Richard Stride Commentary: Words of Ulysses Grant Prove to Be Prophetic


I have been writing a column for The Chronicle for going on a couple of years now. If you read my column, you know I like history. History teaches us many things. But most importantly, it teaches us to look at what transpired in the past as a predictor of what might happen in the future.

History is a master teacher, but only if we heed its lessons.

I am reading a new book on general and president Ulysses Grant by Ron Chernow. The book was awarded by the New York Times Book Review in 2017. I have read a lot on Grant and the Civil War, but this book is by far the best I have read.

Chernow writes, “Like Twain, Walt Whitman was mesmerized by Grant and grouped him with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the quartet of greatest Americans.” 

Whitman describes Grant as “Nothing heroic … and yet the greatest hero.”

Grant has been described by others as a “simple Midwesterner, at once could be so ordinary and so extraordinary.”

Grant, the top Union general and a two-term president, spoke as he neared the end of his second term. His speech was at the first centennial of the United States Declaration of Independence, in Des Moines, Iowa, at a reunion of Civil War soldiers.

“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Masons and Dixons, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, and superstition, ambition and ignorance on the other. Now in these centennial years of our nation’s existence, I believe it a good time to begin the work of strengthening the foundation of the house commenced by our patriotic forefathers 100 years ago at Concord and Lexington.” 

President Grant's words sound almost prophetic as we are now facing a myriad of challenges concerning the future of the nation we all love.

Do we all agree in our country? No. But we can all understand, in principle, that we must preserve the integrity and soul of the nation we all love if our children and grandchildren are to live as we do.

America is not perfect, but it never was perfect. One group or another has always opposed who was in power and how the group in power was performing.

We all agree that the United States is a democracy and that it needs to stay that way. What are the principles of a democracy? Wikipedia says the three principles of a functioning democracy are, “legal equality, political freedom and the rule of law.” The opposite of democracy is autocratic, or dictatorial. In the United States, we choose who is in power. A dictatorial government would not last long, if it ever would ever come about.

Grant, in my opinion, deserves to be among some of the greatest Americans who ever lived. His words are not only prophetic but should be a warning to us today. If we are to understand our present, we must look to our past. Taking a realistic look at history gives us the contrivances to scrutinize and explicate problems in our past.

History gives a perspective on patterns in the present, giving us the necessary perspective to comprehend and answer the present, as well as future problems.

Dwight D. Eisenhower called for a “balance” in politics. John F. Kennedy spoke out against what he called a “grand warfare of rival ideologies.”

I want to learn from my past to make my present better. Don’t you? Our nation should do the same.


Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at