Hello there, y’all! Happy President’s Day or happy two-days-early-birthday to President George Washington! On this happy day while Congress has been given the week “off” I encourage you to take a look at the presidency in a different light. The Washington Post, beacon of truth that it has been through the decades, has a new(ish) podcast out which is really rather enjoyable! I’ve never talked about a podcast on this here blog but, much like with audiobooks, if you’re ingesting words, it counts. Like books and movies, they are a way to escape reality for a moment.
Presidential goes episode by episode through each president’s tenure in office while looking at various aspects of the make-up of these men. What discerning character trait did John Adams have that allowed him to follow after Washington stepped away from office? Who is overlooked and why? The introduction of the “campaign”. These episodes are chalk full of little tidbits that you didn’t know about the Founding Fathers, the presidents during the Era of Good Feelings, and up through the present. Our host Lillian Cunningham is a reporter at TWP and her guests are people like the keepers of the keys at the Library of Congress, Pulitzer Prize winning historians, and Bob Woodward. There is a running question throughout the series where Lillian asks the historian on what it would be like to go on a blind date with the episode’s gentleman. Pieces like this really humanize these people some of whom lived over two hundred years ago.
I am currently on Andrew Johnson, president number 17 and I cannot get enough of these stories that are retold and relayed by these historians. Letters, diaries, and papers are all provided as sources for the information you learn in these episodes. For instance, AJ here was piss drunk at Lincoln’s inauguration and gave a really embarrassing speech…weeks later he was sworn in after Lincoln was assassinated. John Quincy Adams was the first son of a former president to hold the office and was also the only man to hold elected office after leaving the presidency. He went back to Congress and worked hard to fight slavery. In fact (this is one of my favorite recountings so far) there was a motion to make the word “slavery” illegal on the floor as it was becoming too much of a hot button issue in 1836. JQA went and got himself in trouble on purpose by saying the word. Now, as per the rules, he had a chance to defend himself of this action and he took advantage of this, his time to speak, and ran with it for TWO WEEKS talking about the injustices of slavery. This in and of itself is amazing and then as the story comes to an end and the episode is winding down we learn something else: who was a first term Representative at that same time but Abraham Lincoln. Bits like this make that whole thing so intricate and fascinating.
It really is amazing how far we’ve come in this country considering our government was put together by ideas proposed by men who didn’t really know what they were doing. George Washington espoused the belief that he was not fit to run the country and was firmly and vociferously of the mind that he had no idea what he was doing. We have been led by these men who have differed vastly in their ideals, these men who supported and encouraged the guidance of others, and whose legacies set examples for history. Our country has had its ups and downs (and there have certainly been a lot of both) and it is incredibly important to know where we’ve come from. How did we get from one to 44? How did we get to where we are now? This is monumentally important…to put it in presidential terms.
So whether you just listen to Obama and Kennedy or if you listen to them all in order, Presidential should definitely be on your radar.
…and so should this picture…