   This is not a romantic notion.  This is the truth.  The more I understand and apply this truth, the better I will feel about my life and myself.   All I have to do is to Get Started and to Keep Going.