I’ve had a fascination with U.S. presidents since I was a little kid. I’m sure I picked this up from my dad. Each day I walked into school toting my book on presidents. The book sits in my office today where you can clearly see my mom’s inscription of my name. Aren’t moms great?
My interest in presidents has regained vigor in the past few years. In honor of President’s Day, I’ve decided to share a few favorite things that pertain to the people who have sat in the power chair in the oval office.
Here’s me behind the resolute desk at George W. Bush Presidential Library this summer:
A Podcast Recommendation
Leading up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election the Washington Post provided a podcast hosted by Lillian Cunningham. You can find the website right here. I have all 45 loaded on my phone and they currently provide the soundtrack for my lunchtime or evening runs. A podcast was posted each week leading up to the election. I didn’t discover the podcast until a few weeks ago. I’m currently on podcast 23 which covers (of course!) Benjamin Harrison. Each podcast is roughly 40 minutes long and filled with interesting conversations, interviews, music, soundbites, and tons of presidential fun. If you’re not a reader – I can’t think of a better way to get you presidential fill.
A Few Fun Items
Since 2009 I’ve had the extreme pleasure of pastoring the First Baptist Church in Crawford, Texas. From 2000 to 2008 Crawford was known as the Western White House while George W. Bush served as the 43rd president of the United States. Shots of his Crawford ranch often filled the news cycle as President Bush cleared brush or met with world leaders. A billboard of George and Laura greets me every time I drive back into town. I also often find myself drinking a morning cup of joe out of one of my favorite mugs.
My family each Christmas enjoys a tremendous time celebrating the birth of Jesus with a robust white elephant gift exchange. You know the game right? People bring cheap, unwanted, silly gifts to pass around and family members have the opportunity to steal gifts until everyone is left taking home a “treasure.” Well, a few years ago someone deemed this as an appropriate white elephant gift exchange item:
As soon as I saw it opened … this casual game turned from fun into a serious strategical effort. My plan worked out perfectly and the 1992 George Bush campaign watch has a prominent place in my office.
Did you really think I was going to end this post without book recommendations? All the other stuff was an elaborate ploy to keep you reading along. There are too many books to recommend. Allow me to provide a few suggestions that cover lots of ground and a few that are outside of the traditional presidential biography.
The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy The President’s Club was established at Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration by Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover. There is now a long, and fairly public, account of the relationships between living presidents. Gibbs and Duffy explore this incredible club.
John Adams by David McCullough The second president but one that did not receive much attention (in my limited view) until McCullough’s work. I read the book a few months ago and just started watching the HBO series (via Netflix) based from the book. A great look into the formation of the role of president and the founding of the country.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow Yes. I know. Alexander Hamilton was not a president. Yet, this book is filled with presidents. You get great insight into George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and to a lesser degree James Madison and James Monroe. It is beyond well worth your time. And …. have you listened to Hamilton The Musical?
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin That’s two massive books by one author. And when I say massive, I mean MASSIVE. Each book is over 700 pages of actual text. Yet, both are worthy of the time and exercise it takes to lug them around (I assume you read old fashioned books with real pages.) The two books provide an in-depth look at three presidents.
Wilson by A Scott Berg A well written biography on a president that was unknown to me. This book as sparked an interest in Wilson that has driven me to read countless online articles and I’m slowly working my way through a book on Wilson’s life post-presidency.
All The President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward This is the classic book that looks at Bernstein and Woodward’s work to break the Watergate scandal. Their journalism for the Washington Post earned them the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973.
A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by Jimmy Carter As you can tell by the title this is not a presidential autobiography. Rather, it is Carter’s thoughts on a variety of subjects included in the subtitle. Each subject receives much thought and consideration all stemming from Carter’s deep Christian faith. The book also shows how much of Carter’s views find him in conflict with popular evangelicalism … but he’s not worried about it. As a pastor, I love reading about Carter’s convictions that stem from a relationship with Jesus Christ and a desire to be obedient to his Lord.
Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter by Randall Palmer Yes – another Jimmy Carter book. I’ve read a ton of books (that really means 12 books) on Jimmy Carter (some favorable and other much less favorable of his presidency). Despite the impression given by the title, this is not a straight up biography. Rather, this book details Jimmy Carter’s ascension to the presidency and how his rise coincided with the influence of evangelical Christianity as a political power.