How Far?

December 16, 2002

I have been looking into Presidential Succession lately. I am sure you remember the general outline from high school civics: first the vice president, then the Speaker of the House, then the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

It gets interesting with cabinet officers, ranked by when their office was established. But most of the lists I see cut it off at the newest Cabinet post, Secretary of Homeland Security. What I want to know is how much farther down the list do I have to go until I get to somebody I trust?

The person I have in mind is Billy Collins, the Poet Laureate of the United States. I know it’s an appointed office, but so’s a cabinet post. And at least the State of the Union Address would be more interesting. Even lyrical.

Author E. Annie Proulx said, “I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours – smart, his strings tuned and resonant, his wonderful eye looping over the things, events and ideas of the world, rueful, playful, warm-voiced, easy to love.”

That’s my president. The Library of Congress says that the Poet Laureate “serves as the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans.” I think Billy’s doing a bang-up job and he’s more than ready for the Oval Office.

So where does Billy stand in the line of succession? Number 100? 500? How many self-serving, short-sighted meatheads would have to step aside to let him grace the highest office in the land? The almanac fails me.

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