Presidents’ Day

A bald eagle sitting in the cottonwood tree at Chimney Point State Historic Site, VT, February 2012.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Who loves CBS Sunday morning? Whenever I’m home visiting my parents, we sit in the sunny living room, drinking coffee while watching this show. Usually the stories are interesting and we cannot tear ourselves away. Yesterday’s edition was all about the Presidents and the White House, and it was fascinating.  Here is some of my new presidential knowledge, thanks to CBS.

William Henry Harrison is the president who gave the longest inauguration speech (2 hours) and he was sworn in at age 68, at a time when the average life expectancy was only 39.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison after he died (one month after his inauguration speech). His campaign would be very in vogue today as he was a wealthy aristocrat who portrayed himself as an average guy who liked hard cider and log cabins, unlike his opponent, William McKinley. And, John Tyler who served as President from 1841-1845 has two living grandsons — yes, 170 after his presidency, his grandson is alive. Three generations spanning 200 years. Crazy. How? John Tyler fathered a child at age 68 and his son was a father at age 75. John Tyler’s grandsons are in their 80s.

And, possibly the best part of the show were the clips of Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House. Mrs. Kennedy essentially created the role of White House curator and worked hard for restoration and historic preservation of the White House (and beyond). Mrs. Kennedy shaped the White House in a respectful way, stating that it is very important for how the country presents itself. She believed in keeping pieces from all of the presidents, but also thought that the White House should change a bit with each presidential family.  From the JFK Library, Jacqueline Kennedy is quoted in Life Magazine in 1961 as saying,

“All these people come to see the White House and they see practically nothing that dates back before 1948,” Mrs. Kennedy said in a September 1, 1961 interview with Hugh Sidey of Life magazine. “Every boy who comes here should see things that develop his sense of history. For the girls, the house should look beautiful and lived-in. They should see what a fire in the fireplace and pretty flowers can do for a house; the White House rooms should give them a sense of all that. Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to “redecorate” it — a word I hate. It must be restored — and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.”

(I knew I liked Jackie O.)

What an interesting piece to include; it shows that the presidency and the presidential terms are about more than the Presidents themselves. And while we should most definitely honor the U.S. Presidents, it is important to remember their entire legacies and families.

If you have the chance, watch some of those CBS Sunday morning clips or look up facts about a president you’re not too familiar with. At the very least, you’ll have a bit more knowledge of US history and some good trivia facts.

Here is a famous quote about Vermont, written by President Calvin Coolidge:

Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox, without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our eternal hills.

I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

You can visit the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, VT (his birthplace). Here, Coolidge was sworn in as President of the United States by his father.