Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Abraham Lincoln and Star Trek

Memory Alpha is a wiki of the Star Trek universe. The site description reads, "Welcome to Memory Alpha, a collaborative project to create the most definitive, accurate, and accessible encyclopedia and reference for everything related to Star Trek." Interestingly, there are articles on 16 Presidents of the United States in Memory Alpha. Most give small pieces of trivia such as when a portrait of a president or a reference was made in the script to a president.

This is not the case with Abraham Lincoln. There is a substantial write up of this president. The reason? Abraham Lincoln (as played by Lee Bergere) actually appeared in an episode of the original Star Trek series titled the Savage Curtain.

The plot is summarized by Alpha Memory as, "Kirk and Spock are forced to fight alongside such historical figures as Abraham Lincoln of Earth and Surak of Vulcan by aliens who want to understand the concepts of good and evil." The Lincoln role is large and he eventually sacrifices himself to save the Vulcan Surak. Many modern day Confederate separatists may have strong feelings about Lincoln being portrayed as good but this episode of Star Trek portrays Lincoln as noble and righteous.

This episode of Star Trek also created a new made up Lincoln quote, "There is no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war except its ending."

I know have a strong urge to go and rent this episode. Of course, I will probably be disappointed. Those original series Star Trek episodes are never as good as how I remembered them to be.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

JFK's diary

White House Diary

You can pick any date from Kennedy's presidency and click on it. For instance, November 15, 1961, you get told that JFK's had a meeting of the National Secruity Council. There is also a picture with it. It is pretty cool! The day of his assassination includes a video of the Kennedys getting off the plane in Dallas. This is part of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum's site.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Washington? Get in Line

Washington? Get in Line. I just noticed a recent issue of US News & World Report has an article that deals with the question of whether of not Washington was the first President of the United States of America. As this question has been dealt with in this blog numerous times, I will not rehash it but instead will merely point this article out.

From the site:

He is the most heralded, perhaps most mythologized, figure in American history--revolutionary hero, inventive farmer, gifted statesman. But there's one thing George Washington may not have been: the first president of the United States.

"There's a lot of controversy over if he was really the first president," says Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. "It turns out a lot of [accepted history] may be wrong." If that's the case, Washington's rank in the presidential pantheon would not be No.1, but a less-than-symbolic No. 11.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Soviet intelligence used remote viewers to spy on American presidents from afar

Soviet intelligence used remote viewers to spy on American presidents from afar. The Soviet Union tried many different methods to get an edge in the Cold War. These attempts ranged from the overt to the covert and from the traditional to the bizarre. Remote sensing probably qualifies as the later. Or so claims a recent issue of Pravda.

The paper reported:

The Soviet intelligence used remote viewers in their activities, thats a fact. A clairvoyant, for example, could determine the state of health of a top official watching his appearance on TV. They did that with the US president. Some Soviet remote viewers visited the USA as tourists and transmitted the information that they could obtain there to their Moscow-based colleagues by the power of mind, telepathy that is. The KGB was particularly interested if remote viewers could determine the locations of foreign submarines in the ocean, Alexander Spirkin said.

According to Wikipedia, "Remote viewing (RV) is the alleged ability to perform clairvoyance under controlled conditions. Somewhat similar to astral projection, the phenomenon involves a belief in the projection of consciousness to remote locations."

Despite the title of this article, it actually has very little about spying on American Presidents. It is hard to say what actual benefit the Soviets got from this program. Reportedly, the American government also tried to use remote viewing. (See the above linked Wikipedia article.) However, remote viewing did not help the Soviets win the Cold War.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Election of 1912

The election of 1912 was between Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (three presidents, incidently). Theodore Roosevelt had given up the presidency, chosing not to run again in 1908, instead handpicking his successor (Taft). Roosevelt was not pleased with Taft's performance as president and wanted his "bully pulpit" back. So Roosevelt ran under the "Bull Moose" party in 1912 and split the Republican vote, allowing Democrat Wilson to win.

Something I always ask my students to do is compare Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson after listening to them speak. Roosevelt is a person that I feel must be heard and seen to truly understand. So now I'm putting you in my students' places...what do you think?

Theodore Roosevelt (audio)

Theodore Roosevelt (video)

Woodrow Wilson (audio)

William Howard Taft (audio)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lucy Hayes’ Civil War Letters

The Rutherford Hayes Center has transcribed all of Lucy Hayes’ Civil War letters. I found these absolutely fascinating to read and they give a much warmer, fuller picture of Lucy Hayes than the title we all remember – Lemonade Lucy. The letters would even make a nice addition to any Civil War lesson. You can also go visit the Lucy Hayes Heritage Center. So go explore another side of Lucy Hayes so you will remember more than the fact she discouraged the use of alcohol in the White House!

I decided I need to post at least one here in case you aren’t the link following type! That way I will lure you in (my diabolical plan!).

Before you read, though, you will need an adjustment to your mental image of the Hayes. I want you to think of this version of the Hayes:
Wedding picture, Source: Lucy Hayes Center

As opposed to this one (the one I bet was in your head!):

Source: WW Norton

Cincinnati- June 13th [1861]

Dearest Ruddy, [Remember what I told you - President Hayes in his official portraits doesn't make a good "Ruddy," but the first one does!]

I cannot tell you how happy your first letter made me- I felt certain - satisfied that you loved me as dearly and truly as in all the past years- How rapidly time passes away we are now almost old folks and yet it is but a few months in feeling- I was down street to day and when I came home found your dear letter and read it and reread it till I almost knew it by heart- I can sympathize with your feelings as the men were sworn in- what a solemn sight it is- and oh how my heart fills with joy and feelings too great for utterance crowd upon me as I think of our brave men- This morning as I was going down street a young man dressed in Guthrie Grey- spoke to me How do you do Mrs Hayes- I looked closely at him and recognised [sic] the boy or man that used to be in the meat store- He grasped my hand warmly and I felt that he was not a poor boy but one of our defenders-

My greatest happiness now would be to feel that I was doing some thing for the comfort and happiness of our men I feel that in giving you up- (for dearest it is hard to feel we may be parted) I have tried to do cheerfully and without a murmur what was my duty- If I could only follow you whereever [sic] you are called to go no privation or trial would cause the slightest discontent- you would find Ruddy that your foolish little trial of a wife was fit to be a soldiers wife.

Ruddy last night I dreamed that Dr Muscroft was Surgeon of the Regiment- I awoke in an agony- if I could only feel that brother- Joe would be with you- I could see you go cheerfully- you do not know how intense my feeling is upon the subject dearest do all you can I know you have confidence in him- and oh how it would brighten my heart-

Mother says she never felt before that you were really away from us- she is pretty well and sends much love to you-

Birchie says tell Papa- That I have prayed for him and asked God to take care of him- and he must pray for himself and say I love him so much Webb says- Ask him if he wants me and Birch up there- I wish he would say, yes- that he prays for him every night and if you want any nuts he will bring them to you Webb says to tell you Ruddy says his prayers and says Now I lay me down to sleep- Ruddy says- sends the letter to him- and give him some nuts-

It is well dearest that you have expressed the wish to have me with you- for I had settled in my own mind- that as long as I can be with you I will but it was such a happiness to know that you in the midst of all the hurry and bustle of camp life thought of it. We have had two letters from Uncle which I will send- also the notice of your election to the Presidency of the Y- M G. Association.

We are all well- hope to see you soon- I will have everything ready for you as far as I know-

Good bye my dearest- May it not be long till we shall be together.

Your loving Wife

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Making Connections

This week my students have been reading a story for Language Arts that deals with the Orphan Trains that travelled the county. Imagine my surprise as I did some research of my own and found a connection to a U.S. President. I have to share it with you…..

John Green Brady was born in New York City in 1848. After his mother died Brady was left in the hands of his longshoreman father who beat Brady regularly whether he was drunk or not. By age seven Brady had run away and was found roaming the streets by New York’s finest. They placed the youngster in a home for boys on Randall’s Island.

By age twelve Brady was riding an orphan train in hopes of a new life. During a stop in Noblesville, Indiana Judge John Green got a glance of the motley crew of young toughs on the train. Years later Judge Green stated that he purposely chose, “the homeliest, toughest, most unpromising boy in the whole lot. I had a curious desire to see what could be made by such a speciman of humanity.”

By 1877, John Green Brady had graduated from Yale University and had obtained a degree from the Union Theological Seminary. He ended up in Sitka, Alaska as a Presbyterian minister, lawyer, missionary, and trader.

So, why am I touting John Green Brady on the American President’s Blog? No, he was never a president, never a vice-president…….he never even ran for office.

John Green Brady did attract the interest of President McKinley who appointed Brady as a three term territorial governor of Alaska from 1897 to 1908. Once McKinley was assassinated Theodore Roosevelt was on hand to reappoint Brady.

While the governor of Alaska Brady was known as the rose governor since he cultivated several varieties himself. He also worked very diligently towards civil rights for native Alaskans. Unfortunately he was forced to resign due to his alleged involvement with a scandal involving the Reynolds-Alaska Development Corporation. He was later fully exonerated.

Again, I’m sure you are wondering why go to this much trouble to post about a little known governor from so long ago on a site for American Presidents. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Yes, there is more……

During a governor’s conference James Green Brady approached Theodore Roosevelt. This was no regular governor to governor hello. Per Wikipedia, Brady stated to Roosevelt,

"Governor Roosevelt, the other governors have greeted you with interest, simply as a fellow governor and a great American, but I greet you with infinitely more interest, as the son of your father, the first Theodore Roosevelt." When greeted warmly by Governor Roosevelt and asked why and in what special way he had been interested in his father, Governor Brady replied, "Your father picked me up on the streets of New York, a waif and an orphan, and sent me to a Western family, paying for my transportation and early care. Years passed and I was able to repay the money which had given me my start in life, but I can never repay what he did for me, for it was through that early care and by giving me such a foster mother and father that I gradually rose in the world until I greet his son as a fellow governor of a part of our great country."

You see, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was a great New York City philanthropist. He helped form the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, and was instrumental in forming the Children’s Aide Society which was the group behind many of the orphan trains.

History is absolutely amazing to me. The mazes of information and connections help weave our American story and I find it absolutely facinating.

The One and Only Presidential Museum

The One and Only Presidential Museum. This blog has covered the topic of John Hanson and whether or not he was the first President of the United States of America before at John Hanson, American Patriot and First President of the United States and So Who Was Our First President? The answer is that he is not the first president in the sense we use the word today but he did have the fancy title of "President of the United States in Congress Assembled." Snopes has a good refutation of the John Hanson as first president myth at

Despite this, a man from Ohio has been using the Hanson story to get himself a lot of publicity. Nick Pahys Jr. has been running a presidential museum in which proudly proclaims the so called Hanson presidency as well as more traditional exhibits such as "Presidents from Ohio."

The blogged article of the day is from It has much more details on Nick and his museum. It is a fun read.

I'll end with a quote from the article, "Nick believes that the reason people don't know about John Hanson is not because John Hanson is a hopelessly arcane footnote in American history, but because the government doesn't want you to know about John Hanson. " I knew it all came down to a conspiracy! Just think, the American Federal government might fall if the truth about John Hanson got out! :]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Day in the Life of the President

Since President Ford has been in the news recently, I decided to do something related to him and found this really cool online exhibit from the Ford Presidential Library called A Day in the Life of the President.

Using the the daily diary of President Ford (the day the exhibit covers is April 28, 1975 - the day Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese), the library has scripted out the day and then linked all the pertinent minutes, pictures, etc with it. This really shows just how much the President does in a day!

Some items this day includes:

So go take a look at what the job of the President really entails!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Constructing the Presidency for the 21st Century: Learning from Past Triumphs and Tragedies

Constructing the Presidency for the 21st Century: Learning from Past Triumphs and Tragedies. This essay from 1998 is by David M. Abshire with an Introduction by Michael Beschloss.

It argues that Presidents need sage counsel to tranform their campaigns - and their inevitable policy or personal mistakes - into effective governance.

From the site:

As magnificently as our Founders shaped the office of the Presidency, one thing they did not do so well -- ensure that there would be some sort of institutional history and history and abiding wellspring of sage advice, above party and ideology, that would keep newly-appointed Presidential aides from presuming that they were in the process of reinventing the wheel.

As David Abshire, one of the wisest people in our country, points out in this thoughtful and provocative lecture, Presidential transitions have too often been more bruising than they needed to be, and the loser has sometimes turned out to be the new President himself.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Women at John Hopkins

Caroline Harrison is an often forgotten First Lady, but actually made several important contributions!

Mrs. Harrison was a gifted painter - she painted the dogwoods pictured above. She did a painting of the White House orchids that was reproduced and given away to the "women and girls" of the US.

Now why did I put John Hopkins in the title? Well, John Hopkins approached the First Lady about helping them to raise money, but she refused. Why did she refuse? Because they did not accept women. John Hopkins reevaluated their position and decided to admit women and then Mrs. Harrison helped them with their fundraising!

Mrs. Harrison was the first President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Her speech at their first congress was the first recorded speech by a sitting First Lady.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

North Dakota’s Presidential Visits

Like many small population states, North Dakota has seen few presidential visits. With only 3 electoral votes, it often gets skipped over. So who has been to North Dakota?

According to the Bismarck Tribune, 11 sitting presidents have visited the state of North Dakota. Three more came before statehood. So what brings presidents to small states like North Dakota? Flooding works – that’s what brought Clinton in 1997. Eisenhower came to the tour the Garrison Dam in 1953. FDR came twice – but then he had longer than most! Nixon came for the opening of the Bismarck airport in 1970.

North Dakota State University’s Institute for Regional Studies has more information on some of these “visits.” According to them, Woodrow Wilson was in Fargo in 1919 to push the League of Nations and some North Dakotans boarded the train to see the president, but he stayed in bed so they never saw him! This site even provides how long the president was in the state – not very long in many cases!

This can probably be extrapolated to many small states - it takes a lot to get a presidential visit and those that do come are only there very shortly!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Teddy Roosevelt and Bigfoot

I was inspired by Jennie's post Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota. Teddy Roosevelt had an active outdoor life. As I read the post, I remembered something about Teddy Roosevelt having ran into Bigfoot. Alas, I was mistaken.

Teddy Roosevelt never wrote or spoke of seeing Bigfoot himself but he did relate an account of someone else. In 1892, a German fur trapper by the name of Bauman was hunting with a friend around a section of the Salmon River in the Bitterroot Mountains between the state of Idaho and Montana. Their encounter with Bigfoot was recorded in a book (The Wilderness Hunter) by Teddy Roosevelt.

Here is an except from the story:

Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost stories while living on the frontier, and those few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type. But I once listened to a goblin-story, which rather impressed me.

A grizzled, weather beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman who, born and had passed all of his life on the Frontier, told it the story to me. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale; but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore. So that many fearsome superstitions were latent in his mind; besides, he knew well the stories told by the Indian medicine men in their winter camps, of the snow-walkers, and the specters, [spirits, ghosts & apparitions] the formless evil beings that haunt the forest depths, and dog and waylay the lonely wanderer who after nightfall passes through the regions where they lurk. It may be that when overcome by the horror of the fate that befell his friend, and when oppressed by the awful dread of the unknown, he grew to attribute, both at the time and still more in remembrance, weird and elfin traits to what was merely some abnormally wicked and cunning wild beast; but whether this was so or not, no man can say.

I wonder if this is the only intersection of presidential history and Bigfoot lore?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota

I spent the last week in North Dakota so I thought I would share some presidential facts from that state (seemed appropriate and all).

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

The National Parks Service (NPS) site for this park quotes TR as saying, “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”

TR came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. While he was there though he purchased a cattle ranch (Maltese Cross Ranch). Soon after he returned home, both his first wife (Alice) and his mother died and he returned to North Dakota as a way to deal with his grief. When he went back in 1884, he purchased a second ranch (the Elkhorn) north of Medora. The winter of 1886-1887 was a disastrous one for all North Dakota cattlemen. TR lost 60% of his herd. After 1890, TR seemed to have stopped working with the ranch. His last visit was in 1892 and in 1898 he sold the land. (NPS)

While TR turned to cattle ranching for a time, he came to North Dakota in 1883 for big game hunting. The devastation he saw of the buffalo population there helped to turn him into the conservationist he would be as President. As President, TR placed a huge amount of land under protection. The NPS gives these figures for his actions:

  • 51 bird reserves
  • 4 game reserves
  • 150 national forests
  • Established the US Forest Service
  • 5 National Parks
  • 18 National Monuments (in the 1906 Antiquities Act)
  • Total Land: 230,000,000 acres
  • From the NPS site linked above you can get a list of the specific parks and monuments.

TR said this about his time in North Dakota: I heartily enjoy this life, with its perfect freedom, for I am very fond of hunting, and there are few sensations I prefer to that of galloping over these rolling limitless prairies, with rifle in hand, or winding my way among the barren, fantastic and grimly picturesque deserts of the so-called Bad Lands…

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tall, Slim & Erect

Tall, Slim & Erect. My, this is a fun site! It consists of portraits of American presidents as 2" tall, plastic figurines. All the American Presidents from Washington to Nixon are included. The site is by Alex Forman.

The site creator noted, "One day in summer, I ran across a small wooden box at a flea market. It was filled with 2-inch tall plastic figurines of the American Presidents, from Washington to Nixon. They had been collected individually, hand painted, and lovingly stored together by some unknown person (showing the simple craze of the collector). One thing that struck me about these souvenir objects—my “models”—was how even in miniature, their gestures belied attitudes of entitlement; their poses, perfect public bearing. Intended to glorify the men, they symbolize the way that presidents lose their individuality as they become defined by an institution. James Madison was five foot four inches, our shortest president. Lincoln was six foot four, our tallest. But both men, here, are two-inches tall. Restoring these miniatures to life-size I explore multiple representations of our national leaders: they are portrayed variously as stately and vulnerable, humane and even otherworldly. "

Each president also has a short biography included. None are very long but they all have a few tidbits of interesting facts. For example, the William Henry Harrison articles read, "Tall, slim and erect, [Harrison] made an impressive figure in the saddle.At sixty-eight, Harrison was the oldest President to be inaugurated and the first to die in office (exactly one month after his inauguration). A notice in the papers announced Harrison would shake no hands at his inauguration: his arm was sore and his hand was swollen from campaigning. I can not bear this, don't trouble me. He delivered a forty minute inauguration speech (written incidentally by Daniel Webster) in the rain with no overcoat. d. April 4, 1841 at 68 of Pneumonia."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Tale of the Tapes

Enter my father’s house and take a left into the great room, walk by the large screen television and hang a left into the foyer. Keep turning to the left and walk up the steps. Notice the graduation portraits of my sister and I. Take a left at the top of the stairs and you’ll find yourself in my bedroom. Go to the closet door and enter. Go all the way in….it’s a walk-in. Look to the right and you’ll notice a small doorway into another smaller storage area. Inside you’ll find boxes of old school papers, Seventeen magazines, my old green RCA record player that was my sister’s until she got married, copies of The Vorpal Blade, my highschool newspaper, my green trunk that I took with me to college, and you’ll notice on top of one stack of artifacts a dusty cassette player and a faded blue shoebox. Carefully lift the shoebox in one hand and the cassette player in the other, and take them ever so carefully into the bedroom and lay them on the bed. What you have just extricated from the relics of my younger days is directly related to August 8, 1974, the day that Richard M. Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign from office.

What could my relics possibly have to do with President Nixon’s resignation speech? Now bear with me here…..I’m about to change direction in the story but I promise it will all come together in the end. As I tell my students, “Put your blinders on and stay focused.”

My parents had many different friends when I was growing up, but one particular couple stood out because they were so extraordinary. Major and Alice lived north of Atlanta and came into town once a month to visit the PX at Fort Macpherson. They would show up at our house late in the afternoon with their car laden with coolers filled with ice and packages of ground beef, chicken, and pork. Their grocery bags, back in the day when everyone used paper, lined up three deep across the seat filled with their provisions for the next month. My mother always fixed dinner for them when they were in town or we would take them out.

Major was not his real name but was his rank upon retiring from the army. He used to tell stories about the OSS, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Of course, he would wink and tell us many of his best stories would go with him to the grave because he’d have to kill us if we knew too much.

Major had grown up in Tennessee and Miss Alice, as my father always referred to her, hailed from Missouri and was a war time registered nurse. What made them so different from my parents and their other friends was the fact that they had lived all over the world and had a much different view of things. They both treated and talked with me as if I was their equal…as if I was already an adult. I always felt grown up when they visited. Miss Alice painted and their house was filled with paintings she had created of Major, their children, and different scenes from their travels. When my parents traveled to Switzerland Miss Alice painted a picture of a ski lodge in the Alps my Mother had fell in love with. I found it amazing that Miss Alice painted the ski lodge from a picture Dad had taken. It still hangs at Dad’s house.

The night of August 8, 1974 was one of those memorable visits from Alice and Major. Though I had watched the CBS Evening News with my Dad every night since I was a small child while I finished my homework, I didn’t always know exactly what I was looking at and didn’t always understand the stories. By 1974, I was twelve and in the seventh grade. I knew what Watergate was about and knew that I was witnessing history.

My Mother had been glued all during the summer of ‘73 to the nationally televised hearings that began airing May. I remember watching the testimony of John Dean while behind him his beautiful wife sat. One particular day she had on lots of white and she made a starkly pure background to what was a sordid affair. I rememember the lull of Sam Ervin’s wonderful southern accent in marked contrast to the gruff sounding G. Gordon Liddy. I knew that some of President’s Nixon’s staffers had testified that White House meetings and telephone conversations were regularly taped. Once the Nixon White House tapes were finally turned over it was discovered that there was an 18 ½ minute gap of silence on a tape.

Nixon’s Chief of Staff at the time, Alexander Haig, stated that “some sinister source” had erased the tape. Yes, that’s the same Alexander Haig that announced, “I’m in control here,” after the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan.

Once the House Judiciary Committee had passed the first three articles of impeachment charging President Nixon with obstruction of justice many of the newsmen my Dad watched began to talk of the President’s impending resignation.

Major arrived at our house that night wanting to make sure the television was working and told me that the President was going to speak at 8 p.m. Children wouldn’t understand the big deal that it was back then because the President speaks now, but they can still get many of their favorite channels on television. In my day when the President spoke every channel (all 3) and every radio station carried it. It couldn’t be avoided. I don’t know anyone who would have wanted to….back then.

I had received a cassette tape recorder for my birthday, and had set about antagonizing my entire family by hiding it in the bathroom with the record button on, recording records, snipets off the radio, my mom on the phone, and our dinner conversations. While Major spoke with me about the importance of the President’s speech he saw that I had my recorder out. He suggested that I record the President’s speech. So while he and Dad debated on which channel to watch I plugged in my recorder and had the mike and tape ready to go.

As 8:00 approached Major and my Dad got in their positions in front of the television. My mother and Miss Alice even made an unusual appearance from their normal place around the kitchen table. I situated myself on the pine board floor in front of the television. The same kind of television many people had at the time. Our antenna was constantly decorated with balls and flat pieces of aluminum foil in a vain attempt to receive the best signal. That was before the days of the universal remote when we had to change the television by actually walking over to it and turning a knob. Imagine that! Our knob had disappeared through many years of my sister and I abusing it by seeing who could rip the dial around the fastest. There was always a pair of pliers on top of the television to latch onto the actual rod that changed the channels or sometimes Dad would scrounge an old oven knob that would work until one of us lost it.

Walter Cronkite was on the screen and Major reminded me to begin the tape when I saw the Presidential Seal. Suddenly the seal glimmered on the screen and I hit the record button. President Nixon began his resignation speech.

I remember when the President actually got to the part when he said, “Therefore I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” Even though they were expecting it there were gasps from all four adults in the room. My mother had tears in her eyes. These four people, all born in the late twenties and early thirties…these four people who had seen the sacrifices our country made during the Great Depression and World War II….these four people who had supported or served in the U.S. Army…these four people who believed in the innocence and good intentions of our government…these four people had been betrayed. Their innocence was gone. Mistrust of government would began to rise steadily with the passing of each generation.

So go back to my old bedroom at my father’s as you open that faded blue shoebox. Inside is the tape I made on August 8, 1974. I keep it in the same box with all of my other tapes from that time period because to me the whole unit symbolizes innocence lost. My childish recordings of my dog, Lady, licking my face, my recordings of an unnamed family member in the bathroom, my recordings of one of my Mom’s phone conversation with Aunt Boofy and then Aunt Rachel, my recording of my much annoyed sister telling me to leave her alone mixed in with a President’s shame, a nation’s shock, and innocence regarding the machinations of government lost.

There are several links where you can find out more about Watergate here, here, and here. President Nixon’s complete resignation speech can be found here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chester Arthur and Polygamy

Polygamy as practiced by the Mormon Church in the 19th century was a divisive issue in the United States. Only slavery created more controversy. American Presidents repeatedly railed against polygamy both during campaign season but also during official speeches.

Chester Arthur was no exception. In fact, he attacked polygamy in all four of his State of the Union Addresses! Here are some excerpts:

From the 1881 State of the Union Address, "For many years the Executive, in his annual message to Congress; has urged the necessity of stringent legislation for the suppression of polygamy in the Territories, and especially in the Territory of Utah. The existing statute for the punishment of this odious crime, so revolting to the moral and religious sense of Christendom, has been persistently and contemptuously violated ever since its enactment. Indeed, in spite of commendable efforts on the part of the authorities who represent the United States in that Territory, the law has in very rare instances been enforced, and, for a cause to which reference will presently be made, is practically a dead letter."

"The fact that adherents of the Mormon Church, which rests upon polygamy as its corner stone, have recently been peopling in large numbers Idaho, Arizona, and other of our Western Territories is well calculated to excite the liveliest interest and apprehension. It imposes upon Congress and the Executive the duty of arraying against this barbarous system all the power which under the Constitution and the law they can wield for its destruction."

From the 1882 State of the Union Address, " The results which have thus far attended the enforcement of the recent statute for the suppression of polygamy in the Territories are reported by the Secretary of the Interior. It is not probable that any additional legislation in this regard will be deemed desirable until the effect of existing laws shall be more closely observed and studied. "

"I congratulate you that the commissioners under whose supervision those laws have been put in operation are encouraged to believe that the evil at which they are aimed may be suppressed without resort to such radical measures as in some quarters have been thought indispensable for success. "

From the 1883 State of the Union Address, " This fact, however, affords little cause for congratulation, and I fear that it is far from indicating any real and substantial progress toward the extirpation of polygamy. All the members elect of the legislature are Mormons. There is grave reason to believe that they are in sympathy with the practices that this Government is seeking to suppress, and that its efforts in that regard will be more likely to encounter their opposition than to receive their encouragement and support. Even if this view should happily be erroneous, the law under which the commissioners have been acting should be made more effective by the incorporation of some such stringent amendments as they recommend, and as were included in bill No. 2238 on the Calendar of the Senate at its last session."

"I am convinced, however, that polygamy has become so strongly intrenched in the Territory of Utah that it is profitless to attack it with any but the stoutest weapons which constitutional legislation can fashion. I favor, therefore, the repeal of the act upon which the existing government depends, the assumption by the National Legislature of the entire political control of the Territory, and the establishment of a commission with such powers and duties as shall be delegated to it by law."

From the 1884 State of the Union Address, " It discloses the results of recent legislation looking to the prevention and punishment of polygamy in that Territory. I still believe that if that abominable practice can be suppressed by law it can only be by the most radical legislation consistent with the restraints of the Constitution. "

"I again recommend, therefore, that Congress assume absolute political control of the Territory of Utah and provide for the appointment of commissioners with such governmental powers as in its judgment may justly and wisely be put into their hands."

President Arthur was not the last president to address polygamy. Benjamin Harrison, Cleveland, and Teddy Roosevelt all had occasion to bring the issue up. However, Mormon sanctioned polygamy ended soon after Arthur left office. The fourth president of the Mormon Church, Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto on 1890-SEP-24. It ended the solemnization of new plural marriages for an indefinite interval. Woodruff wrote, "And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land."

Polygamy has never gone away in the USA. Fundamentalist Mormons still practice it. Further, many in the growing American Islamic population practice polygamy as well. However, it is not now and likely never will be a major national issue again. It may be a coincidence but it certainly appears that President Arthur's strong attacks on polygamy and his determination to enforce federal anti-polygamy laws may well have been the beginning of the tipping point which led to Mormon abandonment of the practice a few short years after Arthur left office.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Did Eliza Johnson Really Teach Andrew to Read?

Well, no. But it made such a good story....maybe that's why we all heard it was true!

The National First Ladies' Library writes:
It is not true, as so often stated, that Eliza Johnson taught her husband how to read and write, but it is true that she helped him refine his rough edges.

Her White House biography tells us some more:
Fortunately she [Mrs. Johnson] had received a good basic education that she was delighted to share with her new husband. He already knew his letters and could read a bit, so she taught him writing and arithmetic.

The NFLL shares with us what they see as her legacy:
Eliza Johnson’s life in the White House was only a continuation of the pattern she followed throughout her life – home and family first and foremost. At no point did she involve herself in her husband’s career, not even at the start. She had a calming influence on her easily angered husband and in this way, exercised a real power. She showed no interest in expanding her role in his life and had no interest in the world of politics. Eliza Johnson was a very conventional woman, who turned over her duties as First Lady to her very capable daughters. Her refusal to fulfill her duties was due in part to due health, but also due to the public criticism of Mary Lincoln during her four years in the White House.

Go spend some time and learn about this fascinating First Lady! And go and share your new information to help replace with the myths with the truth about Eliza Johnson!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Oliver Sipple Saves President Ford's Life

In the Fall of 1975, there were several assassination attempts on President Ford. One of these was thwarted by Oliver "Bill" Sipple. He was a former marine and high school football star.

An article from the Random House series The American Century noted, "Sipple moved toward the front of the crowd to see his president. He saw him all right-as well as a gray-haired woman by his side, pulling a revolver out of her blue raincoat. Sipple grabbed her arm. Her shot missed the President by a few feet. Sipple wrestled her to the ground, and prevented her from getting off a second shot by shoving his hand into the firing mechanism."

Sipple was a hero. However, there was a problem. He had a secret. He did not want his family to learn he was gay and he shied away from publicity. Despite this, he was outed by a local paper. His father never spoke to him again.

According to Wikipedia, Sipple later said "My sexual orientation has nothing at all to do with saving the President's life, just as the color of my eyes or my race has nothing to do with what happened in front of the St. Francis Hotel."

Some claimed that Ford never publicly thanked Sipple for his role in saving his life. In 2001, Ford denied this in an interview with the Detroit News. He was quoted as saying, "I came out of the St. Francis Hotel and was about to get into the limo. The shot was fired (by Sara Jane Moore). The Secret Service got me to Air Force One quickly. I later learned ... Bill Sipple hit her hand and, as a consequence, the shot went above my head. ... I wrote him a note thanking him. ... As far as I was concerned, I had done the right thing and the matter was ended. I didn't learn until sometime later -- I can't remember when -- he was gay. I don't know where anyone got the crazy idea I was prejudiced and wanted to exclude gays."

Sipple did not fare well after saving Ford's life. After being outed, he spiraled into depression and became an alcoholic. He also became extremely obese. He was found dead in February 1989. Only 30 people attended his funeral. It was a sad end for someone who had truly performed a heroic act for the American nation.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Madison Code? I think we need another movie….

So everyone has been all excited over the Da Vinci code so I thought I’d provide a presidential version! James Madison (with many of his political buddies) had his own personal code. Madison was always worried that “unauthorized” people would read his correspondence (i.e., the British, the French, political enemies at home…). His first ciphers were designed by James Lovell, a Continental Congress delegate who was also an expert on ciphers.

From the site:
On July 5, 1782, Edmund Randolph wrote to James Madison: "I wish, that on future occasions of speaking of individuals we may use the cypher, which we were taught by Mr. Lovell. Let the keyword be the name of the negro boy, who used to wait on our common friend." Madison noted at the bottom of Randolph's letter, "Probably CUPID." He added, "I have been in some pain from the danger incident to the cypher we now use. The enemy I am told have in some instances published their intercepted cyphers."

Madison also sometimes just used a secret seal in place of the time-consuming codes. Madison and some of cohorts continued to worry about interception of their letters though and in the 1780s, Madison and Monroe used 600-element nomenclator for their correspondence. So what is a nomenclator? A nomenclator is a list with numbers keyed to the same number of words or parts of words (elements) in a random pattern and then used as their substitutes in an encoded message. (from the site) This eventually grew to a 1500-element system! Later Jefferson and Madison used a 1700-element system when Jefferson was Minister to France (they seem to be getting better at it as well as more paranoid! Sort of reminds you of email encryption doesn't it?). For awhile after Jefferson returned from France, he and Madison quit using ciphers in their letters, but went back to the practice in the 1790s when politics took a nasty turn again.

A great example of their use of this code is Jefferson to Madison, January 31, 1783. If you go check out the site, you will see many more examples from the James Madison Papers.

So if you thought worry about intercepted correspondence was limited to our modern government and email, you can see they have always worried about unauthorized readers!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Boy Who was President for a Day

The Boy Who was President for a Day. This book is a work of fiction for children. It is a bit different from most topics or sites covered by this blog. However, I read this to my oldest son the other day and he really enjoyed it. I thought it was a clever way to explain concepts such as the American Presidency and responsibility to children.

From the site:

Imagine being President for a day! The Boy Who Was President book allows kids to expand their imaginations learning what it would be like to be in charge for a day! This story includes being teacher for a day. What kid would not want to be in charge of their class for a day and receive a warm welcome from their friends for the good job they have done?

Inside the book is a difficult task. Encouraging a child's hard work and completion of the satisfactory study and then asking their parents, teachers, principal, mayor, governor, and President to certify that that they are hardworking. Scan the certificate included in the book and email it to us to post on our web site!!