John Havelock, in his recent commentary in the ADN, asked the question "Why shouldn't Cabinet members travel first class?" in relation to EPA chief Scott Pruitt's firing by President Trump. Two paragraphs into his article, I was hit by at least two reasons why political figures might choose to travel coach class rather than first class.
The basis for my current perception and understanding of America and its current culture began following the Great Depression of 1929 and World War II. As I recall, the United States of America were truly united in World War II in a way that I have never seen since. Both Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman seemed to me to connect with Americans in a way that gave them an understanding and respect for us that helped make them the great presidents that I believe they were. I was nine years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and I vividly remember the regular radio talks of President Roosevelt as he spoke to the American people during this time. As I reflect on this period of time, I recall the sense of togetherness we had in response to the threats posed by our enemies and the respectful way President Roosevelt kept us informed.
A significant factor in their success in supporting American's sense of cohesiveness and sacrifice in World War II was the way they bridged the space between themselves and the American people. My father was a conductor on the Missouri Pacific Railroad and would occasionally be in charge of the passenger trains pulling President Truman's private car through Kansas. He said that President Truman would leave his private car and walk through the other passenger cars. As he walked, he would stop and talk with any of the other people who wanted to talk and carefully listened to what they had to say. President Truman conveyed a person who liked people and wanted to engage them. Contrast this to those who wants to seclude themselves from people by isolating themselves in first class doing the important work.
Seventy-five years later, we seem to be divided deeply and unable to do the necessary work that needs to be done to maintain our great country. Along with our failure to come together and cooperate in that work, we seem to have lost a great deal of respect for each other. My thought: Traveling coach rather than first class would give our leaders an opportunity to rub elbows with all of us, to experience and relate to some of us who cannot afford to travel first class. I am confident all of us would benefit from such actions and might begin to pull together rather than fight each other.
Hugh R. Hays is a veteran who lives in Soldotna.
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