The third Monday in February is when we typically celebrate President’s Day. In my experience, this holiday has been reduced to the following:
- An excuse for retail locations to have a sale,
- An opportunity for teachers to force kids to write an essay on George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and
- Yet another Monday everyone in America seems to get a long weekend except me.
But it should be much more than that. It should be a time to extol the virtues and celebrate the flaws of the people who have led our country through good times and bad. Why flaws? Well, just like us, Presidents are mere mortals, who have flaws and make mistakes. We often see the past with 20-20 vision, especially when it is something we are celebrating. By extoling only the virtues, accomplishments, and achievements of our presidents on this holiday, we run the risk of making being President unobtainable and out of the grasp of something our kids could ever hope to achieve. Our Presidents were great, but not perfect.
I’m not suggesting you discuss horrible things about past Presidents, instead, consider sharing funny facts about some our lesser known POTUS. They’re often easy to find and usually way more entertaining than the same old George Washington could not tell a lie “facts” that your kids memorize in school. Here are a few to get you started:
- During his presidency, John Quincy Adams enjoyed skinny-dipping in the Potomac River in the early mornings.
- Franklin Pierce was arrested for running over a woman with his horse. Charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence.
- Andrew Johnson apprenticed as a tailor. Even as president, he never stopped making his own suits.
- Ulysses S. Grant smoked a ton of cigars — at least 20 a day.
- Not only was James Garfield ambidextrous — he could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the otherat the same time.
- Benjamin Harrison was the first president to have electricity in the White House. However, he was so scared of getting electrocuted that he would never touch the light switches himself.
- William Taft was the largest president in American history. He once got himself wedged into the White House bathtub and had to call his advisers for help getting out.
- Calvin Coolidge would occasionally press all the buttons in the Oval Office, sending bells ringing throughout the White House — and then hide to watch his staff run in.
- Herbert Hoover’s son had two pet alligators, which were occasionally permitted to run loose throughout the White House.
- Jimmy Carter filed a report for a UFO sighting in 1973. He called it “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen.”
For even more about the presidents, check out these back issues from Cobblestone, our American History magazine for 9 to 14 year olds:
George Washington (1789-1797)
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
James Monroe (1817-1825)
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909)
Cricket Media Mama has not raised any of children to smoke cigars, keep pet alligators, or swim naked. They will each make perfect presidents during their terms.