Today is the 215th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore. And time again for my annual tribute to our 13th president.
Most presidential historians judge his 2 1/2 year administration a failure or, at best, mediocre. Today, on his birthday, let’s be charitable and call it mediocre. After all, we can thank Fillmore for the White House Library and for providing eponymous inspiration for the comic strip Mallard Fillmore. Yes, even the mediocre have their successes, and the Republic is the better for it.
But is mediocrity a qualification for high office? Nebraska Senator Roman Hruska thought so. (The “h” in Hruska is silent, making for a wonderfully alliterative name!) He came to national attention in 1970 when President Richard Nixon nominated G. Harrold Carswell to the United States Supreme Court. Most court watchers considered Carswell a mediocre judge, and opposition to his nomination mounted rapidly. But Hruska, champion of the mediocre, would have none of it. He fought for Carswell, valiantly contending: “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance?”
Alas, Hruska’s impassioned plea fell on deaf ears. Carswell’s nomination failed.
But what if Hruska were right? What if the mediocre do deserve a little representation, a little chance? Should they not have a special day all their own?
I think so. If you’re like me, you know your life is something less than a “tsunami of awesomeness.” So, doesn’t it make sense for us to set apart one day a year, and congratulate ourselves on being average? And what better day than January 7 to recognize our ordinary and unexceptional lives?
Happy Millard Fillmore Day!