Why American presidents matter

The zeitgeist of the world is infused by the character of the US leader. Biden will bring back the civility and generosity that the American spirit is associated with.

People celebrating in Washington after news organisations announced that Mr Joe Biden had won the US presidential election last Saturday. President Donald Trump may have been cruel to call him "Sleepy Joe". Yet a "Sleepy Joe" and calm American presid
People celebrating in Washington after news organisations announced that Mr Joe Biden had won the US presidential election last Saturday. President Donald Trump may have been cruel to call him "Sleepy Joe". Yet a "Sleepy Joe" and calm American presidency may be good for America and the world, says the writer.PHOTO: NYTIMES

The first American president to enter my personal consciousness was John F. Kennedy. It wasn't his stirring rhetoric that reached me as a child in Singapore. It was the news of his assassination. The sense of loss was globally palpable. History has been kind to him.

He was succeeded by Lyndon Baines Johnson. As a child, I was puzzled. How could someone so ugly succeed someone who was so attractive? Indeed, he was boorish. Legend has it that he would summon his staff to meetings while sitting on his toilet seat, doing his business.

Please or to continue reading the full article.

Get unlimited access to all stories at $0.99/month

  • Latest headlines and exclusive stories
  • In-depth analyses and award-winning multimedia content
  • Get access to all with our no-contract promotional package at only $0.99/month for the first 3 months*

*Terms and conditions apply.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2020, with the headline 'Why American presidents matter'. Subscribe