Archive | August, 2014
August 7, 2014

Harry Truman

Our 33rd President: 1945-1953

Just the Facts:

  •  His parents couldn’t agree on a middle name so the initial “S” was put on his birth certificate (it doesn’t stand for anything).
  •  Before president, he owned a “haberdashery,” which was a fancy word for a hat or clothing store.
  •  Truman loved to play the piano.
  •  He was the only president since 1900 that didn’t attend college.
  •  His motto was: “The Buck Stops Here.”
  •  He was very honest.
  •  First Lady Bess lived longer than any other first lady – until 97 years old!


Harry was born in Missouri and lived on a farm.  He had a lot of chores as a child, such as cutting wood and getting water from the well.  He graduated from high school but didn’t go on to college because he needed to help support his family.  He did a lot of odd jobs, including bookkeeper, farmer, and railroad timekeeper.  Harry read a lot and loved Mark Twain’s books.


He fought in France during World War I and rose through the ranks to become a “major.”  After the Great War, he returned home and opened a mens clothing store (a “haberdashery”) – unfortunately it was a failure and he lost a lot of money.  After that, he decided to go into politics.  He worked for the political boss in Missouri, who helped him win elections.  Eventually, Truman represented Missouri in Congress.  Then, FDR picked Truman as his vice president when he ran for his fourth term.


Truman became president when FDR died suddenly the beginning of his fourth term.  Within months, Germany surrendered and World War II was over in Europe.  Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Soon after, Japan surrendered and World War II in the Pacific was over as well.  He created the Marshall Plan, which helped Europe to rebuild after World War II ended.  He also helped to create NATO, an agreement among America and its European allies to come to each other’s aid.


The rest of Truman’s presidency was taken up with concerns about communism.  His foreign policy was guided by the Truman Doctrine, which stated that America would help any country that was fighting communism.  This doctrine put America at odds with the Soviet Union and brought about the Cold War (it lasted for 40 years).  It also put America in the middle of disputes all over the world, including the Korean War.


Harry met his future wife, Bess, when he was six years old.  They were in Sunday school and went to elementary school together.  They married in 1919 (after he served in World War I) and they had one daughter, Elizabeth.  While at the White House, some people called them the “three musketeers” because they were such a tight family and always together.


Bess didn’t like the social life in Washington DC and the lack of privacy in the White House.  She did help Harry in private, however – she gave him advice and reviewed his speeches.  His nickname for her was “The Boss.”   After his presidency, Harry and Bess returned to Missouri.  Harry was active in politics until he died at 90 years old.

Famous Quotes 


“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.”


August 6, 2014

Franklin Roosevelt

Our 32nd President: 1933-1945

Just the Facts:

  •  His nickname was “FDR.”
  •  FDR was president for 13 years – the only president to serve more than 2 terms.
  •  He made many speeches on the radio, calling them “fireside chats.”
  •  He appointed the first woman to the cabinet.
  •  His wife, Eleanor, was the a powerful First Lady.  She was the first to hold her own press conferences – only women journalists were allowed to attend!
  •  FDR loved to sail and collect stamps.
  •  He was related to 11 other presidents!
  •  FDR had a dog, Fala, who was famous.


FDR was born into a wealthy family – President Theodore Roosevelt was his cousin.  He grew up in New York and followed the family tradition of attending the top schools in the country.  Then he practiced law in New York City before he went into politics.  He was a representative in the New York state legislature and governor of New York.  In addition, he worked in the federal government.


FDR became sick with polio when he was 39 years old.  He never walked on his own after that – instead he used either a cane or wheelchair.  He kept his disability a secret throughout most of his presidency, however.  When giving speeches, he would prop himself up by holding on to the podium.


FDR led America through the Great Depression and World War II.  He was known for his efforts to help the poor during the Great Depression – he called his policies “The New Deal.”  He got busy right away – signing 14 bills into law during his first 100 days of office!  He created programs that put people to work improving our roads and buildings, and imposed regulation on the banking system and stock market (Securities and Exchange Commission).  He also provided food for the hungry and unemployed and financial aid to farmers and elderly people (Social Security).  His programs helped America recover from the Great Depression.


FDR kept America out of the first few years of World War II.  Instead, he provided aid to England, to help it fight Nazi Germany.  He finally asked Congress to declare way after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  In that famous speech, he said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see American victory in World War II.  He died while on vacation in Georgia just before the War ended.


FDR and Eleanor first met when they were 2 years old – they were very distant cousins.   In fact, Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave her away at their wedding.  Even thought she was born into a wealthy family, her childhood wasn’t very happy.  Both of Eleanor’s parents had died when before she was 10 years old and she was raised by her grandmother.  She spent much of her childhood reading books.


The Roosevelts had one daughter and five sons – Franklin Jr, Anna, James, Elliot, John and Franklin Jr. (the first Franklin Jr. died as a baby).  Eleanor was a very active First Lady – she traveled all over the country helping the poor, sick and elderly.  She was his eyes and ears around the country, since travel was hard for FDR. She even traveled to Europe to visit American soldiers.  Eleanor told FDR stories of the people she met so that he knew how much America was suffering and needed help from the government.


The more people First Lady Eleanor met, the more she wanted to help.  She wrote a newspaper column and held press conferences.  Eleanor also advocated for women’s rights.  She even hosted a free concert by a famous African American singer, Marian Anderson (It had to be outside on the Mall, since no auditorium in Washington DC would allow her to perform).

Famous Quotes


“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

“If you treat people right they will treat you right… ninety percent of the time.”

“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

August 5, 2014

Herbert Hoover

Our 31st President: 1929-1933

Just the Facts:

  •  Herbert Hoover was the first president born west of the Mississippi.
  •  His nickname was “The Great Engineer.”
  •  He refused to accept a salary while he was president.
  •  He graduated from Stanford University, despite failing a German language course.
  •  He designated the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.
  •  The “Hoover Dam” is named after him.
  •  He had many dogs as pets – - Piney, Snowflake, and Tut lived in the White House.  He also had a pet opossum and his son had 2 crocodiles.


Herbert was born in Iowa.  He became an orphan when he was nine and was raised by his uncle in Oregon.  He grew up as a Quaker.  He worked hard and made a lot of money in the mining industry.  Then, he went into public service during World War I, helping to evacuate American soldiers, ration food in America, and provide food to Europeans.  After the War, he was in charge of the American Relief Association, which helped millions of suffering Europeans every day.


He moved on to become Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge.  He oversaw some large public work projects, including a dam along the Colorado River that bears his name – the Hoover Dam.  The Hoover Dam provides water to most of the American Southwest (including southern California).  He was also in charge of the St. Lawrence Seaway project, which gave the Great Lakes access to the Atlantic Ocean.


Hoover became president by promising prosperity – “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”  He was President for only less than a year when the stock market crashed – October 29 has been called Black Tuesday ever since.  The crash was officially the start of the Great Depression.  Millions of people lost their jobs, banks closed, businesses failed.


The economy took most of his time, so he wasn’t able to accomplish some of his goals as president.  He tried to reform the banks and give assistance to businesses – but it wasn’t enough to pull America out of the Great Depression.  He didn’t think the government should give people handouts, so many people blamed him for their troubles.   As a result, he didn’t win re-election.


Hoover met his wife, Lou, in college (she was the only woman geology student at Stanford).  They had two sons, Herbert Jr. and Allan.  Lou was involved in the Girl Scouts organization most of her life – she was even elected president of the organization.  She also spoke several languages, including Chinese (which was helpful when she and Herbert lived there, before he was president).  The First Lady ran an elegant White House – she imported food and expected it to be prepared in only the best way. She also used a new invention, the radio, to connect with the American people.


After his presidency, the Hoovers retired to New York.  He continued trying to reform the government and wrote many books.  He died when he was 90 years old.

Famous Quotes


“Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity.”

“Children are our most valuable natural resource.”

“When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.”



August 4, 2014

Calvin Coolidge

Our 30th President: 1923-1929

Just the Facts:

  •  Calvin was born on July 4, our Independence Day.
  •  His full name is “John Calvin Coolidge.”
  •  He was a man of few words – a little shy and quiet.  But he did like practical jokes.
  •  His nickname was “Silent Cal.”
  •  The Coolidge family had lots of pets – over 10 dogs (one was named “Peter Pan”), cats, birds, a pet raccoon, a donkey, and a bobcat named “Smokey.” He even had a bear, wallaby and lion cubs.
  •  He was president during the “Roaring Twenties.”


Calvin was born in a small town in Vermont.   His father owned a store and he grew up learning the value of frugality and hard work.  He went to Amherst College in Massachusetts and then studied law.  Calvin opened his own law firm and then got involved in politics.  He started in city politics and was mayor of his hometown.  Then, he moved on to state politics – he was served in the state legislature and was elected governor of Massachusetts.  His first experience at national politics was to be elected as Harding’s vice president.


Coolidge became President when Harding died unexpectedly on a train tour of the country – he took the oath of office on his family bible in the middle of the night at his father’s farm in Vermont.  Coolidge ran for another term, and his slogan was “Keep Cool with Coolidge.”  He was president in between the two World Wars and led America into the modern era.


Coolidge cleaned up the government after the corruption of Harding’s administration.  In addition, Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted American citizenship to all Native Americans.  Coolidge believed in small government and didn’t want to regulate business.  He cut taxes, reduced the war debt and cut government spending.  In addition, he believed that the president should defer to Congress, which should hold most of the power in the federal government.


Calvin married Grace, who was a teacher for the deaf.  They had two sons, John and Calvin, Jr.  Calvin had a rocking chair on the porch of the White House and sat there almost every evening.  In addition, he exercised on an electric horse in the White House.


Grace was a social First Lady – she loved parties and remembered the names of everyone she met.  She was quoted as saying “People are my books.”  She entertained many famous people at the White House, including Helen Keller.


Calvin Jr, died of an infection during Coolidge’s presidency.  They was devastated and decided to not run for another term. He and Grace moved back to Massachusetts after his presidency was over and wrote an autobiography.  He died of a heart attack when he was 61 years old.

Famous Quotes 


“The chief business of America is business.”

“All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

“I have never been hurt by what I have not said.”

“It takes a great man to be a good listener.”

“There is no force so democratic as the force of an ideal.”

“Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.”