Who are the 5 men in this picture? Can you name them? I will leave it to you, by Wednesday, to know who is whom. For the next while, we will be discussing American stories. I would say "American History" but I think some of you have the mistaken impression that American history was boring -- I assure you, it is FAR from boring. It is stories of people, like you and me, who did some incredible things, both good and bad. America is a great experiment -- in government, in the way people mixed together, in how they attempted to solve problems -- in a great many things.
To that end, we will spend some time discussing U.S. Presidents, since they have had such a great influence on the country. Small change in plans here -- you do not have to start reading "To America" yet -- I will let you know when we'll start discussing that -- we need to do a bit of background work first.) I do want you all, however, in addition to you're weekly assignments, to know the order of the post-WWII presidents. I don't need you to memorize the presidents before this time (yet), but in order to have a really good grasp of recent American history and how it affects our world today, you really need to have committed to memory the post-WWII Presidents... You don't need to memorize the dates (yet), but you should have a good idea of the general time period... In addition, you should know what I mean by the basic things I've written next to their names - a quick summary of their "greatest hits" if you will (and if you don't know something, look it up! I'm going to ask on Wednesday!)
They are, in order:
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (1933-1945) - nephew of President Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt (FDR's wife Eleanor was Teddy's niece!). Last and only president to serve more than 2 terms, president during the Great Depression (great social programs -- social security) and most of WWII - died at the beginning of his 4th term
HARRY S. TRUMAN (1945-1953) - dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Berlin Airlift, Korean War - beginning of the Cold War - coined the term "The Buck Stops Here"
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER ("Ike")(1953-1961) - ex-commander of Allied Forces during WWII, Little Rock 9, Brown v. Board of Education, beginning of suburbs (Levittown, LI) - creates "Camp David," named after his son David, which still serves as the presidential retreat
JOHN F. KENNEDY (1961-1963) - first (and only) Catholic ever elected President - Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" - 4th president to be assassinated (who were the other three? Hint - Lincoln was the first)
LYNDON JOHNSON (1963-1969) - passed massive legislation on Civil Rights and the "War on Poverty," which is almost completely ignored because legacy became his escalation of the Vietnam War
RICHARD NIXON (1969-1974) - was Eisenhower's VP - wins by talking about the "Silent Majority" and taking advantage of the chaos during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago - presidency ends in shame with the Watergate Scandal
GERALD FORD (1974-1977) - only man to serve as president that was never elected to either the presidency or the vice-presidency (how the heck did that happen?)... Pardons Nixon... Honestly, not much happens, major events-wise -- Ford is probably best known for being a klutz, constantly tripping down stairs, and for having women try to assassinate him - no joke -- there were 2 separate assassination attempts, both by women. However, his wife Betty Ford did something that still affects our world today... She has a mastectomy weeks after becoming First Lady and instead of hiding it, she talked openly about her breast cancer - a condition that was not previously spoken about in public... After her tenure as First Lady is over, she becomes famous for talking about her alcoholism and drug addiction, which had also previously been taboo to discuss in public, and opens the Betty Ford Clinic (predecessor of all of the rehab facilities in which Brittany Spears and Lindsey Lohan have spent so much of their time)
JIMMY CARTER (1977-1981) - Positive: brokers peace between Egypt and Israel, the first major success in mideast peace talks - Negative: massive economic problems, Americans held hostage in Tehran, Iran, for 444 days
RONALD REAGAN (1981-1989) - driving force behind the end of the Cold War, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!", Reaganomics
GEORGE H.W. BUSH (1989-1993) - Persian Gulf War - Ross Perot joining in the 1992 election splits the Republican vote and gives the presidency to...
BILL CLINTON (1993-2001) - Beginning of the growth of the internet, first attack on the World Trade Center... And sorry, but I can't think of any major accomplishments - I'm sure there are a few, but all I can really think of is Monica Lewinsky... Maybe someone can help me out with that...
GEORGE W. BUSH (2001-2009) - Son of President George H.W. Bush. 9/11/01 -- second attack on WTC and Pentagon, War in Afghanistan, War in Iraq
BARACK OBAMA (2009- ) - First African-American man ever elected to the Presidency. Elected on the mantra of "Change We Can Believe In." Enters his presidency with 2 ongoing wars and a severely faltering economy. A bit too early to tell what his legacy will be...