Do you know your presidents?

Published 11:59 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

When you read this, President’s Day will have passed, but as I thought of the observance, some memories of presidents came to mind as well as some facts I have collected about other presidents.

I was beside the radio in our living room with my parents when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech filled the airways about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Navy Base, Hawaii: “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…”

I believe those words, “December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy,” remain with any American who has ever heard that speech.

I also distinctly remember the announcement of President Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945. My mother, who was brushing my hair when we heard it on the radio, burst into tears. Several of the students on the school bus I rode that morning argued about his successor. One thought Mrs. Roosevelt would take over.

President Roosevelt had polio when he was 39 years old and was told that he would never walk again. He did though, with the aid of braces and a cane. His wife Eleanor was a distant cousin, a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Did you know that upon his election at 42 years old, President John F. Kennedy was the youngest president to have been elected? And that he was the youngest to die in office at 46?

Reaching way back in history, had you heard that President Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy?” Why? Because she did not serve alcoholic beverages at the White House.

John Adams’ presidency and his political activities kept him away from home during most of his married life. However, he and his beloved wife, Abigail, carried on a long-distance romance through their correspondence with each other. Their love letters were compiled and published.

Here are a couple of items about President George Washington. It is said that during the war, his wife Martha managed to visit him at his encampments, even at Valley Forge. President Washington had a fear of being buried alive and made it known that he did not want to be buried until three days after his death.

Did you realize that a bear cub was once kept on the White House lawn? It came about when explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark captured the cub from the Louisiana Territory and presented it to President Thomas Jefferson.

Did you know that President Abraham Lincoln asked Robert E. Lee to lead the Union Forces in the Civil War? Lee refused because he was from Virginia.

To end this bit of presidential hodgepodge, here’s a final fact. There was an assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson’s life, but it was foiled when the would-be assassin’s gun misfired. It was believed to be the first assassination attempt on a sitting president.