DATELINE: September 2012
WHERE: Land of Lincoln
WHY: In the fall of 2003, I took a long road trip and visited a lot of historic American sites on the east coast. These visits made me consider getting a degree in early American history. When I started looking at schools, I decided I did not really want to go to class and do homework. Two degrees are enough. So, I decided to keep visiting history and reading history.
A librarian by trade, I have worked in corporate, academic and public libraries. I own a research business. I have been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states, where I have visited many historic sites, including Minute Man National Historic Park in Lexington/Concord, where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired, Ft. Sumter, where the first shot of the Civil War was fired, Colonial Williamsburg, the Liberty Bell, Presidents’ houses and their official libraries/museums. (Tried to go to Betsy Ross’s house, but she is not home on Mondays and I was there on a Monday.)
In the Fall of 2011, as the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign heated up, I decided I wanted to learn more about the history of our country. Politicians running for office frequently talk about what our founding fathers intended and how, if elected, they will take our country back to the original ideas of the founding fathers and the Constitution. They compare many events in U.S. history to what is happening in our country today.
I own a copy of 1776 by David McCullough. I even got it signed at the National Book Festival on the Mall in D.C., but I never read it. In the Fall of 2011, I cracked it open and couldn’t put it down. I realized that I only had a general understanding of the history of our country. I decided to read a biography on every U.S. President to learn about how and why our country was founded and how we got to where we are today.
In the Fall of 2012, a year after I started reading Presidential biographies, I decided I should blog about what I’m learning. So, there aren’t a lot of posts on George Washington and John Adams because, as of this writing at start of my blog, I am almost done with Thomas Jefferson.
I am selecting biographies that have info about our Presidents’ childhoods, as well as their lives before, during and after their time in office. Most really good books that cover all of this are pretty hefty in size. It could take years for me to complete this journey. I will post every time I finish a book. I also expect to post interesting tidbits while I’m reading, as well as interesting news on the Presidents I have already read.
P.S. Thank you to Brenda H. for the beautiful header photo of the White House from the summer of 2012.
After 5 1/2 years, I have completed my journey of reading a biography of every U.S. President. For now. Bush 41 is the last book I read because the Presidents who served after him have not been out long enough for a historian to research and write with some perspective. I certainly will read them as they are written going forward.
I enjoyed my quest. I found some really interesting books. I learned a lot. The main theme running through all of these books is that not much has changed since the beginning. We went into debt to fight the Revolutionary War and have rarely not had debt. Politics has always been a nasty business, but we are seeing more of the behind the scenes nonsense with social media and a 24 hour news cycle, so it seems worse today.
Every President did something to move our country forward, even if they did other things that were inept or illegal. Many of our Presidents came from nothing and it’s unbelievable that they reached the highest office in the land.
Most of the books I read leaned toward their guy, which I did not expect. Reading them in succession made this obvious when one book blamed the next guy for something and the next book blamed the last guy.
I haven’t blogged since JFK. As I was on the homestretch, blogging seemed to be more like work than a creative outlet. More is known about the more current Presidents, but I still found a lot of interesting tidbits.
I highly recommend reading about our Presidents. One doesn’t have to read long biographies like I did. There are several great young adult level series that have a lot of information in shorter books. I will continue to read about Presidents and the history of our country, particularly about events/time periods in our history.