“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



Why William Howard Taft Never Wanted to be President

“We are all imperfect. We cannot expect perfect government.” William Howard Taft Being president of the United States was far from William Howard Taft’s dream job. But, when virtually all your family members–especially your spouse–are pushing you toward it, you go with it. And when your good friend, the current president, hand selects you to proceed him, the decision kind of makes itself. William Howard Taft had a lot going for him. He was reliable, likable, well-educated and a distinguished jurist. Unfortunately, he wasn’t cut out for politics and his four years in the White House made him miserable. Now, no one likes for their weight to be an issue, but President Taft is well known for being the heaviest president in U.S. history. The poor guy’s weight fluctuated from 255 pounds to his heaviest at over 350 pounds. As such, he had an over-sized bathtub installed in the White House. Let’s just say a story goes that Taft was such a large man that despite the tub being large enough to fit four men, he still once got stuck in it. True or not, his weight became a major issue over the course of his lifetime. Taft didn’t let […]

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Everything You Need to Know About Local Elections

Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about “off year” elections. That’s one of those terms we use to describe an election that’s not a presidential or mid-term Congressional election. So… basically, we might chalk it up to being an election that’s not as important. Voter turnout for off year elections is usually pitifully low. Often, those who do take the time to vote simply vote across party lines or for whichever candidate sounds the most familiar–admit it, you’ve done it. I’m guilty as charged too. We might be familiar with our President and Senator’s names, but in these “off year” elections it’s usually all about your local officials. Does anyone even know who those people are? What do they even do and how will their jobs affect you? Unless you’re super up to par on your local news, you may not hear much about them until the next election. So, why even bother? It’s often these local issues that you’ll see more of an every day impact than federal issues. Want a city or county park cleaned up? Those local officials can get the ball rolling. Need funds for a certain education initiative? Or does a city road need improved? These are all issues that are […]

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How to Get Your Face on Mt. Rushmore

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt There’s a reason Teddy Roosevelt’s face is on Mt. Rushmore. He wasn’t just a man with a big reputation. He was a man who lived life to the fullest with a joy and intensity the American presidency had never seen before. One British writer said after visiting the White House that “Roosevelt is not an American, you know. […]

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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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