Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Scottie Tails: My Date with Barney, the First Dog

OK, this is not about a President but about a famous First Dog! I found it amusing anyway. The original site for this video is My Date with Barney, The First Dog.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Looking for Lincoln

Looking for Lincoln. Here is a new site I just discovered. It is from a consortium of Illinois communities and organizations sharing the stories of Abraham Lincoln through historical tours to places associated with Lincoln. Although it is clearly aimed at bringing in tourists, I still found this to be a fun site with a good idea at the core.

Maybe others areas which produced presidents could try this approach? How about a looking for John Tyler coalition in Virginia? Or maybe a looking for Franklin Pierce coalition in New Hampshire? Maybe not...

From the site:

The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, LFL for short, is a consortium of Illinois communities that share the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the coalition is to tell the stories about Lincoln unique to each site and each community. But Lincoln history alone is not enough. The Lincoln stories must be shared in a creative way. So, in order to create a real visitor experience each site in the LFL program must offer some level of interpretive programming. While focusing upon Lincoln, the coalition also encompasses the rich history of each participating community in order to create a broader context for Lincoln and his times.

The participating communities and sites are not only linked to each other, but are also tied closely to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. The Looking for Lincoln program makes it possible to extend the reach of the Library and Museum so that the museum exhibits are just the beginning of the Lincoln adventure. We want visitors to actually go to the real places where Lincoln spent time.

The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition helps communities and enhance existing Lincoln sites or create new sites and programs. Then once those sites are "visitor-ready," The coalition provides marketing support.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Those Ironic Presidents!

When I’m not teaching history I have the distinct honor of teaching my young charges the joys of the English language. Irony is one of those literary elements that can give students a difficult time, so I try to give students as much practice as possible. I generally use certain tradebooks with small groups and ask students to look for examples of irony as they read through the text. I like to use factoid type books where students will remain interested in the text and the ironic examples are not explicitly written for students. They have to be inferred. In this way we are practicing with inference and irony. One book I like to use is Don't Know Much About The Presidents by Kenneth C. Davis.

Here are some examples of presidential irony that can be inferred from the book:

President McKinley wore a red carnation for luck. It is ironic that he wore his good luck charm on September 6, 1901, the day he was assassinated. It’s even more ironic that McKinley had given away his good luck charm to a little girl in the crowd minutes before he was shot.

Zachary Taylor never voted in a presidential election. Prior to politics Taylor was a career military man who did not have a registered hometown. I guess they didn't have absentee ballots then.

Many presidents since George Washington have looked to his administration for guidance. Many have wanted to fill his shoes. They were a size 13 by the way. It is ironic that Warren G. Harding, one of our worst presidents, has been the only one that could literally fill Washington’s shoes and then some. Mckinley wore a size 14 shoe.

The man who penned the beautiful words of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, thought his greatest achievement was his founding of the University of Virginia.

William Henry Harrison wanted to be a doctor, but settled for politics when his funding ran out. It is also ironic that he gave the longest inaugural speech, but he had the shortest term in office…thirty-one days.

Finally, I find it extremely ironic that George Washington had no teeth and lived at a time when most people considered it unhealthy to take a bath very often. The irony is he required that each of his horses’ teeth receive a thorough brushing each morning.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who is this charming couple?

I'm taking a page from EHT's book and posting my version of her Wordless Wednesdays (Wordless Wednesday at History is Elementary). I found this picture while doing a little research on this couple and was quite flabbergasted - I have never really looked at pictures from this stage of their lives and this was not what I expected. So I decided to see if anyone could recognize them! Because of the nature of this blog you KNOW this is a president and hopefully you can guess a time period, so this really should be that hard!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union 2007

President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address. The White House has released this transcript of President George W. Bush's 2007 State of the Union Address. Initial press reports and polls indicate that Bush did a better than expected job in this speech. It is also available in Spanish at Discurso Sobre el Estado de la NaciĆ³n por el Presidente.

Excerpt from the Speech:

Thank you very much. And tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own -- as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Congratulations, Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

Two members of the House and Senate are not with us tonight, and we pray for the recovery and speedy return of Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood. (Applause.)

Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin. In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together.

Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate -- and I congratulate the Democrat majority. (Applause.) Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us. (Applause.)

We're not the first to come here with a government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on -- as long as we're willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. (Applause.) Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them to build a future of hope and opportunity -- and this is the business before us tonight.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union Address - 1864

As we prepare for President Bush's 2007 State of the Union Address tonight, here is a blast from the past with State of the Union from 1864. The SOU was known as the President's Annual Message at that time. The USA was engaged in a long war with no end in site. The south of America was in open rebellion and many northern cities were rioting and lynching African-Americans. Lincoln was highly unpopular and if not for several major battle wins may well have lost his re-election bid.

From the Address:

The election has exhibited another tact not less valuable to be known--the fact that we do not approach exhaustion in the most important branch of national resources, that of living men. While it is melancholy to reflect that the war has filled so many graves and carried mourning to so many hearts, it is some relief to know that, compared with the surviving, the fallen have been so few. While corps and divisions and brigades and regiments have formed and fought and dwindled and gone out of existence, a great majority of the men who composed them are still living. The same is true of the naval service. The election returns prove this. So many voters could not else be found. The States regularly holding elections, both now and four years ago, to wit, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, east 3,982,011 votes now, against 3,870,222 cast then, showing an aggregate now of 3,982,011. To this is to be added 33,762 cast now in the new States of Kansas and Nevada, which States did not vote in 1860, thus swelling the aggregate to 4,015,773 and the net increase during the three years and a half of war to 145,551. A table is appended showing particulars. To this again should be added the number of all soldiers in the field from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, and California, who by the laws of those States could not vote away from their homes, and which number can not be less than 90,000. Nor yet is this all. The number in organized Territories is triple now what it was four years ago, while thousands, white and black, join us as the national arms press back the insurgent lines. So much is shown, affirmatively and negatively, by the election. It is not material to inquire how the increase has been produced or to show that it would have been greater but for the war, which is probably true. The important fact remains demonstrated that we have more men now than we had when the war began; that we are not exhausted nor in process of exhaustion; that we are gaining strength and may if need be maintain the contest indefinitely. This as to men. Material resources are now more complete and abundant than ever.

The national resources, then, are unexhausted, and, as we believe, inexhaustible. The public purpose to reestablish and maintain the national authority is unchanged, and, as we believe, unchangeable. The manner of continuing the effort remains to choose. On careful consideration of all the evidence accessible it seems to me that no attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept nothing short of severance of the Union, precisely what we will not and can not give. His declarations to this effect are explicit and oft repeated. He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He can not voluntarily reaccept the Union; we can not voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war and decided by victory. If we yield, we are beaten; if the Southern people fail him, he is beaten. Either way it would be the victory and defeat following war. What is true, however, of him who heads the insurgent cause is not necessarily true of those who follow. Although he can not reaccept the Union, they can. Some of them, we know, already desire peace and reunion. The number of such may increase. They can at any moment have peace simply by laying down their arms and submitting to the national authority under the Constitution. Alter so much the Government could not, if it would, maintain war against them. The loyal people would not sustain or allow it. If questions should remain, we would adjust them by the peaceful means of legislation, conference, courts, and votes, operating only in constitutional and lawful channels. Some certain, and other possible, questions are and would be beyond the Executive power to adjust; as, for instance, the admission of members into Congress and whatever might require the appropriation of money. The Executive power itself would be greatly diminished by the cessation of actual war. Pardons and remissions of forfeitures, however, would still be within Executive control. In what spirit and temper this control would be exercised can be fairly judged of by the past.

Monday, January 22, 2007

SMU president reassures faculty on Bush library

SMU president reassures faculty on Bush library. Southern Methodist University is in the running to be the home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Many are pleased about this and hope they can actually bring the library to campus. Others though are opposed. Some real opposition has developed trying to derail the library.

Opponents of the library coming to SMU are focused on their dislike of President Bush. Since they do not like his presidency, they want to show disapproval for his library.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner responded to this. He said, "Over time, the political components of the library complex will fade and the historical aspects will ascend."

Indeed. Fifty to a hundred years from now, few people will be worked up over George W. Bush. Worst president ever talk will be reserved for whoever is in the White House at the time if you disagree with him/her. However, scholars will be researching George W. Bush and visiting his Presidential Library.

The long-term benefits of a campus getting a Presidential Library are huge. Other institutions of higher education are hoping SMU gets left behind because of the controversy. Instead of dealing with critics, Baylor University in Waco increased its planned library site from 100 acres to 150 acres, and the University of Dallas proposed a 300-acre site, which is more than SMU's entire 210-acre campus.

Will this stay debate stay heated? Probably. However, the George W. Presidential Library will get built no matter how much some dislike him. Will it go to SMU? I kind of hope it does. It would be ironic if some of the critics have to drive past the library going to work everyday for the rest of their career at SMU. I think they would come to realize it really wasn't worth having gotten worked up about in the first place.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My DC Trip....Part III: Ash Lawn - Highland

So you are all probably wondering what took me so long to get to Part III! Well, unfortunately life intervened, but finally here is Ash Lawn (Highland).

Highland was the home of James Monroe. Notice the name change? Well, the Monroes' called their home Highland, but after their deaths it was called Ash Lawn. As a historian, I'm being obstinate and using Highland.

Actually I didn’t realize that it was so close to Monticello. I had planned on going to Montpelier and Monticello from my map and I knew that Monroe was from Virginia, but not where in the state he was. As I got closer to Monticello I also began seeing signs for Highland. It turns out that Highland is only a few miles from Monticello (next door neighbors when you are talking about plantations). After I left Monticello I started following the signs for Highland. After getting lost only once, I found it. I didn’t have time to actually tour the house (my husband kind of expected me to pick him up eventually!), but did go take a quick look.

Highland is owned and operated by the College of William and Mary. You can take a virtual tour of the place on your computer.

The Monroe’s house was a farmhouse, but elegantly decorated with many items from Napoleonic France. This Neoclassical chair was made in Paris in 1800. I used this picture because this chair actually looks like it might be comfortable and I find that most antiques look the exact opposite!

The dining room set is Hepplewhite and the chairs went with them to the White House.

The grounds of Highland are huge – 535 acres today and 3500 acres in Monroe’s time. You can see these pictures that I took on the long drive way. The Monroes were slave owners. Thomas Jefferson noted that Monroe’s slave quarters were "of much better built than is usual....,” but they were still slaves. The Highland website on Monroe slaves ends with this thought:
In the main house, the formal rooms on the main floor remind visitors how dependent the household was on its slave labor force. The banquet of food in the dining room, the pressed linens in the chamber, and the polished furniture and swept floors all bear witness to a labor force that is, today, all but invisible. The challenge for Ash Lawn-Highland is to remind the modern visitor of the profound influence of this invisible force, whose coerced labor enabled the plantation system to function and to thrive.

Highland offers a wide variety of workshops and tours. You can access their schedule and see that there is something for almost any taste. I was quite impressed with the workshop choices.

Some things to remember about Highland:

  • The signs are clear and you should have no trouble finding it, although after you get past Monticello there are a couple of places were it seems like you’ve gone too far, but you really haven’t. It really is out in the country!
  • Admission is $9 for adults, making it much cheaper than Monticello. As a note, you can purchase a joint ticket (the Presidents’ Pass) for Monticello and Highland, making it cheaper for you to visit. This pass includes Michie Tavern as well. It also offers discounts to local residents, Triple A members, seniors and children. They do offer group rates and if you take a workshop (which is $15 for adults and $10 for students), you get a house tour with it.
  • Ash Lawn does a summer opera festival if you are interested. Since they are affiliated with William and Mary they have a huge offering of special events – check out what is going on while you are in the area.

Well, this concludes my trip posts. Hope you enjoyed them!

If you missed a part you can find them:


Part I: Montpelier

Part II: Monticello

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ford: Carter was 'disaster,' Reagan was overpraised

Ford: Carter was 'disaster,' Reagan was overpraised. This article is from the It relates a series of interviews with President Ford from after his presidency until his death. In them, he indicated his disapproval with Carter and Reagan.

In 1981, Ford said: "I think Jimmy Carter would be very close to Warren G. Harding. I feel very strongly that Jimmy Carter was a disaster, particularly domestically and economically. I have said more than once that he was certainly the poorest president in my lifetime."

Ford noted that Reagan was "probably the least well-informed on the details of running the government of any president I knew." In a separate interview, he said Reagan "was just a poor manager, and you can't be president and do a good job unless you manage."

I wonder, could Ford have disliked these men because of personal reasons? He lost to Carter in the 1976 Presidential election. Reagan strongly challenged him in the Republican primaries that same year. In addition, Reagan backed out on a deal to name him his Vice-Presidential candidate in 1980. It just seems odd that Ford considered the very different political presidents of Carter and Reagan equally in disdain. Perhaps this is due to personal feelings rather than keen presidential insight?

Monday, January 15, 2007

History Carnival

The newest history carnival is up at Investigations of a Dog. This is a huge carnival as there hasn't been a new one since before Christmas (an entire MONTH...what did we do with our time?) so have fun! The APB did make it - better go check it out!

My DC Trip...Part II: Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello was simply gorgeous! I did the house tour which was just wonderful. I’d always had a picture in my head of Monticello and this was so much more. This was my main goal and I’m really glad I made the two hour drive from DC. Let’s start with a map of the plantation:

Monticello has never been heavily renovated – it never had to be. It was kept up since Jefferson’s built it and as such is a great opportunity to see the house he built and lived in. About 60% of the furnishings are original – that is a large amount for a place like this. The rest of the house is as faithfully as possible recreated from historical evidence.

Now the first thing you will notice about the house is that it is on a big hill (Virginia calls it a mountain) and looks over Charlottesville. It is really an awesome panorama of the surrounding land. I never realized that the house was so high! See the picture below for some of the view:

The house tour is really neat. You have several great online tour options. The house is a mass of different styles and as such as great character. Jefferson was self-taught in architecture and started out very neoclassical, but after his stint in France as US Ambassador came back and added French additions. The entrance hall to Monticello is really breathtaking. There are all kinds of really cool stuff on the walls. Antlers from the Lewis and Clark expedition, pieces of sculpture, a huge plantation clock…you get the picture. The plantation clock is controlled by weights that also tell you the day of the week. But the room wasn’t tall enough so Jefferson put a hole in the floor for the weights to go through and the Saturday marker is actually below the house – you can see it from outside if you know where to look. In the next room, he had lots of portraits and sculptures of Revolutionary War heroes and other great pieces of artwork. He even has a bust of his enemy, Alexander Hamilton. He put himself and Hamilton at opposite corners of the room so they could spar at each other for eternity.

Jefferson’s bedroom is a really neat room. The bed is actually in the middle attached two walls that come out and hold it off the floor. It is a variation on an alcove bed. It is the coolest thing in the house to me. Jefferson hated wasted space and was always working on ways to better use space. The area above the bed is a storage room for off-seasonal clothes.

You can see a complete alcove bed in one of the guest bedrooms. This room is actually an octagon.

If you look at the dining room in the panorama you can see the doors between this room and next are two paned. The reason is that Jefferson wanted light, but the windows made it too cold in the winter, so he doubled the doors to keep the other rooms warm.

This is just a part of house. The tour lets you see the first floor, but the top two floors are closed as the stairs are too narrow for tours.

This is the corridor between the kitchen (which wasn’t in the house) and the dining room. The slaves would bring the food into the house for the meals from the kitchen. There is a revolving door to the dining room so the slaves could put the food on it, nicely plated now and turn it and the butler could serve it. And you never saw anyone but the butler.

The grounds are also huge and you can take a self-guided tour of these. Monticello also offers information on the enslaved community and the ongoing archeology. The tour guides do bring up Sally Hemmings and the fact that Jefferson did father at least one of her children, if not all of them.

Jefferson’s house and grounds were a large experiment to him. He was always working with new breeds of plants, new additions to the grounds and house. You can explore a lot of this online, but it is definitely worth the time to see in person as well. Jefferson actually had to buy a lot of food for his household because so much of his crop was experimental.

Jefferson died in substantially in debt and the house was sold to pay off these debts. His family, most of whom lived with him at different times (his choice – he wanted all his family to live there), had to move out. His books were sold once during his lifetime to replace the Library of Congress after DC was burned in the War of 1812, but he replaced it and they were sold after his death to help pay off debts. The books at Monticello today are mostly only similar volumes to those that he owned at the end of his life, not his actual books. Monticello today only has a couple of his original volumes.

The website offers a substantial amount of education material for teachers. I could go on for much longer, but let’s just end with a few things to remember when visiting Monticello:

  • Monticello is pretty easy to find as the signs are pretty good, but the visitor center is a bit confusing. When you come into the area off Interstate 64, there are visitor’s center signs AND signs for Monticello. The visitor’s center is actually a ways off and really doesn’t have anything you need to visit Monticello. You buy your tickets at Monticello for the house tour so you actually don’t need to stop at the visitor’s center. Just follow the signs for Monticello and ignore the signs for the visitor’s center unless you want to go through the museum. They are in the process of moving to the visitor’s center to Monticello for this very reason.
  • That brings me to my next point – there is construction at Monticello. The house isn’t being renovated or the grounds, just the new visitor’s center being added so don’t be deterred by the sights and sounds of construction.
  • The road to Monticello is actually fairly steep and windy so be careful once you get off Route 53. Especially if you are visiting in the winter or if weather is inclement.
  • Tickets for the tour are $15, which I think is REALLY expensive, but I did have a great experience. Monticello is privately owned, which I’m sure contributes to this high cost, although the Thomas Jefferson Foundation that owns and operates the plantation is nonprofit. Children are cheaper and there are discounts for large groups. You buy your tickets at the parking lot and then are bused up to the house.
  • As typical, there is no photography in the house.

Stay tuned for Part III: Ashlawn

Missed Part I: Montpelier and the Introduction?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My DC Trip...Part I: Montpelier

My main mission was to go to Monticello, but when I checked out the map, I found that James Madison’s Montpelier was on the way. So I decided that I had better at least stop by! Now Montpelier and Monticello are only about 30 miles apart, but that is an hour drive today (especially if you get lost like I did!) and was a full day’s trip in Madison’s and Jefferson’s day. The great part of being out here is that you really feel that you go back in time. You are out in the country and it is very rural and quiet, which makes it easier to put yourself back in time!

A couple of things to remember when visiting Montpelier:

  • There are TWO James Madison sites in Orange, VA. The first (in town) is the museum and the second is Montpelier (out of town a little way).
  • The house tour alone takes about 45 minutes, so plan for a couple of hours to visit Montpelier as there is a lot of ground to cover (2750 acres and 130 buildings). For the rest of grounds, you are given the audio guides that talk to you rather than a live guide.

  • It is currently under renovation, but is still giving tours.
    There is great signage into the area so just follow the signs after you get on Highway 20 (Constitution Highway). The visitor’s center is right on the road, which makes it easy to find.

  • The cost of admission for an adult is $12 – which is fairly steep, but National Trust members do get a 50% discount.
As you can see, the finished mansion will be simply gorgeous!

Some of the grounds – you can see how huge this is and how rural it still is. This is actually me, so excuse the photography!

This is the map of the grounds – the map was too big for my scanner, so I just gave you the main part to give you an idea of how much there is to see here!

You can see the extensive restoration going on.

You can read a history of the house on the Montpelier webpage. The origin of the name of plantation isn’t certain. At first the place was referred to as Mount Pleasant, but that name disappears from use in the 1720s. The earliest record of the name Montpelier is a letter from 1781. President Madison actually preferred the French version, Montpellier meaning “Mount of the Pilgrim.”

James Madison was a slave-owner (he owned about 100) and the site offers a tour of the enslaved community as well as education on the slaves who lived here.

Stayed tuned for Part II: Monticello!

For some background on my trip, check out My DC Trip...An Introduction

Modern U.S. President...Now We Have a Trio

You Are Most Like Richard Nixon

Oh sure, you give people plenty of reasons to call you "Tricky Dick."
But you're actually quite diplomatic, even though you secretly hate your enemies.

Hillary/Bigfoot to Run in '08

I teach LIB 197 at Central Michigan University. It is a one credit course which teaches the basics of library research and helps to educate students on information literacy. One of the topics is determining if a source is credible or not. I often teach this by showing examples of credible online sources compared to suspect print sources.

As such, I could not help but buy the newest issue of Weekly World News. The headline reads, "Hilary Names Bigfoot as Her Running Mate!" This issue will be appearing in many sections of the courses I am teaching in the near future. What a great headline for a critical thinking exercise.

And heck, this article may well be true! The Democrats keep losing Presidential elections because they can not carry even a single southern state. That means they have to be almost perfect everywhere else where the election is competitive. But if they could win even a few southern states...

Who could Democrats nominate to win in the south? Not Hillary. But how about Bigfoot? It could perhaps work...

I love this quote from the article, "I can see the campaign slogan now. Give 'em hell, Hairy!"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Carter Center advisers resign over book

President Carter's recent book on Israel and the Palestinian conflict has caused problems in the Carter Center.

CNN reports, "Former President Jimmy Carter's controversial book and subsequent remarks about the Israel-Palestinian conflict have prompted the resignations of 14 people from an advisory board of the Carter Center, the 25-year-old Atlanta-based humanitarian organization. The 14 explained their concerns, which reflect an uproar in the U.S. Jewish community over Carter's Mideast stance, in separate letters sent Thursday to fellow Board of Councilors members and Carter. "

The letter noted, ""We can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position. This is not the Carter Center or the Jimmy Carter we came to respect and support."

The book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid blames Israel for the Palestinian conflict. As suggested by the title, it argues Israel is treating Palestinians just like the whites in South Africa treated blacks. The analogy has historical problems and many consider it to be anti-Israeli.

Those who resigned wrote, ""Israelis, through deed and public comment, have consistently spoken of a desire to live in peace and make territorial compromise to achieve this status. The Palestinian side has consistently resorted to acts of terror as a national expression and elected parties endorsing the use of terror, the rejection of territorial compromise and of Israel's right to exist. Palestinian leaders have had chances since 1947 to have their own state, including during your own presidency when they snubbed your efforts."

It will be interesting to see what Carter's stand on this issue may have on his long term legacy.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My DC trip...the Introduction

I was in DC the beginning of this week and have some fun presidential tidbits to report. My plans ended up changing...but to the good! I had planned to see the new FDR monument, but decided that I didn't want to deal with DC alone (yes, yes, I'm a wimp). So I did day trips into the countryside and spent Wednesday at Monticello (I spent Tuesday at Mansassas...which I thought was simply wonderful, but doesn't really apply here so you'll have to check out my personal blog for comments on that)! It was a lot of driving, but well worth it. Plus because Madison and Monroe lived so close, I also was able to stop by and see Montpelier and Ash Lawn. So over the next few days, I plan to do a post on each of these presidential stay tuned for Part I: Montpelier!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Modern US President Continued

You Are Most Like George H. W. Bush

You're considered boring by people that don't know you well. But like Bush senior, you do crazy things.
Maybe you'll end up banning broccoli in your house, or puking on the Prime Minster of Japan!
I have to admit that I agree with M on the validity of this test. First, I could have skewed the answer if I wanted because I could tell which answer was which president. Second, they were all "and" questions instead of separating them out, so most of the time there was no one good answer, just a lot of mediocre ones. But, hey, I guess it is all is in good fun, right, so I shouldn't be so picky?

What Modern US President Are You Most Like?

You Are Most Like Bill Clinton

No doubt, your legacy may be a little seedier than you'd like.
But even though you've done some questionable things, you're still loved by almost all.
I question the validity of this. I was hoping to come out like Ronald Reagan! Go ahead and give this a try and see which recent American President you may be like.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Full text of President Bush's eulogy for Gerald R. Ford


Remarks by President Bush in eulogy for President Gerald R. Ford, delivered today at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Ford, the Ford family; distinguished guests, including our Presidents and First Ladies; and our fellow citizens:

We are here today to say goodbye to a great man. Gerald Ford was born and reared in the American heartland.

He belonged to a generation that measured men by their honesty and their courage.

He grew to manhood under the roof of a loving mother and father - and when times were tough, he took part-time jobs to help them out.

In President Ford, the world saw the best of America - and America found a man whose character and leadership would bring calm and healing to one of the most divisive moments in our nation's history.

Long before he was known in Washington, Gerald Ford showed his character and his leadership. As a star football player for the University of Michigan, he came face to face with racial prejudice when Georgia Tech came to Ann Arbor for a football game.

One of Michigan's best players was an African American student named Willis Ward.

Georgia Tech said they would not take the field if a black man were allowed to play.

Gerald Ford was furious at Georgia Tech for making the demand, and for the University of Michigan for caving in.

He agreed to play only after Willis Ward personallyasked him to.

The stand Gerald Ford took that day was never forgotten byhis friend.

And Gerald Ford never forgot that day either - and threedecades later, he proudly supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the United States Congress.

Gerald Ford showed his character in the devotion to his family.

On the day he became president, he told the nation, "I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman - to my dear wife."

By then Betty Ford had a pretty good idea of what marriage to Gerald Ford involved.

After all, their wedding had taken place less than three weeks before his first election to the United States Congress, and his idea of a "honeymoon" was driving to Ann Arbor with his bride so they could attend a brunch before the Michigan-Northwestern game the next day.(Laughter.)

And that was the beginning of a great marriage.

The Fords would have four fine children. And Steve, Jack, Mike, and Susan know that, as proud as their Dad was of being president, Gerald Ford was even prouder of the other titles he held: father, and grandfather, and great- grandfather.

Gerald Ford showed his character in the uniform of our country.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, Gerald Ford was an attorney fresh out of Yale Law School, but when his nation called he did not hesitate.

In early 1942 he volunteered for the Navy and, after receiving his commission, worked hard to get assigned to a ship headed into combat.

Eventually his wish was granted, and Lieutenant Ford was assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Monterey, which saw action in some of the biggest battles of the Pacific.

Gerald Ford showed his character in public office.
As a young congressman, he earned a reputation for an ability to get along with others without compromising his principles.

He was greatly admired by his colleagues and they trusted him a lot.

And so when President Nixon needed to replace a vice president who had resigned in scandal, he naturally turned to a man whose name was a synonym for integrity: Gerald R. Ford.

And eight months later, when he was elevated to the presidency, it was because America needed him, not because he needed the office.

President Ford assumed office at a terrible time in our nation's history.

At home, America was divided by political turmoil and wracked by inflation.

In Southeast Asia, Saigon fell just nine months into his presidency.

Amid all the turmoil, Gerald Ford was a rock of stability.

And when he put his hand on his family Bible to take the presidential oath of office, he brought grace to a moment of great doubt.

In a short time, the gentleman from Grand Rapids proved that behind the affability was firm resolve.

When a U.S. ship called the Mayaguez was seized by Cambodia, President Ford made the tough decision to send in the Marines - and all the crew members were rescued.

He was criticized for signing the Helsinki Accords, yet history has shown that document helped bring down the Soviet Union, as courageous men and women behind the Iron Curtain used it to demand their God-given liberties.

Twice assassins attempted to take the life of this good and decent man, yet he refused to curtail his public appearances.

And when he thought that the nation needed to put Watergate behind us, he made the tough and decent decision to pardon President Nixon, even though that decision probably cost him the presidential election.

Gerald Ford assumed the presidency when the nation needed a leader of character and humility - and we found it in the man from Grand Rapids.

President Ford's time in office was brief, but history will long remember the courage and common sense that helped restore trust in the workings of our democracy.

Laura and I had the honor of hosting the Ford family for Gerald Ford's 90th birthday. It's one of the highlights of our time in the White House.

I will always cherish the memory of the last time I saw him, this past year in California.

He was still smiling, still counting himself lucky to have Betty at his side, and still displaying the optimism and generosity that made him one of America's most beloved leaders.

And so, on behalf of a grateful nation, we bid farewell to our 38th President.

We thank the Almighty for Gerald Ford's life, and we ask for God's blessings on Gerald Ford and his family.+

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gerald Ford Memorial

The Ford Presidential Library has set up a webpage memorial to Gerald Ford. There you can:
  • send a condolence letter to Mrs. Ford
  • donate in memory of him to the Ford Presidential Library and Museum, which has a stated "role to educate Americans about the unique history and significant events of the Ford presidency, as well as a broader understanding of American history, government and the presidency."
  • See condolence letters sent to Mrs. Ford from national and international dignitaries. (For example, former President Carter and Pope Benedict XVI).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Betty Ford

I didn't actually watch President Ford's funeral (I was visiting family for the New Year...that's my excuse!), so I was flipping through the photos on Yahoo after reading my colleagues' excellent posts. The photo the left is what struck me - Betty Ford kneeling at her husband's casket. That's the picture that made me cry - not the other formal pictures of the funeral. It is easy to get caught up the history and politics and forget that Gerald Ford was a man with a family who will miss him. While I'm on the topic of Mrs. Ford, there was a nice article in Newsweek on Betty Ford that discusses her fight with substance abuse and breast cancer.

Since I'm on the topic of First Ladies anyway, here is a nice picture of two former first ladies (Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan for those of you who can't just tell). I've been scrolling through the funeral pictures hoping they got a picture of all the living First Ladies and Presidents. If anyone finds one, let me know!

The Jackson Marriage

The election of 1828 was very dirty (for those of you who think dirty politics is new, think again!). One of the issues that came up was Rachel Jackson’s first marriage and problematic divorce. Rachel Jackson was already sick before this election and the strain of the campaign added to her depression. She was dead before Andrew moved into the White House. Andrew Jackson blamed his political enemies for his wife’s death and never forgave them.

So what actually happened?
Ann Toplovich with the Tennessee Historical Society has written a very interesting article on this topic, “Marriage, Mayhem, & Presidential Politcs: The Robards-Jackson Backcountry Scandal.

First, we have to start with Rachel Jackson’s first marriage to Lewis Robards:
The[ir] courtship accelerated when John Donelson decided to move his family back to the Cumberland Settlements in 1785. Rachel was 18; her career as a frontier belle took place in Kentucky, and she may have been reluctant to leave her friends. 27 year old Captain Robards had the wealth and large, influential kin network in Kentucky and Virginia to match that of the Donelsons. The arrangement was advantageous to both families, and in February 1785 John Donelson registered his permission for Rachel to marry Robards. On March 1, the couple married at Harrodsburg.

This was an unhappy marriage by all accounts.
In late summer 1788, Rachel’s brother Samuel came for her and they traveled to Nashville. Robards family accounts say Rachel had simply gone on a visit to her family. Jackson accounts claim that Robards had thrown her out -- John Overton states that he affected a reconciliation between Lewis and Rachel after Overton moved to Nashville in February 1789 and boarded with the Donelsons. However, in July 1788, Robards had bought almost 1,700 acres in the Cumberland, including a 640 acre plantation near Widow Donelson. This supports the position that Robards intended to settle permanently in the area with Rachel and that they had not separated when she came south later that summer. The couple was already together at the Widow Donelson’s before Overton came to Nashville. One thing is certain: when Overton arrived, Andrew Jackson was also boarding there.

Rachel and Andrew became friends (and who know what else…). This led to confrontations between Rachel and Lewis and Lewis and Andrew. As early as this time, Andrew was probably planning a way to get the already married Rachel.

The confusion is now what happened between the disappearance of Robards and the Jackson marriage:
The events that followed the summer of 1789 have been covered with the accretions of the Jackson spin machine of the 1820s. The accepted tale is still that Robards left for Kentucky, vowing never to see Rachel again. The innocent and wronged Rachel went to Natchez in a large party that happened to include Andrew Jackson. Jackson, back in Nashville, heard in 1791 that Robards had obtained a divorce, and hurried immediately to Natchez to marry Rachel. The Jacksons then returned to Nashville as an accepted couple. However, in the 1970s, Robert Remini did a masterful job of piecing the actual story together, showing that the Nashville Committee’s dates were all moved a year later in time to cover the Jacksons’ tracks in regard to Robards’s divorce action. Moreover, no credible evidence of a marriage ceremony in Natchez has ever been found.

But according to Toplovich, the Jackson elopement was even earlier – 1790. This questions Rachel’s position as an innocent bystander. The question in Jackson’s presidential campaign was just that: whether Lewis Robards deserted Rachel or Rachel deserted him:
Remini, and Andrew Burstein following Remini, concludes that Jackson carried off Rachel in December 1789 in order to provoke a divorce. However, this presumes that the provocative grounds and the way to get a divorce were understood in 1789. Given Rachel’s compromised reputation from her friendships with male boarders and the young age of the lovers (only 22), the elopement was most likely a matter of passion, although they also may have been seeking an extralegal solution. If capable of calculation (and Jackson certainly was), they also realized that the vivacious Rachel shed herself of a problem husband and the orphaned Jackson gained an heiress and an influential kin network.

Now before you further, get some background on divorce in this period (this is also in the article if you read all of it). Marriage and divorce in this period was riddled with confusion as laws were changing as “civilization” came to the back country areas. But as Toplovich states, Jackson would have known better: “The Robardses may be condoned for the actions they took due to the confusion of the day, but Jackson, as an attorney surrounded by lawyer friends, likely had a better understanding of the illegal nature of his actions.”

What happens next is a matter of conjecture. The Jacksons said that they believed Robards had filed for divorce before he left and so they were legally able to get married. But there are confusing points here – Andrew and Rachel were living together in 1790, but in 1791, Lewis Robards still saw himself as in control of Rachel’s property. There also isn’t a record of the Jacksons’ first marriage (bigamous). Robards didn’t actually file for divorce until 1792 and the Jackson marriage wasn’t legal until 1794. The actions of both Robards and the Jacksons raise questions. In the 1790s, the story of Robards and Jacksons was well known:
Although the Donelson family and members of their sphere of influence embraced the extralegal union of Rachel and Andrew Jackson – a marriage that became legal in January 1794 – there is clear evidence that members of the wider Tennessee community saw Rachel as a fallen woman and Jackson as a rake for many years afterward. As Jackson rose in prominence, the history of the marriage impacted their public reputations. John Sevier’s contempt of Jackson as a seducer was central to the duel correspondence of 1803, and Rachel’s virtue, or lack thereof, was a subtext of the Charles Dickinson duel of 1806 and perhaps the Benton shootout of 1813. It could not have surprised the Jacksons that Rachel’s divorce and remarriage would become a flashpoint when Jackson sought the presidency.

Although the story of the Jackson marriage, whatever the true facts, has come down as one of the most romantic love stories of American history:
Although Rachel Donelson and Andrew Jackson did in truth flaunt the moral and legal codes of their times, today they are legendary lovers. If Andrew Jackson is admired for anything, even by his most determined critics, it is for his devoted marriage to Rachel and his vigorous defense of her reputation. She is now a stick figure in the story, a passive belle tossed away by one man and swept up by another. Lewis Robards is hardly more than a name, although in 1790 he was the frontier nabob and Jackson little more than a knave. By an effective campaign strategy, the “American Jezebel” and the “Great Western Bluebeard” have come down to us as the most romantic pair in presidential history.