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The Importance of Beards: Why Harry S Truman Should Have Been Hairy S Truman

This paper was written by Onward State co-founder Evan Kalikow for his English 30 class. It was handed it on December 15, 2008. It’s still funny four and a half years later. He received a 96 for it. Y’all have a fun and safe weekend.

Beards. Once thought to be a cornerstone of high American society and almost essential to every man, beards and other facial hair have been on a steady decline in the last century or so. True, many still sport a grizzly set of mutton chops or even a goatee, but in the public eye, beards are now frowned upon. In fact, the United States of America has not seen a president with even a whisker on his face since William Howard Taft in 1908. Additionally, there have only been two major candidates in the past eighty eight years who have had any facial hair at all (Whyte)! The cause of this decline in beards could be attributable to many things – fashion trends over the years, advents in shaving technology, or perhaps women decided that they preferred a man’s face to be like his bottom: silky smooth and with two cheeks. The cause of the loss of prominence of the beard is not an issue of concern, however. What is more pressing is the damage that this death of the beard is doing to our society and to our international presence.

Before we discuss the impact of a long line of clean-shaven presidents on us, we must first establish the importance of facial hair. A well-maintained beard, moustache, or goatee can provide quite a strong message, especially when used by a figure in power. It says, “Look at what I can grow. My worth as a man is substantial, and my virility levels are off the charts. Not only do I look good, but I can have a tough side too. Yet despite this, I am warm, friendly, and welcoming. I am not one to be trifled with”. In fact, William Shakespeare once mused, “He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man” (qtd in “Beard Quotes”). When you see a man with a beard, you see a man of great wisdom. Just ask any old Chinese philosopher.

So why is it important that our president have facial hair? It’s simple, really. The president serves as a role model for our children and our future leaders. Furthermore, he is seen as an ambassador of our country to foreign nations. When a foreign leader meets with the president, he is not just meeting with a single man – no, he is meeting with the United States of America. Kids see our president on television and think that copying the president is a road to success. What profession is more exclusive and important than the president, after all? It’s obvious that whatever the president says or does carries immense weight, but what is more implicit is his appearance. A president will put much thought into his haircut, his suit, his tie, and even his flag lapel pin.

Thus, the lack of a beard or any facial hair at all on our recent presidents shows a disturbing trend that will affect generations to come.

When there has not been a bearded president in one hundred years, it sends a pretty obvious message – beards are not the key to success. Without even knowing it, children are being taught at an early age that beards are not a worthwhile investment. They are encouraged to shave at young ages, and some never even fully realize the true majesty of having facial hair. A nation devoid of mutton chops, moustaches, goatees, beards, and other facial hair (if you can even call that a nation) is on the rise, and it is causing some serious personality problems among our future generations.

To get an idea of how dire this problem is, imagine you are a child in the year 1904. Theodore Roosevelt is your president, and his facial hair seems to be crafted by the gods themselves. You have only seen his picture in newspapers, but his glorious moustache and rugged individualist attitude already speak volumes to you. You decide that when you grow up, you want to grow a beard, hunt some animals, and just live life as a certified badass, just like Roosevelt. You acquire this insufferable swagger, and everyone can tell that you are now a man who commands respect.

Now picture yourself as a kid growing up in the late 1970’s. Your president is Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia. He is clean shaven, if he can even grow facial hair at all. You decide that you want to be just like him, so you mishandle the Iran Hostage Crisis and drink Billy Carter’s Billy Beer in vast quantities. Congratulations, you’re six years old and you’re an alcoholic. If America continues on this trend of beardless presidents, we could have a whole society of people striving to be like this.

As a beard grower, beard enthusiast, and appreciator of the bearded presidents of our past, I can say that growing facial hair can make a man feel emotions that he never even knew he had. Since growing a beard, I have been more confident, more assertive, and more effective with my time. Before being blessed with the miracle that is facial hair growth, I was a weak, meek geek who would do anything anyone asked for little in return. Now, I am the manliest of men. I chop down trees with my bare fists, I lactate HGH, and I hunt gazelles with a gun made out of bear meat with bullets made out of PETA members. Lumberjacks weep in my presence, because they can only hope to be a fraction as manly as I. Basically, I am what every man aspires to be, and it’s all because I admire presidents with facial hair.

Less historically-involved teenagers are only left to look up to the current, baby-faced trend of presidents, though. Never will they know the sheer joy in letting hair grow on their faces. They will also not adopt the aforementioned strong personality traits, and America will become a nation of pushovers, which is not what this great country needs now or ever.

Perhaps even more important is America’s stance globally. In a blog post urging current president-elect Barack Obama to grow a beard, Jamie Malinowski states the following:

“But there just might be a good reason for Obama to grow a beard: foreign policy. Consider that in the almost 100 years from Wilson to Bush that America has had clean-shaven presidents, the following individuals have been prominent among its enemies: Pancho Villa, Kaiser Wilhelm, Adolf Hitler, Emperor Hirohito, Hideki Tojo, Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Hafez al-Assad, Daniel Ortega, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden, and right now we’re not exactly sweet on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” (Malinowski).

All of these leaders of foreign nations have some form of facial hair, whereas our leaders have not since the early 1900’s. Since America’s foreign policy deals heavily with Middle Eastern Muslim countries, countries whose cultures encourage facial hair, it is especially important now that our leader have a beard, lest he be ridiculed internationally.

To go back to my own personal bearded experiences, facial hair tends to be one of the first things I notice on a person. If they have none, I suddenly feel this aura of superiority, like I am worth more as a man than they are. It has allowed me to get the upper hand in arguments and make demands that I would otherwise be unable to make. When I meet with someone who is also sporting a glorious beard, however, I immediately respect them. We seem to feel an unspoken connection, and our meeting is less of a power struggle and more of a collaboration.

It is clear that in the Middle East, America is not respected. Some will say that this is a result of the past fifty years of American foreign policy, but the true answer is much simpler: there just haven’t been enough beards. Countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran have mocked us for our culture’s lack of a “beardification”. In fact, Ibn Abbas, cousin of the prophet Mohammad, reported that Mohammad had once said, “Anyone who shaves has no claim to the mercy of Allah” (qtd in “Beard in Islam”). Clearly, any society whose primary religious prophet believes this will not take kindly to clean-shaven leaders of foreign countries. This has gone on for too long. If our next president sports a full beard (or even just a moustache), the Middle Eastern countries will instantly respect us more as a nation, and diplomatic talks will be able to go more smoothly.

It is true that not every man can grow facial hair. Beard growing should be kept to the professionals. But it is also true that not every man can lead a nation of over 300 million people.

To be eligible to become the President of the United States, you must be at least 35, a natural born citizen, and a citizen of America for the past fourteen years (“The United States Constitution”). I propose, in this time of need, that a twenty eighth amendment be added to the Constitution, forbidding anyone for running for presidency that cannot maintain a healthy beard. This may upset some women, for whom it is unacceptable to have facial hair (save for Hillary Clinton), but I believe it is for the greater good of our nation. After all, our society and international standing depend on it.

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About the Author

Evan Kalikow

Evan Kalikow co-founded Onward State in November 2008 with Davis Shaver and Eli Glazier. Having previously served as a Writer, Editor, Standards Editor, and Community Manager, Evan is now a proud alumnus of both Onward State and Penn State. He was also named "Person of the Year" by Time Magazine in 2006.

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