U.S. Presidents Trivia; Part 4:(1953-2012)
Nowadays, in the U.S.A., we tend to think of our elected leaders (and all politicians—local, state and federal) in a very stereotypical way: thousand dollar haircut, same boring “thumbs up” for after every speech, and the same tired campaign promises. They appear as a carbon-copy that is a dime a dozen.
However, that isn’t how it always has been. America has had many interesting and colorful characters for its president.
I thought it would be fun to share some facts about past presidents that, in today’s hypersensitive political climate and landscape, makes you wonder if they would have been able to handle the ridicule, criticism and scrutiny during their bids the presidency. Some things seem comparable to today while others are seemingly reflections of only their respective eras.
Presidents of the U.S.A: (34-44)
The post WWII Years to the 21st century: (1953-2012)
1. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) established Camp David, naming it after his grandson. His favorite dessert was prune whip.
2. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was the fourth president assassinated (by Lee Harvey Oswald). His death was so astonishing that countless conspiracy theories still circulate which involves the mob, Fidel Castro, USSR and even the US government. He was the first Irish Catholic President, which caused concern about his loyalties to church and state (USA vs. the Vatican). He singlehandedly rescued his entire platoon during WWII at sea.
3. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) had a sign at his ranch that read, “This is my ranch and I can do as I damn please.”
4. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) visited all 50 states while he was president. Went to Moscow twice to debate Nikita Khrushchev (as he had years earlier). Both times Khrushchev was unavailable and he chose to debate a police man, a random person on the street, and the Deputy Director of the Moscow University instead. Resigned before he could be impeached over lying about his knowledge/participation of the Watergate break in.
5. Gerald Ford (1974-1977) was appointed vice-president after Spiro Agnew resigned and then president after Nixon resigned. To date the longest-lived president at 93 years, 165 days. He pardoned Nixon over the Watergate scandal. Had two different assassination attempts by two different women (Lynette Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore) within less than 3 weeks in September 1975.
6. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) known as Mr. Peanut because he owned a peanut farm. He was the first president born in a hospital. Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and served on a submarine and, so far, the only president to do so. His great-grandfather, Private L.B. Walker Carter was a Confederate solider and fought at Gettysburg.
7. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) was a sports announcer, a Hollywood actor, and then president of the Screen Actors Guild before entering the political arena. The oldest president elected at 69. Survived an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. in 1981, barely 3 months after taking office. He broke the Zero Factor: Every president before him who was elected in a year ending in “0” died in office. In 1989 he was knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II of England.
8. George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) was appointed UN ambassador in 1971. Famous presidential campaign pledge was, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Though because of a recession in the late eighties-early nineties forced him to renege on that promise.
9. Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was born William Jefferson Blythe III. His father was killed in auto accident three months before he was born. His mother, Virginia, later married Roger Clinton in 1950. Impeached in 1998 for lying about an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Plays saxophone. Speaks German. The first Rhodes Scholar to be president.
10. George W. Bush (2001-2009) was the first president since Benjamin Harrison to win the electoral vote but not the popular vote in the 2000 election. First president since John Quincy Adams to be the son of a previous president. Trained in the Texas Air National Guard to fly a plane. He was head of the cheerleading squad in school and was a member of “Skull and Bones” at Yale University.
11. Barrack Obama (2009-present) went by the nickname, “Barry” until he went to college and then started using his full name. He won the Noble Peace Prize in 2009. First Black American President; his mother, Stanley Ann Durham, was a white American and his father, Barrack Obama II, was a black Kenyan. He spent 4 years in Jakarta, Indonesia as a child. Speaks some Indonesian.
A final note:
I compiled these lists of facts and trivia to make the point that in today’s political arena, there is a false sense of what makes a candidate presidential material. In the last 20-30 years we have placed many past presidents on a pedestal and viewed them as pristine visionaries and infallible gods. But many of them were eclectic, and even flawed human beings. Today we view our potential leaders though rose-tinted microscopes: If we take time to see the humanity of our past leaders then maybe we won’t be as critical of our present ones.
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