In 2010, I started on a mission to read a biography of each and every U.S. President in chronological order. If seven years seems like a long time, it is–so long, in fact, that I was reading about Adams, Jefferson and Madison on a Sony eReader.   I doubled up on some of them, like Kennedy, Reagan and T-Rex, so with my “extra credit” reading, it averaged out to about seven books per year.  Not too shabby, as it probably represented about 20-25% of my total reading and many of the bios were quite verbose.

Lessons Learned:

  • The Presidents as men, as human beings, are each uniquely different personalities that run the gamut from one extreme to another, e.g. from Theodore “Bully Pulpit” Roosevelt to Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge. But the bottom line is that no man ever becomes President who does not want the job. Remember, nobody joins the Army as a General.  Just to survive and prevail in the party nomination process (for President & Vice-President)  takes enormous desire, determination and will power. The competitive quest for power is a full contact sport played for keeps.
  • Our country has always been a nearly evenly divided politically and often times in bitterly partisan ways on the economic and social issues of the day, from slavery to immigration to the “New Deal” and now back to immigration again, but especially and particularly on the on-going “Haves” versus “Have Nots” argument. The political infighting and rancor we see and read in today’s news is not really unique and unusual. What’s old seems always new again to those without historical perspective.
  • The mainstream media–whether newspapers in the 1800s or network television & talk radio in the 1900s or Fox News vs MSNBC & the Huffington Post vs Breitbart now in the 2000s–has always been highly partisan.

I think John F. Kennedy summarized it best:

“Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.”

 

And with that I am now on to my new reading assignment: the history of aviation.

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