McKinley honors past presidents and founding fathers

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series marking the 120th anniversary of Niles native William McKinley’s U.S. presidency.

I am pleased to be able to offer the Presidents’ Day column this year as we look back 120 years ago to the activities, speeches and life of our Niles-born President William McKinley.

Just as we honor our presidents on this day, 120 years ago this week in 1899 McKinley traveled to Massachusetts and honored our former presidents as well as the many patriots and founders of our nation. He gave speeches at the Boston Home Market Club, the Grand Army of the Republic encampment, The Commercial Club of Boston and at the General Court of Massachusetts.

Excerpts from McKinley’s speech at the former Massachusetts capitol building were the following: “In this ancient capitol great public questions have had free discussion. Here great statesman, whose names live in our country’s history, have received their training and voiced their enlightened opinions of their countrymen. Here, through the century, you have chosen your fellow citizens to represent you in the councils of the nation through this great parliamentary body, the Senate, as well two Presidents of the United States.

It was in the Massachusetts House of Representatives that John A. Andrew made the speech for human liberty which touched the hearts of his fellow citizens and made him your war governor. Your Commonwealth has the distinction of fathering two of our first six Presidents. Their lives and character reach into every American home, and have stimulated the best aspirations of American manhood. In the beginning of our national existence, and even before, this was the home and fountain of liberty. It is the home of liberty now; and I am sure that these great men of the past secured for us to carry to oppressed peoples whose interest and welfare by the fortunes of war are committed to us. We may regard the situation before us as a burden or as an opportunity; but whether the one or the other, it is here, and conscience and civilization required us to meet it bravely. Desertion of duty is not an American habit. It was not the custom of the fathers and will not be the practice of their sons.”

President McKinley was speaking about our past, but he was also announcing to our country the need to serve the countries and territories we gained possession of by winning the Spanish American War.

Mike Wilson is the Director of SCOPE Senior Services of Trumbull County and has traveled around the nation performing as William McKinley for the past 27 years.