“So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. Show up, dive in, stay at it.”

-Barack Obama



The Assassinated President Historians Gave the Shaft

You don’t hear much these days about former President William McKinley (er, well, aside from the whole mountain in Alaska thing). But William McKinley, in his day, was as popular as they come. His assassination, six months into his second term, left the nation mourning just as strongly as it had when JFK was shot. He was our last president to fight in the Civil War and the president who led our nation into the 20th century. He led us to victory in the Spanish-American War, helped make a name for America as a superpower and he was also our third president to be assassinated. So what’s the deal then? Why is he so unknown these days? Well, according to former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who recently authored a book on McKinley, you can blame it on progressive historians. Just as today’s media leans left, back in the gilded age, historians kind of did the same thing. They wrote what they wanted remembered and they sorta preferred a few other politicians over McKinley. The result was that McKinley’s presidency was… let’s say, left out. In Rove’s opinion, the generation that followed McKinley were the first progressive historians and they […]

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The Centennial President with the Icy Personality

Back in my White House staffer days, I used to give friends tours of the East and West Wings. It was one of my favorite perks of my job. As we strolled through the Green Room and passed the portrait of President William Henry Harrison, I would always pause and say “Here is President William Henry Harrison. He gave the longest Inaugural Address in history–two hours in the pouring rain. He died of pneumonia 30 days later . . .” Then I would pause for dramatic effect, point to the next portrait over, and say “His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, served as president a few decades later. Learning from his grandfather’s mistakes, he gave the shortest Inaugural Address in history.” My guests would be wowed at this random historical fact. The rest of the tour they’d assume I was this awesome database of fascinating historical knowledge. It turns out, though, that whomever I got my original information was totally wrong. Yes, William Henry Harrison’s address was the longest in history. And yes, it was given in a chilly downpour which resulted in poor President Harrison’s death just 30 days later. But his grandson’s inaugural address was far from the shortest (that honor went instead to […]

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How to Get a Lifetime National Park Pass for Cheap!

Do we have any National Park enthusiasts? We know you’re out there! That’s our parents up there in that photo at Mount Rushmore National Memorial with some of their grandkids. And as much as they don’t like to admit it, they now fit into the dreaded “Senior Citizen” category. They love exploring our beautiful country, especially with grandchildren in tow. Speaking of which… we spotted a pretty outstanding deal going on right now for your parents (or grandparents) who fit into this same senior citizen category that we had to share with you. Through August 27th, those senior citizens can get a LIFETIME pass into all national parks and federal recreation lands for just $10! After the 27th, it jumps to $80. This is the first time the government has increased the price since 1994. The change is part of legislation that was passed last year by Congress. To learn more about the pass and the changes, click here. To purchase your senior citizen pass online, click here.* To purchase it in person, find a list of the sites here. The America the Beautiful Pass, as their senior citizen pass is known, gets you into more than 2,000 federal sites. The deal covers all entrance fees […]

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The Only President to Marry in the White House

“Whatever you do, tell the truth.” Grover Cleveland If tabloids existed back in the 19th century, Grover Cleveland would have made all the covers. Cleveland was known for his honesty and even quickly rose through the ranks of politics because of his impeccable reputation. Yet, he fathered an illegitimate child and secretly dated and then married a college girl who was nearly 30 years his junior. To top it off, he also had a secret surgery aboard a yacht (though Americans wouldn’t learn that until decades later) during his second term. Speaking of that second term, Grover Cleveland, our president of the week, also became our only president to serve two-non-consecutive terms. Yep, he was both our 22nd and 24th president.

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How the Most Distrusted Man in America Became President

“No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired … more generally respected.” Alexander McClure Have you ever completely misjudged someone you didn’t really know? Maybe they had a less than stellar background and it didn’t occur to you that people can change? Or maybe you simply heard things you didn’t like about that person, and although you hadn’t met them, you automatically dismissed them as someone you wouldn’t get along with? Unfortunately, I’m guilty as charged over here. That’s kind of how I felt about Chester Arthur. When I read about him in The Destiny of the Republic, I thought “Uhg! Who is this guy? He didn’t deserve to be president!” But after reading more about him and actually learning more about who he was as a person, I’ve changed my tune a bit. It turns out Chester Arthur, our president of the week, is quite the interesting fellow. And if you can look past his mutton chops, you might kind of like him. Sure, the little qualifying experience he had was thanks to connections and not his own merits. But, that’s politics for you.

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The President Killed by His Own Doctors

“If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.” James Garfield James Garfield marks our 20th president of the week. You’d think writing these presidential recaps would get easier. However, this week’s was rough. All I really want to do is tell you to go read THIS book! Right this second! Goodness, it’s amazing. It’s the most captivating book I’ve read all year. And I don’t know a better way to capture the character of President Garfield. Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic is the most fascinating sketch on a president I’ve ever read. It makes me want to go tell the entire world about President James Garfield! That most Americans have hardly heard of him is a crime. Though he had the second shortest tenure in presidential history (William Harrison, at 31 days, was the first), his story should be mentioned in every history book from sea to shining sea. Of course, all our presidents are fascinating in their own way. But James Garfield is extra intriguing to me for several reasons. The life he lived alone is worth learning about. Add in the extra dimension of how he […]

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The President Who Won by a SINGLE Electoral Vote

If you thought the 2000 election was bad–remember hanging chads?–just wait until you hear about this. The 1876 presidential election was the longest election process in our country’s history. It dragged on for four very long months and wasn’t resolved until just two days before the Inauguration. For a country that was still in the reconstruction process, this wasn’t a good thing. Why was the election process so unique? How did our president of the week, Rutherford B. Hayes, come out on top? Why was he the Republicans candidate in the first place? We’ll answer these questions and more.

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The War Hero Tainted by Scandal

“Let Us Have Peace.” Ulysses S. Grant. Most Americans have heard of him. They know he was involved in the Civil War somehow. But they may not know much else. Not only was Ulysses S. Grant involved in the Civil War, but he was also a key player in leading the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. He was nothing short of an American hero and was a shoe-in for the presidency. In fact, as my favorite presidential documentary stated, had the paparazzi existed back then, no photograph would have been coveted more than his. War heroes were the equivalent of today’s celebrities. And in the 1860s-70s, Grant was as big as they came. Sure he was a star, and hands down the best person to lead the Union in the Civil War. But he had never served as an elected official before and would soon find out it wasn’t the same as serving in the military. In fact, though Grant was considered just as honest as “Honest Abe,” his presidency consisted of numerous scandals that ultimately tainted his reputation. Ulysses S. Grant is our nation’s 18th president, and our president of the week.

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The First President to Be Impeached

“Honest conviction is my courage; the Constitution is my guide.” Andrew Johnson Abraham Lincoln wasn’t supposed to have been the only one assassinated that fateful night at Ford’s Theater. In fact, Andrew Johnson and his wife were offered tickets to sit in Lincoln’s box with him. They turned them down. But John Wilkes-Booth discovered where Johnson was staying that night and hired a hit man to take him out. That hit man, fortunately, chickened out at the last minute, sparing Johnson’s life.   Thus, Andrew Johnson became our country’s 17th president and history was forever changed. To be fair to Johnson, trying to repair our country immediately following the Civil War would have been a huge undertaking for any man. But to follow a man like Abraham Lincoln, well, those were some very large shoes to fill. Frankly, Johnson was never meant to be president, historians say. Johnson would never have been selected as Lincoln’s vice president had anyone been able to predict the future. But, as we’ve seen in the past, and will see again in the future, never under-estimate the power of the office of the vice presidency. You never know what will happen. Andrew Johnson (our president of the […]

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How Abraham Lincoln became America’s Iconic Hero

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”-Abraham Lincoln Thinking about our 16th president (our president of the week) literally gives me goosebumps sometimes. So maybe that makes me a bit of a fanatic. Or maybe I’m just really, really grateful and in awe of what Abraham Lincoln, one of my heroes, did for our country. Not only did he preside over the Civil War, help end slavery and keep our country together, but he is also the ultimate testament of the American dream of rising above your circumstances to do truly great things. All it takes is drive. Lincoln had it in spades. Abraham Lincoln was a giant of a man, both literally (he was our nation’s tallest president at 6’4″) and figuratively. To do what he did is one thing, but during his lifetime he also suffered numerous tragic losses and still came out on top. To me, that is one of the ultimate tests of greatness. Stick with me. I’m going to share details about this man’s life that perhaps you didn’t know, but that help illustrate how he did what he did and why he has […]

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