Happy President’s Day. In case you’re wondering, we have had our share of Chief Executives with bipolar. These include John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. Lincoln, for his lifelong struggle with crushing depression, deserves an honorable mention.
Each left an indelible mark on the US. John Adams was instrumental in founding the country. Lincoln saved it. Roosevelt used his office to save the environment and take on the corporate fat cats. Johnson turned out to be a surprise champion for civil and human rights.
All of them were larger than life. All displayed unparalleled vision, were deep thinkers, rallied their nation, accomplished great things. Two of them, however - Adams and Johnson - were prone to bad judgment that tainted their legacies. Roosevelt, too, seemed to be spinning out of control, but wisely got out while the going was good.
We are conditioned to believe that mental illness is the last thing we want in our leaders. Nassir Ghaemi in his eye-opening A First-Rate Madness (2011), makes the counter-intuitive argument that those with chronically normal are the least equipped to handle crisis. Certainly, only a Lincoln could have got us through a Civil War.
But could a Lincoln be elected President today? Adams and Lincoln and Roosevelt lived in a pre-psychiatric age. Johnson flew under the radar. Imagine what a label and 24-hour news would do to them today.
Why don’t we make a question out of this: Your opinion - Could we have an openly bipolar President today?
Extra credit: Do you think bipolar would be a desirable trait for a Chief Executive?
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Further reading: Lincoln, TR, and LBJ
Published On: February 17, 2014
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