Over the last few years Americans have become increasingly polarized about politics. With that in mind I try to avoid writing anything in my columns which can be seen as political. While this week’s article has politics in it, let me be clear, I am not making a partisan point, but using historical events to illustrate a spiritual principle.
During the 2008 presidential election, many believed the time had finally come for a woman to be elected president. The most likely female candidate seemed to be Hillary Clinton. George W. Bush was finishing eight years in the oval office and many voters seemed eager for a change. Clinton had been America’s first lady eight years earlier and her husband was still popular with many inside and outside the Democratic party. Despite all that, Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic primary to Barack Obama, and he later became our first African American president.
In 2016, Clinton again seemed poised to be the first woman in the oval office, but ultimately, it was not to be. However, even if Ms. Clinton had won, she would technically not be the first woman to exercise the power of the presidency. Many historians believe that honor goes to President Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Edith.
Wilson suffered a massive stroke in October 1919. His memory was affected, and he could barely speak. The first lady acted quickly and hid his condition from everyone except his doctors. She allowed no one to see her husband for five months, including the vice president and secretary of state.
Instead, she talked to her husband and issued orders for him. Her directives to government officials read, “The President says…” She co-wrote his inaugural message and sent it to Congress in his name. She claimed to only be doing what her husband wanted. We now know the president was nearly comatose most of that time. So, the first female president will not be the first woman to exercise the power of the presidency.
One other fact makes Edith Wilson’s actions downright shocking; she strongly opposed a woman’s right to vote. Mark Twain was correct when he wrote, “The truth is stranger than fiction.”
The Apostle James put it this way, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:13–14, NLT)
Both James and Twain are right. We cannot know what the future holds. We may think we know what lies ahead, but no one knows what our life will be next week, next month, let alone next year. That fact lies at the root of what James suggests, we need God’s help because he knows what we can only guess.