Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wikipedia notes, "Whip Inflation Now (WIN) was an attempt to spur a grassroots movement to combat inflation, by encouraging personal savings and disciplined spending habits in combination with public measures, urged by U.S. President Gerald Ford. People who supported the mandatory and voluntary measures were encouraged to wear 'WIN' buttons, perhaps in hope of evoking in peacetime the kind of solidarity and voluntarism symbolized by the V-campaign during World War II."
The campaign did not work as President Ford had hoped. Inflation remained a threat to the economy well into the Reagan Presidency. However, the pins were widely mocked and it gave Ford's opponents an easy target for criticism.
Here is part of the Whip Inflation Now speech:
My conclusions are very simply stated. There is only one point on which all advisers have agreed: We must whip inflation right now.
None of the remedies proposed, great or small, compulsory or voluntary, stands a chance unless they are combined in a considered package, in a concerted effort, in a grand design.
I have reviewed the past and the present efforts of our Federal Government to help the economy. They are simply not good enough, nor sufficiently broad, nor do they pack the punch that will turn America's economy on.
A stable American economy cannot be sustained if the world's economy is in chaos. International cooperation is absolutely essential and vital. But while we seek agreements with other nations, let us put our own economic house in order. Today, I have identified 10 areas for our joint action, the executive and the legislative branches of our Government.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Some interesting and unusual hobbies from the article:
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) enjoyed a variety of activities, some very unique. Like other Presidents, Coolidge enjoyed golf, fishing and trap shooting (shooting at clay pigeons with a shotgun). For exercise, he rode a mechanical horse and pitched hay. Coolidge also exercised with Indian clubs, a form of exercise very popular earlier in our history. Indian clubs are basically elongated, heavy pins that resemble bowling pins. These pins would be swung in various patterns as a means of exercise.
Another unusual form of Presidential exercise was the medicine ball enjoyed by Herbert Hoover (1929-1933). This heavy ball would be used to play a strenuous game of catch as a means of building strength and endurance. Hoover often had his cabinet and advisors join him for an early morning game of medicine ball and then breakfast. They became known as the “medicine ball cabinet.”
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
For the sake of fairness, I decided to pull what this series had to say on each of our choices for this week and then one "extra" of my choosing. I linked each excerpt the part it came from.
Thomas Jefferson (Part I)
Thomas Jefferson accomplished more after retiring than most people do in their entire career. In addition to his renewed correspondence with John Adams and many others, he founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia and served as its first rector, or president. Jefferson wanted to create a university “ based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation.” He designed the building, supervised the construction, hired the faculty and determined the curriculum. He also instituted the system of academic electives. The University of Virginia, called Mr. Jefferson’s University by the students and faculty, continues today as one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the country.
Ulysses Grant (Part III)
Ulysses S. Grant, hero of the Civil War, was elected President in the first post-war election. After serving two terms, he retired and spent two years touring the world, being received by enthusiastic crowds and heads of state all over the world. He settled in New York City and invested all his savings in the firm of Grant & Ward, in which his son was a partner. Ward proved to be a crook, and Grant lost all his money, leaving him almost penniless. To make a living, he wrote magazine articles that were so well received that he decided to write his memoirs. With the help of his publisher, Mark Twain, his memoirs were published and brought his wife a fortune. Unfortunately, Grant did not live to see his final success. He knew he was dying of throat cancer as he wrote the book, and finished just days before he died.
Herbert Hoover (Part V)
Herbert Hoover was elected by a landslide in 1928, and defeated for re-election by a landslide in 1932, due to the Great Depression, which began shortly after he took office. After attending the inauguration of his successor, he retired to his home in Palo Alto, California. Hoover was an “ex-President” longer than any other person in our history. In his later years, he lived mostly at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. He was a vocal critic of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, calling most of its programs “fascistic.” He was especially critical of Roosevelt’s decisions to go off the gold standard, recognize the Soviet Union, and his attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court. He campaigned for Alf Landon, the Republican candidate opposing Roosevelt in 1936. In 1938, Hoover toured Europe and met with Adolf Hitler. He found Hitler “partly insane” but intelligent and well informed. Hoover opposed U.S. entry into World War II until the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war, he served as chairman of the relief organizations for Poland, Finland, and Belgium, and opposed dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. After the war ended, President Truman appointed Hoover coordinator of the Food Supply for World Famine, a position he filled in 1946-1947. His most prominent service during his retirement was as chairman of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, popularly called the Hoover Commission, in 1947-1949, and of the Commission on Government Operations, called the second Hoover Commission, 1953-1955. The first commission made 273 recommendations for streamlining the government, roughly three-fourths of which were adopted. The second commission made 314 recommendations, about three-fourths of which were adopted. The most significant of these recommendations resulted in the combination of functions into new cabinet level Department of Defense and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Hoover opposed U.S. participation in the Korean War. Shortly before his death on October 20, 1964, he endorsed Barry Goldwater, the conservative Republican candidate for President. Among the books Hoover wrote during his retirement years were “The Challenge to Liberty” in 1934, “The Problems of Lasting Peace” in 1943, his “Memoirs” in 1952, “The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson” in 1958, and the three-volume “An American Epic” in 1961.
Jimmy Carter (Part VI)
Jimmy Carter is considered by many to be the best ex-President we have ever had. Jimmy Carter became President after narrowly defeating Gerald Ford in the election of 1976. In 1980, Jimmy Carter was soundly defeated for re-election by Ronald Reagan. Carter retired to his home in Plains, Georgia, to find the family peanut farm deep in debt as a result of its handling in a blind trust during his Presidency. He put the family business back in order and taught political science at Emory University, founding the Carter Center of Emory University in 1982. In 1986, The Carter Presidential Center was completed in Atlanta. It included the Carter Center of Emory University and the Jimmy Carter Library.
Carter is best known for his humanitarian work with Habitat for Humanity. Carter personally helped to build houses in New York City and around the country. The sight of Carter in work clothes and tool belt became a familiar one to many Americans. Carter engaged in many other humanitarian efforts. In 1991, he founded the Atlanta Project to coordinate government and private efforts to solve social problems that affect poor families.
Carter also participated actively in international affairs. Since the 1980’s, he has helped monitor elections in a number of nations. In 1991, Carter created the International Negotiation Network Council. The council is made up of former heads of state and other prominent people willing to conduct peace negotiations or monitor elections. In 1991, the military leaders of Haiti overthrew the elected President of Haiti and seized control of the government. In 1994, Carter went to Haiti and led the negotiations that convinced the military leaders to allow the elected President to return to the country and finish his term in office. Also in 1994, Carter traveled to North Korea on a trip that reduced tensions between that country and the United States over North Korea’s suspected nuclear arms program.
Carter has written several books since leaving the White House, including “Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a President (1982) and “Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life” (1987) which he wrote with his wife, Rosalynn. He regularly makes speaking appearances on behalf of humanitarian issues.
John Quincy Adams (my "extra" choice - Part I)
Probably the greatest ex-President of all times was John Quincy Adams. After his resounding defeat for re-election to the White House, he returned to his home in Quincy, Massachusetts. The next year, the people of Quincy asked him to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Adams agreed to run on two conditions: 1) that he never be expected to promote himself as a candidate and ask for votes and 2) that it be understood he would pursue a course in Congress independent of any party and the people who elected him. Under those terms, he was elected and held his seat in the House until he died in 1848, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. After his first election to the House, he wrote in his diary, “I am a member-elect of the Twenty-Second Congress. No election or appointment conferred upon me ever gave me so much pleasure. My election as President of the United States was not half so gratifying to my inmost soul.” Having been during his long career a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican and National Republican parties, he was elected to the House as an Anti-Mason and later as a Whig.
As a member of the House of Representatives, John Quincy Adams often found himself in the minority on major issues. He supported the continuation of the Bank of the United States, opposed the annexation of Texas, and voted against the declaration of war with Mexico in 1846. His greatest victory was his successful struggle against the Gag Rule. In 1836, the House had voted to automatically table without debate any petition critical of slavery. Adams felt this violated the constitutional right of petition and fought against the rule for eight years. Finally, in 1844, the House voted to repeal the Gag Rule. During his long tenure in the House, Adams earned the nickname of Old Man Eloquent. He suffered a serious stroke in 1848, and was carried to the Speakers chambers, where he died several days later. John Quincy Adams remains the only President to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives after his term in the White House.
However, I have learned that this is hard! Coming up with good questions that people will also want to vote on is not easy. Jenny W. has sent me many suggestions and I appreciate it.
Which gets me thinking...
Do any of the readers of this blog have any suggestions for poll questions? Here are a few criteria:
1. The question must deal with an American President or the American Presidency.
2. The question can not be biased politically. A question like, "Which of President George W. Bush's decisions was the most idiotic?" is not going to fly.
3. The question must be interesting. Something like, "Which President had a mother-in-law with the most unique maiden name?" is also not good.
4. Any suggestions must have four to five possible answers.
Go ahead, post a comment with suggestions. I will be happy to use suitable questions and give you credit when the time comes.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I mention this for two reasons. First of all, when I went to read the remarks and the debut, I saw the picture below. You'll see Cindy Frailly portraying Dolley Madison at the opening. She works at the National First Ladies Library in Canton and I actually know her - I never know anyone on this site personally so it made me very happy to be able to say I did!
Second, Mrs. Bush's remarks contained something interesting tidbits on Dolley's life I'll share here:
Mrs. Madison was a valuable political asset. At a time when Presidents were nominated or re-nominated by a party caucus in Congress, Dolley's popularity with legislators probably earned her husband his second term. She commanded so much respect that she even had the power to stop duels -- a popular method for settling political disputes back then -- and we thought the political climate was rough today. (Laughter.) When it came to making allies out of members of Congress, Dolley went above and beyond the call of duty -- even sharing a snuff box with Henry Clay.
Mrs. Madison also set the tone for our new nation with her impeccable taste and style. Previous First Families had decorated their new residence in Washington with personal furnishings brought with them from Massachusetts and Virginia. James Madison tasked Dolley with re-creating the White House as the official home for America -- a duty that would shape the public's image of his presidency, and our nation.
Mrs. Madison enlisted the help of famed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and secured from Congress initial funding of $5,000. According to accounts from the time, Latrobe and Mrs. Madison spent their redecorating budget so fast "it made heads spin."
Latrobe and Mrs. Madison took their redecorating seriously. They strove to blend Republican simplicity with Federalist high style, adding enough sophistication to impress visitors from Europe. As we enjoy the tradition of elegant public entertaining at the White House, we have Latrobe and Mrs. Madison to thank.
That's not to say that they agreed on everything: When Mrs. Madison insisted on rich, red velvet draperies for what is now the Blue Room -- then decorated in muted cream, blue and gray - Latrobe was horrified. "The curtains!" Latrobe lamented, "Oh, the terrible velvet curtains! Their effect will ruin me entirely, so brilliant will they be!" Eventually, Latrobe dropped the complaint after rave reviews from visitors proved Mrs. Madison right.
Those red curtains were one of the things Mrs. Madison made sure to save when the British invaded Washington and torched the executive mansion during the War of 1812. In a few minutes, we'll hear more about Mrs. Madison's heroism -- and the famous story of how she rescued her beloved Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, which of course is still here today in the East Room. This portrait was only 14 years old when she saved it, so it was a new, modern portrait.
Mrs. Madison's bravery in the face of British troops earned her the love and respect of her fellow citizens -- and a permanent place in American history. At the end of her career in our nation's capital, Daniel Webster wrote that Dolley Madison is "the only permanent power in Washington -- all others are transient." (Laughter.)
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
According to Amy Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer, it might be. The article is titled Lincoln photo at Gettysburg believed found.
Ms. Worden notes, "From a distance it looks like a nondescript Civil War-era photograph: Union soldiers and townspeople crowd around the grand memorial arch that marks the entrance to Soldiers' Cemetery. But zoom in closer, really close, and a startling image takes shape at the center of the crowd. A tall, slim figure astride a horse. A familiar profile. That signature stovepipe hat, a white gloved hand raised in salute. Could it be President Abraham Lincoln shortly before delivering his Gettysburg Address?"
Well, considering the date and place, this could be him. That stove top hat helps to give it away. Maybe. I guess it could have been a Lincoln impersonator.
Good job to John Richter for the find. More details are available at the article.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Time ran out and I had to think quickly on my feet. This can occur when you have a necessary but boring vocabulary quiz planned and you find out the superintendent of schools will be in your room along with other visiting dignitaries in twenty minutes to see something “stimulating.” Luckily my dilemma wasn’t that serious and I’m awfully glad I spent some time during the summer to research various topics.
What’s that old Boy Scout motto?
In my wordless image over at History Is Elementary readers were given the assignment to provide me with information about the image, and just like my classroom students they didn’t disappoint me. Readers came up with some wonderful bits of knowledge regarding FDR, and some were so brave to leave a comment indicating they didn’t know anything about the image…well, I’m impressed with their honesty.
In my classroom I appreciate and students learn to appreciate mistakes and the “not knowing” because we are then given a precious gift….the opportunity to learn something.
What a gift to give yourself, eh?
In the responses commentors provided information such as FDR was our 32nd president, he served more than two terms (four actually), led us through the Depression with programs like the CCC, instituted Social Security, and led us through World War II. Roosevelt went to Harvard, had polio, married his cousin, and at one time was Assistant Secretary to the Navy. A couple of Georgia participants reminded us that he had a huge impact on Georgia. I’ve written about his impact before as well some family connections here and here.
The unfinished painting of President Roosevelt was by Elizabeth Shoumatoff, and it represents the last moments of his life since he suffered from a cerebral hemorrage on April 12, 1945 while the President sat for the picture at Warm Springs, Georgia.
It is no secret that FDR loved Warm Springs and visited there often. At the time of his death he had been returning to his adopted Georgia home for over thirty years. The people of Warm Springs and the surrounding area loved FDR. The first picture with this post is FDR in his car speaking with Georgia farmers.
It is also no secret that for sometime FDR had had a relationship with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. They had first met when the President was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Ms. Mercer (at the time) was Eleanor Roosevelt’s social secretary. Ms. Mercer often joined the Roosevelt’s in social situations when an extra female was needed to round out the party. After some time Eleanor did find out about the relationship and gave FDR an ultimatim…end it or divorce. Roosevelt’s mother also told him that if he divorced he would be disinherited. The relationship ended for a time, but it did eventually resume in secret. By this time Eleanor had basically begun a life of her own, so perhaps this is why the secret was kept for many years.
During FDR’s last trip to Warm Springs Lucy Mercer joined him for some of the time along with two Roosevelt cousins (Margaret Suckley and Laura Delano). Some sources state Anna Roosevelt, the daughter of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt was also at Warm Springs. After the relationship had resumed she often was the go-between in arranging visits with Mercer for her father.
The President arrived in Warm Springs on March 30, 1945. He was not a well man, but very few knew it. After the 20 hour train trip from Washington D.C. Roosevelt greeted hundreds at the station. His physicians hoped the trip would provide needed calm and quiet. The next day Roosevelt felt well enough to read through several newspapers and dictate responses to various letters, however by late afternoon he was utterly exhausted.
The President attended Easter services on April 1, 1945 even though it took him over one hour to get ready with the assistance of his personal valet, Arthur Prettyman. The next day the President was very involved with war business. He conferenced with the press and then communicated with Stalin and Churchill. Visitors to Warm Springs included the President of the Philappines and Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morganthau.
By this time Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd had arrived for her visit (April 8th), and some sources state it was she who brought artist Schoumatoff to paint the President’s portrait. It was a common practice for Mercer to visit the President when he was at Warm Springs since it was one place Eleanor Roosevelt rarely went. On April 11th the President and Mercer had a picnic together at Dowdell’s Knob.
On April 12th many citizens of Warm Springs were busy preparing a bar-b-que and patients at his polio center were rehearsing a performance in hopes that the President would be able to attend. President Roosevelt was sitting for Ms. Shoumatoff while going through some papers and chatting with Mercer.
At one point he announced that he had a terrific headache and when he slumped it was Mercer who got to him first asking, “Franklin, are you alright?” Because of his problems with high blood pressure the doctor immediately thought the President had had a stroke, however, they brought in an internist from Atlanta named Dr. James Paullin.
In Dr. Paullin’s report he recalled the President was [near death] when he reached him. He was in a cold sweat, ashy gray, and breathing with difficulty…He was propped up in bed. His pupils were dialated and his hands were slightly cyanosed.
At some point Lucy Mercer was encouraged to leave Warm Springs and she did. Near Macon, Georgia she found out that FDR had died. The public never knew she had been at FDR’s side until years later.
Upon hearing the news concerning the President’s death Eleanor Roosevelt flew to Georgia. Once she arrived she discovered the truth about Mercer having been at Warm Springs. It is said she spent some time alone with his body and then emerged from the room dry-eyed and stoic. A book by James Crutchfield (which I used for most of my research) called It Happened in Georgia, states she removed her wedding ring and placed it in the President’s hand.
It had been a long stranding tradition for Roosevelt to greet people at Warms Springs upon his arrival and departure. The tradition continued even in death. As a military escort from Ft. Benning escorted the President’s hearse down the drive there were anguished moans and cries instead of loud greetings. The picture seen to the left is of Graham Jackson. He had often played for President Roosevelt and had even rehearsed his portion of a minstrel show for him the night before. Jackson stepped from the crowd and began playing Dvorak’s Goin’ Home as Roosevelt’s copper-lined coffin was placed in the hearse to begin the long trip to Washington D.C. This photo is one that many saw in Life magazine in 1945. The website Atlanta Time Machine has more information about the photo and the performance Roosevelt might have seen at the bar-b-que had he lived.
The train bearing the President’s body back to Washington D.C. left Georgia on April 13th. A crowd of hundreds saw the train off from the station and many Georgians stood along the track to pay their respects.
I grew up in a tiny little dent in the road called Red Oak, Georgia and the train track that Roosevelt’s last trip from Warm Springs traveled on ran right in front of my home. I’ve often wondered how many people stood along that same track I balanced on, placed pennies on, and skipped along growing up. In fact, the very road I lived on was and is still called Roosevelt Highway.
It has been written that Eleanor Roosevelt was very moved by the many hundreds of Georgians that lined the tracks through south and central Georgia to Atlanta. She had never really participated in the President’s efforts at Warm Springs and the surrounding countryside, but because of their response she clearly understood how much Georgians loved the President.
Ralph McGill, a writer for the Atlanta Constitution was not in Georgia when the President passed, but later stated:
"To a Georgian far from home there was a sudden and bitter nostalgia for home at the news of the President's passing in Warm Springs. I could see the dogwood in bloom and the green of the trees. I knew that the peach blossoms were out and that the warm Georgia sun had been like a benediction to the tired body of the ailing president. And I wanted to be home with my own fellow Georgians as they mourned him. It was said of Abraham Lincoln when death claimed him that a tree is measured best when it is down. So it will be with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The tree is down and the historians will begin to measure and will find what the hearts of millions of Americans and peoples of the world already knew, that here was the tallest man America has ever given the world."
My thanks to Lisa Liese at History is Funny for posting this YouTube clip of some rappers explaining American history. Several American Presidents are featured including Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and FDR. My favorite line from the lyrics, "And thanks to Al Gore for e-mail and free porn!" That is the kind of respect you get when you invent the Internet...
Thursday, November 15, 2007
But as we can all guess, withholding documents on this subject just adds to the conspiracy fire. Some of the released files were on a staffer's obsession with the TV show, X-Files, and about President Clinton's yen to have access to the Sci-Fi channel at Camp David.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
President Eisenhower, the Allied commander in Europe during World War II, recalled in 1963, as he did on several other occasions, that he had opposed using the atomic bomb on Japan during a July 1945 meeting with Secretary of War Henry Stimson: "I told him I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon."
No matter which side of this debate you fall on, I think it is important to hear both sides of the contemporary discussion.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Was Edith Wilson the de facto President of the United States of America for a brief time? The evidence suggest the possibility as real.
From the site:
On October 2, 1919, Wilson suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed. Edith suggested to the doctors that her husband resign from office, but they told her that doing so might kill him. They advised her, however, that he must not be burdened by government problems. Edith felt she was the only person who knew the President’s mind and could act as he would wish.
For the next six weeks, she became the power behind the presidency, although she claimed, “I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition5 of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not.”
Government officials and the public were never told how ill the President was. Cabinet members, members of Congress, and ambassadors who wished to speak to the President had to consult Edith first. Whenever possible, she convinced an official to solve a problem within his own department. Somehow she always found a clever way to preserve the President’s secret.
Speculation about the President’s illness and questions about who was running the country swept the nation. Wilson’s opponents in Congress and the press claimed the United States was a “petticoat government” run by an “acting ruler.”
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
A few days ago, she ventured into presidential politics with her post, President Bush and His Opposition to a Thimerosal Ban. I am reproducing it here with permission:
Yesterday I wrote that the reason why President Bush is vetoing the FY 2008 Bill is because he wants the ban on thimerosal removed from the bill. This concerns the ASA, some scientists, parents and many others because the mercury in thimerosal is believed to be a trigger of autism. Near the end of my post I asked what the safer alternatives to thimerosal were in regards to preserving vaccines. My thanks goes out to the two readers who addressed my question. Please see their comments to my previous post if you would like to know what they wrote.
I once read somewhere that a possible reason as to why President Bush is against the ban is because his father, Past U.S. President H.W. Bush, may have a business connection to the company that manufactures thimerosal . However, I was unsuccessful in my search to find a website to back this claim up. I'm not about spreading false rumors about our U.S. President nor am I into bashing President Bush. But, if anyone can find a credible website discussing this claim, I might write about it in a future post. Thank you for your interest in this topic.
Friday, November 09, 2007
The last time I presented students with this image they came up with some interesting responses:
*My belly hurts. I should have left that last taco in the bag and thrown it away.
*When are they going to invent a real tie that doesn’t look like a bow?
*This man is important. He looks really smart. Maybe he’s a writer or a great thinker. I wish the picture was in color.
*The picture looks like it is from a long time ago. I didn’t know they had hair gel back then. Interesting!
These are the better ones, of course. I left out the silly, off the mark, or inappropriate ones that can be the result of this type of exercise, but you can see that some students can really get into the moment when analyzing photographs.
Next we discussed names and labels…words we use to identify individuals or groups of people. We talked about how those names aren’t always meant to be nice. We also talked about how some names stick simply because it’s easier to remember a group of people by a certain name in order to remember what they stood for….groups like tree huggers, Bible thumpers, and even educrats.
These types of monikers are not simply for the 20th and 21st century. Certain groups throughout history have claimed remembrance through their name such as the Know- Nothings, muckrakers, and don’t forget the hawks and doves.
Do you know who the gentleman is in my image?
It is President Franklin Pierce, our fourteenth president and the tidbit of knowledge I share with students is Franklin Pierce was a doughface.
What’s a doughface?
During the 1850s a doughface was a Northern politician who had Southern sympathies.
President Pierce hailed from New Hampshire, one of our northern most states, so I’m sure it could be a little surprising that he might have southern sympathies, but he did. It wasn’t that he held slaves or thought slavery was a correct action, however, he did believe it was up to each state to decide its own course especially as new states entered the Union. He was against sectionalism and was not a fan of the abolitionist movement. President Pierce felt that compromise was an integral part of the Federal System.
The United States was experiencing growth and expansion, but a negative impact was growing tension between states who held slaves and those that did not. Legislators from the South wanted an equal number of slave and free states in order to balance power. They feared a higher number of free states because slavery could then be abolished through a Congressional vote.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought the question of slavery in the West to the forefront of national debate. In 1854 Congressman Stephen A. Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraka Act which would reverse the Missiouri Compromise of 1820 and allow settlers in Kansas and Nebraska territories to decide on their own if they would allow slavery or not. Reluctantly President Pierce gave his approval of the bill because many of his appointments were still pending in Congress and he wanted the Gadsden Purchase Treaty
to be approved as well.
Many Northerners disliked the way Pierce compromised with Southern viewpoints. Many of the discussions and debates on the floor of Congress were so emotionally charged that fistfights broke out and Charles Sumner, a U.S. Senator was so severely beaten it took him three years to recover.
The Kansas Nebraska Act eventually led to a mini civil war in those territories, and Kansas became “bleeding Kansas”. The Democratic party split, the Republican party was created, and the Whig party became nonexistent.
President Pierce is not the only president to be called a doughface during the time leading up the Civil War. President Buchanan and President Fillmore have also enjoyed the label.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
As the 2008 Presidential election heats up, we have been seeing all kinds of proposals – from the previously mentioned change to allow foreign-born citizens to run to changes to the electoral college system. The 2000 election especially brought the workings of the electoral college to our collective attention. A question I ask my modern history students is should this system be changed? I usually get a mixed response – some for it and others who think it should stay. I think those opinions could be generalized to the entire US population (for those who actually know how it works!).
A recent HNN article by Alexander Keyssar talks not about tossing the system, but of modifying it (although at the end, he makes it clear he wouldn’t mind completely tossing it either). Keyssar starts with the recent efforts of California Republicans to modify their system from the current “winner-take-all” system to a by district apportionment. Currently, whichever candidate wins the overall popular vote in California gets all their electoral votes. Democrats, who expect to win California in 2008, are violently opposing the movement. This is the way almost all states work their votes. The new method would distribute votes by which districts the candidate won (the number of districts is equal to the number of votes, if you weren’t aware – it goes with how many Congressmen you get). So if Candidate A won 10 districts, Candidate B won 40 districts and Candidate C won 5 districts (and yes, California really has 55 electoral votes), they’d each get that many electoral votes rather than Candidate B getting all 55. As a note, there are only two states currently using this method (Nebraska and Maine) while the rest use the “winner-take-all” system most of us are familiar with. You’ll note that I included three parties in my hypothetical situation. A major hurdle for any third-party candidate has always been the “winner-take-all” system, which makes it very difficult for a third-party candidate to get enough votes to get any electoral votes, if they manage to garner a portion of the popular vote.
Where did the “winner-take-all” method come from? Because it isn’t in the Constitution (you can check if you don’t believe me or Keyssar). It was actually a partisan decision according to Keyssar. At first, all the states used different methods:
In some, the legislatures appointed electors by themselves (without holding any popular election); others developed a winner-take-all system in which they held "general ticket" elections, granting the winning candidate all of the state's electoral votes; still others allocated the electors by district. Numerous states changed systems from one election to the next.
Keyssar reports that the most progressive thinkers favored the district plan (so pretty much that same one now being discussed in California), including Thomas Jefferson. But alas enter partisan politics:
Jefferson proved more than willing to let partisan advantage trump what "would be best." As the 1800 election approached, his Republican supporters in Virginia, mindful that their opponents in the Federalist Party had won five of the state's electoral votes in 1796, replaced the district system with "winner take all" -- thereby guaranteeing Jefferson all of Virginia's electoral votes. (Massachusetts, the home of Jefferson's rival, John Adams, retaliated by entrusting the selection of electors to the Federalist-dominated legislature.) A few years later, Jefferson, as president, backed away from supporting a constitutional amendment mandating a district system throughout the nation -- a strategy that would have eliminated the potential unfairness of having a district approach in some states and the winner-take-all system in others -- because "winner take all" appeared to be benefiting his party.
Indeed, "winner take all" became, and endured as, the primary method of choosing electors precisely because of partisan dynamics. Regardless of the broader democratic principles at stake, dominant parties in nearly all individual states had embraced the short-run advantages of "winner take all" by 1830; since then, few states have had an appetite for dividing up their electoral votes while everyone else was using "winner take all" -- in part because doing so would appear to lessen the state's clout in national politics.
There have been national movements to go to a district plan, but opponents of the plan have managed to keep it from getting the necessary 2/3 majority in both houses to make amendment status.
So what does this mean for us – the electorate? According to Keyssar, it means we have a system we never voted on and as we’ve seen recently (we all remember 2000) has some serious flaws. Since there is no constitutional framework, any state can change their election method and, of course, the largest states (like California) are tempting targets. The issue, he says, shouldn’t be what one party wants in one state, but a national commitment to make a change to fix the system:
If the Republicans truly believe that it would be fairer and more democratic to choose electors by district, then instead of introducing such plans piecemeal in states where they would benefit, they should introduce a constitutional amendment to create a national district system -- one that would apply to Texas and South Carolina as well as California. And if the Democrats truly want to prevent procedural "power grabs," they should sign on to such a proposal -- or offer a "proportional plan" or (better yet) actively back a national popular election that would eliminate the electoral college altogether.
He ends with the thought that if the parties committed to “fixing” the system, “they might even succeed in dissipating a bit of the cynicism that the electorate so frequently expresses about political parties that seem far more interested in their own welfare than the fate of the nation.”
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Thanks to all who participated.
The article starts with the criticism that has been levied against LBJ – that he should have been better able to cope with Vietnam because of the lessons of the CMC, but the authors (Holland and Egan) bring up this question:
But what if Johnson was not permitted to learn the right lessons, which would have had to begin with an accurate understanding of what had happened? What if Johnson was purposely denied important knowledge? What if Johnson thought he had drawn the right lessons, but actually was trying to replicate a manufactured illusion?
The authors tell us that four members of ExComm were excluded from the final secret deal that ended the CMC – namely the US pulling missiles out of Turkey in return of the USSR pulling missiles out of Cuba. One of these members was LBJ. The other three (Taylor, Dillion, and McCone) were for political reasons. By why LBJ – JFK’s own Vice President?
…John Kennedy also decided to shut out Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat and the second-highest officeholder in the land. There was a tinge of irony in LBJ’s exclusion. Like any consummate politician, Johnson valued one quality—loyalty—above all else, and since he expected it, he gave it in return. Still, not even LBJ’s repeated demonstrations of fealty had been sufficient to overcome the Kennedys’ distrust, and in Robert Kennedy’s case, intense and ineradicable dislike.
So what happened?
In the days following the discovery of the Soviet missiles on October 15, Johnson had played an ambiguous, even contradictory, role at the ExComm meetings—that is, when he chose to speak at all. During the first day of deliberations, the vice president expressed the view that the offensive elements of the Soviet buildup were intolerable for domestic political reasons. As the ExComm’s discussions turned to the crucial question of whether to impose a blockade or take more violent action, however, LBJ went missing in action. Because the administration did not want to signal Moscow that its missiles had been sighted in Cuba, it was decided to keep LBJ on the political hustings as if nothing were untoward.
When Johnson finally made it back to Washington on October 21, the president directed DCI McCone to bring the vice president up to speed on the controversial decision to impose a blockade. Johnson initially expressed disagreement with the policy that had been developed. But McCone had also briefed Dwight Eisenhower that morning, and when the DCI informed Johnson that the former president opposed a surprise attack, and accepted the military handicap that came with imposition of a blockade, Johnson reluctantly changed his position.
Johnson attended every ExComm session thereafter, though his return hardly seemed to matter. Johnson only began to assert himself during the critical meeting on Saturday afternoon, October 27. Overall, LBJ seemed to favor a negotiated solution to the crisis, though he also came down on both sides of the key issue of linkage. At one point he criticized Robert McNamara’s stiff opposition to a missile swap, arguing that the Jupiter missiles were “not worth a damn” anyway. Minutes later, LBJ likened an outright trade to appeasement, asserting that it would be tantamount to dismantling the containment edifice Washington had painstakingly built.
There was every reason to believe, from the totality of what Johnson said, that he would have genuinely supported Kennedy’s gambit: to make the trade, so long as the Soviets agreed to keep it secret. But when the president convened a rump ExComm session on October 27, after the regular one broke up and just before RFK’s evening meeting with the Soviet ambassador, Johnson was purposefully excluded from the trusted inner circle. Thus, LBJ was left unaware of the genuine settlement terms that were hastily accepted by Nikita Khrushchev the next day.
Since the actual agreement was never known at the time, the CMC became a fabled stand-off and Kennedy a hero and after his assassination, no one was willing to contest the story. Stanford Professor Barton Bernstein pointed out in 1992 that this myth made it impossible for Johnson to live up to JFK’s image. While LBJ knew some of the story was false, there were parts that he did not even know, making it difficult for him to work with.
Holland and Egan state that even a better knowledge of the CMC probably wouldn’t have changed LBJ’s Vietnam policy:
Being privy to the truth about the missile crisis settlement might not have altered materially Johnson’s decisions about Vietnam. Had Johnson had a more accurate understanding of the missile crisis’ true history, he still would have had to contend with the false analogies and “lessons” that were rife in public. But more knowledge would have indisputably served him better than what he was allowed to know.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Billy condensed the President's life into 44 pages of fifth-grade language and injected sermons about clean living and moral advice. He tended to digress but always returned to Hoover. Billy found Hoover fascinating and did not blame him for the Great Depression. To him the President was the greatest man in the world, belonging in the company of his favorites Washington, Lincoln, and Coolidge.
Marsh wrote the biography in six months, making rapid progress during a four-week period when he had time off from school. His research included newspapers, Hoover's radio addresses, and information from his parents. The book was illustrated with old woodcuts scrounged from the local print shop, most of them demonstrating a moral lesson.
The chronology of Marsh's book is loose. He rambles, writes colloquially, and skips over many aspects of Hoover's career. Considering the diatribes being written about Hoover by adult journalists in 1930, however, the boy's intellectual honesty is refreshing.
Billy Marsh, unlike most Americans at the time, liked Herbert Hoover and that caused interesting issues when the book became public:
The chief executive was pleased to learn about the 11-year-old's flattering biography from a front-page article in the New York Herald Tribune. He told the Tribune he was eager to obtain a copy. Once the Tribune hit the newsstands, the jaded literary community in New York and Washington sizzled. The biography seemed to strike a chord because it differed dramatically from the debunking of Hoover that dominated the press.
The author of this article writes that, "If the youth did not have a future in biography, he certainly had one in advertising. " Billy Marsh mailed out his book and arranged meetings and offered to do publicity for the book. The book hit the publishing world as something new and something they definitely wanted:
Learning of the book, the manager of the Doubleday, Doran Company tracked the head of the editorial department to his golf club and planned to beat the competition by signing a contract. At this point the manager had not even read the book, only newspaper excerpts. He stopped at the Herald Tribune office to borrow a copy, which he scanned as he sped toward New Milford. When he reached New Milford it was late, and Billy had gone to bed. His parents awakened him, and he signed the contract while still in his pajamas. The publisher's version was an exact facsimile, with the addition of a title page and a postscript to the original preface. Four other publishers arrived too late. Later it was learned Marsh himself had tipped off Doubleday. This opportunistic boy did not need a literary agent. Doubleday revved up its presses and rushed out a mass edition on July 11, 1930, the same day the Marsh boys met the President.
What did Billy think of the President?
Asked his impressions of the President, Billy replied, "He is just as nice as I said he was in my book."
The boys described Lou Henry Hoover in glowing terms. "She is very pretty and she wears the new style dresses, quite long," Billy said.
Billy Marsh went on to publish a second book in 1932, urging voters to reelect Hoover. This book didn't get the same attention as the first, though.
Monday, November 05, 2007
The video below has more details. The quality is low but it is viewable.
Friday, November 02, 2007
I’ve never refused an opportunity to serve in these capacities because I come away with great ideas, forge new friendships, and these opportunities to serve are also opportunities to influence others.
During one such meeting my group of fourth and fifth grade teachers (two with veteran status, one middle of the roader, and one first-year teacher) was to take our standards for social studies and group them according to like characteristics, create key questions to guide a unit, and brainstorm ideas for implementing and assessing the standards.
We had discussed the 1920s and were grouping together the standards for the 1930s when I asked about the actual transition from the Roaring 20s to the Great Depression. It would make sense that children would have questions concerning how America went from Eddie Cantor’s Makin’ Whoopee to I Got Plenty O’ Nuthin’.
I pointed out to the group the particular standard that begins the study.
Standard SS5H5 states….The student will explain how the Great Depression and New Deal affected the lives of millions of Americans. Element (a) of the standard continues….discuss the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Dust Bowl, and soup kitchens and another standard for the Economics strand (SS5E1b) states…explain how price incentives affect behavior and choices (such as monetary policy during the Great Depression).
I mentioned that in the past I had generally ended my look at the 1920s by allowing students to discover President Herbert Hoover and the results of the 1928 election. Here are the responses I received after saying that:
“Hoover, didn’t he cause the whole thing? He’s just a blip in the road.”
“All the textbook says is how Hoover didn’t understand there was problem and he just kept telling people good times were around the corner. Didn’t his policies actually make things worse?”
“Policies? Didn’t FDR get elected because Hoover had no policies?
Poor Hoover. He’s often hopped over, skipped over, and jumped on as the poster child of how a President should not act in a time of crisis. In their zeal to cover President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies teachers teach American schoolchildren next to nothing about our thirty-first president. Most students learn very little about Hoover until they reach highschool or take American History during their core college courses, and even then it can be a bit sketchy.
My fellow educators are missing a great opportunity to invoke interest and motivation to study historical figures by glossing over President Hoover as they transition between the decade of excess to the decade of less.
As stated before one of the main questions students have about the 20s and the 30s is how things seemed to be so great at one point and so bad at another. This question also lends itself to President Hoover as well.
I like to pose questions for students to ponder as they explore some well chosen evidence that I have prepared for them. This is also known in more formal education circles as the mystery or inquiry strategy where the teacher determines a situation that lends itself to a mystery and prior to presentation he or she must develop a clear idea of what students will discover. Clues and information sources have to be determined as well as the method of assessment. Finally, students reflect upon the uncovered material and how it relates to other parts of the curriculum.
Look at the picture I’ve posted with this article….men on camels. What does this have to do with Hoover, American History, and even the Great Depression? What about a copy of a ship’s log dated 1897 indicating a destination of Perth, Australia…one of the entry names is Herbert Hoover, age 35 along with a copy of a birth certificate that also has the name Herbert Hoover and his birth date. Yet once students are prompted to check the dates Hoover’s age on the ships’s log and the birth date on the birth certificate don’t match up? What about a series of newpaper headlines from October, 1929 onward? What about a copy of a New York Times article detailing the ten most important Americans prior to World War I mixed in with images of Hoovervilles and an article regarding the Bonus Army episode during June, 1932?
Through the examination of other documentation students also learn the following:
In his early 20s Hoover used his degree in geology to begin a career in mining. Later Hoover crossed the Mississippi River for the first time and embarked on a journey that took him across the world to Australia. He trekked across the Great Victoria Desert via camel to the small mining town of Kalgoorlie where the streets were kept wide to accommodate the sweeping turns of camels. Hoover had been sent to Australia by Beswick, Moreing and Company, a mining company out of London, England. They had wanted an older, more established man for the job so Hoover grew a mustache and beard and stated he was 36 instead of 23. He convinced the owners of the company to invest their money in the Sons of Gwalia mine for a price of 200,000 pounds. He also managed to convince the company that he had a plan to develop the mine. He was given the right to manage the development process contradicting mining policies which stated managers had to have at least three years experience. Hoover must have had some great skills of persuasion and a real knack for mining. Over the next few years Hoover built a fortune for himself due to his mining efforts. President Hoover is considered to be something of a hero in Australia even though he didn’t stay long at the mine. Today, his home overlooking the mine is a museum and a bed and breakfast. The museum homepage is interesting as well as an online article called Into the Outback: How Herbert Hoover Made His Name and Fortune in Australia by William J. Coughlin.
In 1914, Hoover was responsible for helping to return over 100,000 Americans who became stranded in Europe at the outbreak of World War I. Food, clothing, and steamship tickets were provided. He served on the Committee for Relief in Belguim and he traveled to Europe and met with German leaders to persuade them to allow relief efforts to reach their citizens. The Finns added the word “hoover” to their language. It meant “to help”. President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover as the head of the American Food Administration. Hoover stated that “Food will win the war”, and it was during World War I, not World War II, that Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays were initiated. Following the Great War, Hoover reached national hero status and was named by the New York Times as one of the ten most important Americans. He utilized the American Friends Service Committee to send aid to Germany and Bolshevist Russia and more often than not begged to have his name deleted from any of the relief efforts.
So the question students are really attempting to answer through this example of the mystery strategy is...how does one adventurous problem-solver who becames a national hero known for helping people in need end up taking the blame for economic upheaval and strife in his own country? How can that happen? By carefully choosing images and snippets of documentation regarding Hoover’s early life and by posing questions to guide students at certain pivotal points during their discovery they can embark upon a journey where they arrive at their own realization regarding past historical events.
They also end up learning something much more powerful than reviewing a litany of facts that are often forgotten. Students learn how to evaulate and analyze information and how to connect what might seem to be unrelated information in many various ways thereby internalizing the learning in a much more powerful way.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls)
Katie Holmes (First Daughter)
Mila Kunis (That 70s Show)
Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries)
What do you think? Anyone else you see at Julia? Do you like any of my selections?