| Articles: Meandering
in a bottle | That
old time religion | "Dr.
Lorenzo" | Ross
. . . Robyn Ross
be better off had he forgone a Cabinet meeting or two for a certain class
in Beasley Hall this fall.
"How say you? Is the... President of the United States...guilty or
not guilty of a high misdemeanor?
was asked in late October, and while most were thinking of Ken Starr and
dresses that needed dry cleaning, the 15 students in the fall's "Rating
the Presidents" Freshman Seminar went back to 1868 and to the nation's
17th president, Andrew Johnson, who was impeached but whose removal fell
one vote shy in the Senate.
end, students would examine 12 of the nation's "good" chief executives
and six "bad" ones, with any luck learning what it means to be presidential.
considered myself a student of the president, so teaching this class was
an easy decision for me," said History Prof. Ken Stevens. "When students
come here, they don't know that much about the presidents. But even with
that limitation, I've been extremely impressed with how thoughtful they've
been in their discussions."
Katherine Neumon is among those who sit in roundtable fashion three hours
a week. A solid Democrat (among a class of mostly conservatives), the
extent of her politics before this fall was a few high school classes
and discussions at her Ohio dinner table.
I just wanted to know the presidents as an educated person, to know the
things that each of them did," she said.
she discovered? That a lot of times, the Presidency is given as a reward
for valor elsewhere (Grant). And a president may have checks and balances
on his power, but his influence can be endless (FDR). And that even though
times may be bad, a president can be a solid individual, and vice versa.
would have happened much quicker and would have been a lot less painful
had Lincoln lived and Andrew Johnson not served; he set back civil rights
100 years," she said. "But Johnson was known for his integrity, and he
definitely stood by what he believed. Today, things are going pretty well,
but that has more to do with Alan Greenspan (Fed Chair) than with Bill
Clinton. Even though his impeachment is unlikely, I don't know of anyone
who views him with any amount of respect. They call him Slick Willy and
that fits him perfectly."
freshman Ram Luthra agrees, adding that he'll be ready at the polls in
have character, vision and surround themselves with good people," he said.
"If you can find a person like that, you should vote for that person rather
than just vote Republican or Democrat. All you can do is vote for what
someone stands for, or allegedly will stand for once they get into office."
Hail to a
History Prof. Paul Boller writes in his revered Presidential Anecdotes
that "at sunrise on April 30, 1789, George Washington had his hair powdered,
donned a brown suit with buttons decorated with spread eagles, and put
on white silk stockings and shoes with silver buckles. He also got out
his dress sword. By the time he had eaten breakfast, church bells were
ringing, and people were gathering before his house."
of his inauguration, Washington wrote friends at day's end that he feared
"that my countrymen will expect too much from me."
we do. After all, as Boller points out so well, they are just men:
1828 campaign, the Whigs circulated a thick pamplete...which listed 14
fights, duels, brawls and shooting and cutting affairs in which Jackson
"killed, slashed, and clawed various American citizens. There was some
truth to the charges. He seemed to have taken seriously the advice his
mother was said to have given him: "Never sue for assault or slander;
settle them cases yourself."
his first ball in Springfield because he wished to see Mary Todd [who
later became his wife]. "Miss Todd," he said, "I should like to dance
with you the worst way." Afterward Mary told a friend: "He certainly did!"
when he met with General Robert E. Lee to discuss terms of surrender.
. . was characteristic. He was plainly, even sloppily, attired, got off
the point several times to reminisce about the old days before the war,
and refused Lee's proffer of his sword as a token of surrender. He also
let the Confederate officers keep their horses, remarking that they would
need them for the spring plowing when they got home.
was without doubt the most energetic of all our Presidents. [French Ambassador
Jean-Jules Jusserand] joined the President for two sets of tennis one
day; then Roosevelt suggested a bit of jogging; and after they had jogged
on the White House lawn for a while, they had a workout with the medicine
ball. After that, Roosevelt turned to his guest and asked, "What would
you like to do now?" "If it's just the same to you, Mr. President," sighed
Jusserand, "I'd like to lie down and die."
John F. Kennedy
on Air Force One, JFK was asked by a reporter what would happen if the
aircraft crashed. Kennedy smiled. "I'm sure of one thing," he said. "Your
name would be in the paper the next day, but in very small type."