You can't say the United States hasn't had its share of oddballs and characters in the White House. Well, you could say it, but you'd be wrong. Andrew Jackson liked fighting duels and destroyed the presidential mansion during his election celebration; Ulysses Grant was issued speeding tickets for riding his horse too fast; Herbert Hoover's son had pet alligators. But you'd probably have to be a little crazy to want to—or even to agree to—become the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
It's easy to forget about the less flashy presidents, the ones who "didn't do anything."But with the possible exception of William Henry Harrison (who was president for just 30 days before dying of pneumonia), everyone who has held the presidential office has influenced the development and growth of the nation. James K. Polk, for instance—today not even a household word, but the only president to achieve everything he promised. Or William Howard Taft—if he is known at all it's as the fattest president (and the last to sport facial hair), not as the man responsible for establishing the model of all subsequent interactions between the Federal government and business owners.
Ultimately it's these accomplishments that give presidents their significance, even though most of them are forgotten or unknown except in academic circles or amongtrivia buffs. Of course, in an age when men are elected on their physical appearance and not their ability to govern, we see them increasingly assessed in terms of celebrity rather than intellect or work ethic. It's not that presidents do less than their predecessors—they're increasingly busy, they just doless and less of real significance. Which should remind us as Christians, that no matter what our political affiliation, we are instructed to pray for our leaders that they would pursue righteousness and justice, not just fulfill their agendas.
Political bias aside, it's important to understand the role of the president and what each one has done to shape our nation, not just to know a lot of fun facts about them. Not only will this help us understand why things are theway they are, it will help us make informed decisions about who to vote for in the future, and what ordinary citizens can do to influence the chief of state. The books in this category provide overviews of the presidency and those who have occupied the White House rather than individual biographies.Many of them are just for fun, butsome will genuinely aid your understanding of (arguably) the most important political office in the world.
There's another occupant of the White House all-too-often overlooked, or at best, undervalued:the First Lady. Whether the president's relationship with his wife is characterized more by tender love letters or the throwing of lamps, she remains one ofhis most important influences, if not the most important. Despite what secularists say, a marriage relationship remains the most intimate of relationships, and it is just as true of presidents and their wives. No one can say great political decisions are completely uninfluenced by personal concerns, and who influences a man's personal concerns more than his wife? So we also offer books about First Ladies, not just because they're presidents' wives, but because many of them were brilliant, successful individuals in their own right.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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