Many times in our desire for progress, we neglect the people around us, and even ourselves. Perhaps we can see an analogy with the life of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, who died after being in office only a month. He died of pneumonia after he chose to give an important speech outdoors, rather than his health.
Harrison was an active military man, a war hero (he served as a general in the War of ), and a tireless politician who was elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator, and diplomat with strong ties to Latin America. In , he met with Simón Bolívar to urge him to adopt a democratic model in Gran Colombia similar to the one in the U.S. In , Harrison was elected U.S. president.
This determined politician had reached the peak of his career and wanted to let the world know it, yet the weather changed the course of his destiny. The day of the presidential inauguration ceremony, , was particularly cold and wet. Harrison rode on horseback to the podium, without wearing a hat or coat, because he wanted the people who elected him to see him more clearly.
In the cold, the new president gave the longest inaugural speech in history (about two hours). His advisors asked him to shorten it, but Harrison had worked hard on his text of 8,445 words and chose not to make significant cuts. He then participated in a parade in his honor (outdoors) and three other social events.
Once in power, he established his team and began to push for reforms that he thought would be his legacy, but the president had caught a cold that he chose to ignore.
His illness worsened three weeks after taking office. Despite the recommendations of the White House doctor, who asked him to take it easy, his busy work schedule and his desire to transform the nation didn’t let him have a moment of rest.
After several days of unsuccessful treatments (which ranged from the use of castor oil to opium), William Henry Harrison died, and none of his reforms were implemented.
Ironically, his name stands out in history not for his military or political achievements, or for his intentions to reform the nation. Harrison holds the record of being the president who delivered the longest inaugural speech in history, as well as being the first president to die in office, and the president who spent the shortest time in office (30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes).
After reading this story, many will look down on Harrison for not caring about his health. However, we see the same problems today in the midst of our hectic consumer society.
Many work tirelessly for the welfare of their family, but are practically strangers to their children. Others sacrifice day and night to get ahead without taking time to eat right or exercise.
Many say that they do not have time, that junk food is cheaper, and that they want to buy their children expensive gifts. But in the long run, they should ask themselves these questions: What is the legacy that I am leaving for my family? How would they support themselves if I got sick? How can I enjoy life with my loved ones if I am constantly drowning in debt?
Work gives us pride and helps us progress, but don’t do it at the expense of your health or at the expense of neglecting your family. The key is having a balanced life.