On President’s Day I started thinking about our presidents. I can remember my reaction to the ones who were in office when I was alive. I actually saw Eisenhower drive through Farmington when I was quite young. (Basically, they slowed the cars down as the drove through town on Route 4. I’m not sure how my mother and other people knew in advance to take the kids down to wave and see him.) That was the only one I’ve seen in person.
I can remember my parents stories about the presidents they’d lived with. Apparently my Grandfather was anti-New Deal, no one was allowed to mention Roosevelt’s name, he was always “That man in the White House.” But go back further and all I have is what we learned in history classes, which we now know to be seriously weighted propaganda, intended to inspire confidence in the country, and instill lessons like honesty in the small children to whom they were taught. (The Washington and the cherry tree story appeared in the 19th c., or Lincoln walking 7 miles to return 2 cents, although that one may be true.) All in all, they are as authentic as Lincolns proverbial axe. “The head’s been replaced twice and the handle five times, but it’s still the very axe Lincoln used!”
Luckily, there are people who are fascinated with almost every period of history, who research and write about them. Of course, those have spin as well. However I tend to think there’s a reason that reporters tend to be “Liberals”. If you go looking for the truth and discover that some of the rich are taking advantage of most of the poor, you end up being cross with the people who are being greedy. Stories may have a spin for other reasons- certainly the people in the South who glorify their Confederate ancestors have a need to see their beloved dead as heroes and justify their actions. But I think it’s possible to accept and sympathize with your ancestors positions without defending them if they were based on false premises.
I found quotes for all the presidents, although we do need to remember that, as my mother used to say “Pen and ink reject nothing” to which I add, the internet accepts even more. Even at that, many of these quotes may have come from their speech writers.
I posted these on fb, and got some some responses. Some mentioned I was unfair to Trump, but frankly, most of what I was finding in Trump quotes was the horrible, racist, misogynistic, ignorant, misleading, and divisive things he says every day until we have become too stunned to respond any more. (There are probably parts of the internet where his quotes are more positive, I can’t find them.) I picked the loyalty one because of his recent post-impeachment behavior. I will admit that the selection of all the quotes reflects my bias and what we are going through now in 2020.
(I included the names and dates even though you can find them elsewhere for easy context. The size of each picture reflects the size of the type- for ease of reading, not the importance I give each man or statement.)
42 Bill Clinton 1993-2001 b. 1946 (three presidents born in the same year!)41. George H. W. Bush 1989-1993 1924–2018
(I had to include the broccoli quote because I like it. What a way to inspire kids to want to be president?)
38 Gerald Ford 1974-1977 1913-2006
37 Richard Milhouse Nixon 1969-1994 1913-1994
36 Lyndon Baines Johnson 1963-1969 1908-1973
35 John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1961-1963 1917-1963
34 Dwight D Eisenhower 1953-1961 1890-1969
32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
31 Herbert Hoover 1929-1933 1874-1964
30 Calvin Coolidge. 1923-1929 1872-1933
29 Warren G. Harding 1921-1923 1865–1923
28 Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921 1856–1924
27. William Howard Taft 1909-1913 1857–1930 As I started to read more of his quotes, I decided I need to learn more about Taft. He sounds like my kind of guy. Not to mention as Teddy’s chosen successor, he had to have something going for him. (I did find one source suggesting that he was the one who said ‘speak softly but carry a big stick’, but I think that may have been him continuing Roosevelt’s policies.)
26 Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909 1858–1919I have to admit that Teddy Roosevelt has always been one of my favorite presidents. Possibly it’s because he was from an era of great change, which has led to many movies with him in them as a minor part, so we get to feel that we know him when we really don’t.
It’s easy to like someone who is gets to beat up the bad guys, he can be an action hero and still be seen as a nice guy.
25 William McKinley 1897-1901 1843–1901
23 Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893 1833–1901
17 Andrew Johnson 1865-1869 1808–1875
Never underestimate the power of that mendacious press!
14 Franklin Pierce 1953-1857 1804–1869 Can we blame the Civil War on Fillmore and Pierce? Can we look at Pierce and say that voting for a military hero is not a good way to pick a political leader? I think the issues were more complex than anyone could have handled, but the country selected someone who would do nothing because they were afraid of what change would bring.
12 Zachary Taylor 1849-1850 1784–1850
11 James K. Polk. 1845-1849 1795–1849
10 John Tyler 1841-1845 1790–1862
How must it have felt to Americas to have gotten to double digits in their presidents?
9 William Henry Harrison 1773–1841 (this is the 31 day president)
8. Martin Van Buren 1837-1841 1782–1862
His quotes show a certain wit, and ‘common sense’, but in the one to the right, a sad innocence.
7 Andrew Jackson 1829-1837 1767–1845I defend Jackson in that he was a product of his time, although I am not sure I am not swayed by the Hollywood myths about him more than history. What will the movies make of our current politicians?
6 John Quincy Adams 1825-1829 1767–1848
5 James Monroe 1817-1825 1758–1831
By way of trivia, these are the men who served as the Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled: Samuel Huntington March-July 1781, Thomas McKean July to November 1781, John Hanson 1781, Elias Boudinot 1782, Thomas Mifflin 1783, Richard Henry Lee 1784, John Hancock 1785, Nathaniel Gorham 1786, Arthur St. Clair 1787, and Cyrus Griffin 1788.
I hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane, and are inspired to think about our ancestors who were still trying to make a living, raise their kids, deal with illnesses, and pick a president from among a bunch of ones they probably didn’t really like. Remember the men and women who died because they believed that strongly that the chance to select the ones who represent our interests to the world puts us all in a better position than those who simply have to put up with whoever is in charge until they die.