Presidents Are Just Like Us!
If you live in the USA, chances are you are enjoying a three-day weekend or better still, a week-long 'ski' break, thanks to President's Day, a holiday to honor all the brave men that have led our country and in some cases, even sacrificed their lives.
Right about now, you are probably rolling your eyes - That's because you have almost certainly read, learnt, and regurgitated all the 'interesting' facts about these men at school. However, what you are about to read are things that very few people talk about since they are facts that make these formidable-looking men well . . . . human, just like the rest of us. So go ahead and give it a try - You may even learn something new!
We all know that George Washington AKA the 'Father of our Nation' was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Forces in the American Revolution and therefore deemed to be the best choice for the nation's first President. However, what you may not know is that he never really wanted to be President! Instead, after the war was over, the fifty-seven year-old wanted to simply disappear to his estate in Virginia - Partly to spend time with his beloved wife Martha, but largely because he was worried that he would not be a good leader.
As we all know now, this fear was totally unfounded! He did such a great job that he was re-elected and would have even served a third term, had he not decided to put his foot down and declare that it was time for America to be led by a new President.
And here is something even more interesting - George and Martha Washington were the only first couple that never lived in the White House. That's because it did not exist!. He did however play a key role in the development of Washington D.C. and oversaw the design of both the Capitol Building and the White House.
While all these are good educational facts, here is are real fun one that you can even share with your friends - The first President of the USA had really bad teeth! They were so bad that he started losing them when he was just 20 years old and by time he was elected President, he only had one real tooth left - He therefore had no choice but to wear dentures made from gold, ivory, lead, human and even animal teeth!
Often called America's greatest President, Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings. He along with his seven siblings and three step siblings spent much of their childhood helping their father on the farm and doing other chores, which left very little time for school. In fact so little, that this 16th President of the United States only had one year of formal education, by the time he turned 15! However, his voracious appetite for reading and natural smarts more than made up for this minor deficiency.
Another cool fact? He was quite a prankster and pretty well known for his practical jokes. One of the most famous ones is about how he sent two men getting married on the same day, to the wrong brides.
As for his nickname 'honest Abe' - That started very early in life and while the anecdotes about his integrity are too many to list, here is an example. Whilst working as a store clerk he once realized that he had short-changed the customer by a few pennies. He apparently trekked several miles that very same evening, to return the small amount to the client who didn't even know it was due to him.
It is of course thanks to this amazing President that America is a united country where everyone is treated equally, regardless of color of skin or gender. Unfortunately, he did not really get to witness the United Nation for too long. That's because on April 14th, 1865, just six days after Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee surrendered, Lincoln was assassinated by an actor named John Wilkes Booth, whilst he was enjoying a performance at Washington D.C.'s Ford theater.
Though you may all know that Franklin D. Roosevelt also known as FDR, was our 32nd President, did you know that if we counted each of his terms individually, he would have also been our 33rd, 34th and 35th President? Yup, he was so popular that Americans kept re-electing him and the only reason they had to stop was that shortly after he began his fourth term, he died of a stroke.
His popularity stemmed from his warm personality that made people feel as though they knew him personally and also because he helped get America out of the Great Depression, by re-igniting the economy and restoring confidence in the country's financial institutions.
Another little known fact was that his wife, who is also believed to be the most popular First Lady yet, was the daughter of the brother of former President Theodore Roosevelt and also FDR's distant cousin!
However, the most amazing fact of all, is that having lost his legs to Polio when he was just 31-years old, FDR led the country in a wheelchair - Just shows that one can do anything, if one puts their mind to it!
John F. Kennedy (JFK) and his beautiful and elegant wife Jackie brought a never before seen glamour to the White House. His dapper looks and her sense of fashion were followed and revered by not just the American public, but also, people all over the world. However, there was much more to this President than just good looks.
The World War II veteran, displayed his amazing bravery and leadership very early in life, when a Japanese warship destroyed the boat under his command. Determined to save the 9 men that were still alive, he convinced them to swim the four miles to the nearest island. However, one was too injured to make it on his own and pleaded to be left to his fate. Refusing to abandon him, JFK caught the strap of the marine's life vest by his teeth and dragged him to safety.
As President, he fought for equal rights in a country that was still adjusting to the abolishment of apartheid. And it's thanks to his vision that the USA is the first and only country in the world to send men to the moon! Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see his dream come true and hear Neil Armstrong's famous words - 'That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
That's because on December 22nd 1963, JFK was shot and killed while he and his wife were riding in an open-roof convertible car in Dallas, Texas. What was even more tragic is that nobody knows the reason Lee Harvey Oswald shot him, because he too was murdered before he could stand trial.
The next time you are told you cannot have it all, point to this amazing man - He played football for his college, was one of the most popular radio announcers in Iowa, starred in fifty-two movies and even hosted a popular television show. The icing on the cake of course, was when he was elected President at the ripe old age of 70!
And, while he may have been the oldest President to be inaugurated, he was no fuddy-duddy. In fact, he had a great sense of humor and was often caught doodling in the middle of serious discussions. He once even walked into a meeting wearing a Bozo the Clown, wig!
Also, he loved candy - More specifically jelly beans and is the only President that had a jar full of the yummy confectionery not just in his office, but also, aboard Air Force One! And, if you are a fan of the blueberry jelly bean you can thank him because that flavor was introduced just so that the White House jars could feature the patriotic red, blue and white colors!
President Reagan of course, also did a number of great things for the country - Turned the economy around, made the US army stronger and most important of all brought the Cold War - The enmity between the former Soviet Union and the USA to a peaceful end - No wonder, he was elected for a second term!
Of course, no President's Day tribute would be complete without a nod to our current leader, President Barack Obama. Now serving his second term, the nation's first African American leader has and continues to have many challenges - Ranging from winding down the country's longest wars to dealing with a domestic recession that is being compared to the Great Depression faced by FDR.
Yet, thanks his daughters Malia and Sasha who happen to among the youngest first kids to live in the White House, he and Michelle Obama bring a levity that has rarely been witnessed before. How else do you explain a President that tries to imitate a gymnast's scowl or a First Lady that breaks a Guinness World record for jumping jacks! You will therefore not be surprised to hear that this fun-loving man once even had an ape named Tata, as a pet!
Who would have thought that all these men who have the weight of the entire nation upon their shoulders could also, have a fun human side!
Happy President's Day or Week!
Resources : Who was Abraham Lincoln,George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy.