Reading Lives: Being Presidential

Recently the library acquired the book Destiny’s Consul: America’s Ten Greatest Presidents by Michael Riccards. (Before reading his list, come up with your own.)  Here’s who made the presidential top ten:

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Andrew Jackson
  • James K. Polk
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman
  • Ronald Reagan

Now the library has biographies of all the presidents if you want to refresh your American history. But the Riccards book brought up the topic of our own favorite and least favorite presidents. (Note: We are not being politicians here, just stating personal preferences.)

Colette: I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not going to make any Tennessee friends this week.  The only friends I might make are the ones who will appreciate that I’m going to keep this short, and less “ranty” than I can be prone.  My least favorite President (by a land slide) is Andrew Jackson.  The Indian Removal Act, the Trail of Tears, the death of thousands of Native people during forced migrations. Bleh.  Jackson also actively worked to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, had himself a little sex scandal and he had unfortunate hair.  Enough said.

 For my favorite President, I have limited my selection pool to only those with which I’ve had citizen contact – I’ve heard their speeches, watched them debate, read articles about their policies, voted for or against them, etc…so this rules out everyone before Carter. Barack Obama is my favorite (by a land slide); he is intelligent, compassionate, articulate and he has never made me cringe while he addressed the nation in full view of the world.  Also he has never thrown up on any dignitaries, had any trouble with his interns, or shot anyone in the face. 

Emily: One of the few things I remember from my AP US History class is that Harding was among the most corrupt presidents, so I’ll choose him as my least favorite. As for my favorite, I’ll go for William Henry Harrison — he wasn’t in office long enough to mess anything up. 

Pam: I hang my head in shame that I have to crack a big fat joke in order to participate in this week’s round of conversation on the presidents – favorite or least favorite. Sigh, but so it goes. I grew up (oh, here we go friends….) hearing one parent proclaim so far-right, that I never (will I ever?) learned to trust that any of them were really good candidates. I learned they were all puppets, controlled by the bigger power, the power that was going to lead us to a one-world government, where we would eventually, completely lose our freedom as a nation. I have been frozen at the polls ever since I could first cast a ballot, where I would stand nervously, brain swishing back and forth between who to trust, what intuition to maybe be able to listen to, what source could I read, seeking wisdom in pleaded prayers, blah, blah, blah. Not a whole lot has changed because once that seed of doubt is cast and rooted so threateningly deep, mental health deteriorates a bit, at least in certain regions.(Thank God for the banjo region that it couldn’t touch 🙂  SO, who was my favorite president? I laugh at that question and don’t know how to answer it, for I fear I’m not sure I have respect for any of them.  Do I repeat what I hear other people say? Reagan because he built up our defenses and brought down the Berlin wall. I guess he is my favorite. He had a warm face (and beautiful, dark hair, too). My second favorite is Richard Nixon because when I was 8 years old he sent me his autograph (ink-stamped –so he had a nice secretary, thanking me for my suggestion to cure air pollution by hanging giant screens from helicopters and fly all around the air – filtering it all up. I’m still astonished it has not been brought to task….The End.

Sally: Being a history major, I have two favorite U.S. Presidents.

1. Abraham Lincoln: He seemed liked a very smart man, and I like the Civil War period in History.  Everything I have read about him makes him seem like a very nice and down-to-earth type of person.  I also like the story about him walking 20 miles to return a book he borrowed from a friend.

2. Theodore Roosevelt: From books I have read about him I just like him. His childhood was very interesting.

 Least favorite President is probably Andrew Jackson because of his treatment of American Indians and slaves

Jolly Librarian: I have started a project to read a biography of each president, although I’m not sure how far I’ll get. So far, I’ve read bios of George Washington and John Adams, and I’m halfway through one on Jefferson. One thing I’ve discovered is that you have to be a fairly complex and savvy person to become president. And you have to walk a line between your ideals and practicality. Ironically, reading these biographies of the first presidents has made me more sympathetic to the ones of my own time, as I realize that I’ll probably never have the necessary distance to judge their terms objectively. 

But anyway, my favorite president: John Adams. I can see myself in him, feeling the force of my convictions to the point that I don’t have the political savvy to get ahead. I also have to give a shout-out to the first President Bush. I remember seeing the tape of his throwing up on the Japanese prime minister. Putting myself in his place, I thought how horrified and embarrassed I’d be. But since then, whenever I’ve been worried about being embarrassed or humiliated, I’ve used that event as a sort of touchstone: “If President Bush could be taped throwing up on a leader of a nation, have it broadcast all over the world, and go on to make contributions, then I certainly can get over this.”

My least favorite president at the moment is Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the simple reason that his biography has to be very, very long!

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