Friday, October 10, 2014

7 Quick Takes Vol. 39: Presidential Trivia Edition!

                I’ve been reading a good deal about various past Presidents lately (mostly the comparatively obscure ones, because they have some of the best surprises) and have stumbled across some (I think) interesting little factoids. So, for today’s 7 Quick Takes, I’m going to share some in the form of a series of trivia questions (visitors from Conversion Diary, I again apologize for the conspicuous lack of cute babies).

1.       Which Presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetery?
A.      John F. Kennedy (which everyone knows) and William Howard Taft. Why Taft? Taft had a really remarkable career, which included Secretary of War, Governor of the Philippines (which he successfully calmed down following the American-Filipino War), Solicitor General, Governor of Cuba, President of the United States, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Apparently, it was considered only fitting that he should be laid to rest in the Union’s most hallowed ground (his wife, Helen, is interred there as well). 

2.       Who is the only President to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor?
A.      Theodore Roosevelt, though he was awarded it posthumously. He won it for his suicidal bravery during the Battle of San Juan Hill, during the first half of which he was the only mounted man on the battlefield (which he did to inspire his troops), and during the second part of which he ended up storming San Juan Hill with only four other soldiers (the others didn’t hear him calling the charge). Roosevelt then ran back to his men, all the while under heavy fire, to berate them for not following, then became the first man to reach the enemy trenches while leading the charge. It’s frankly a miracle he survived.
So why did he have to wait until the Clinton administration to get his reward? Politics. Roosevelt made a stink about the delay in bringing the troops home after the war (many of whom were contracting tropical diseases), which resulted both in the homecoming of the troops and the embarassment of many of the top brass, who got even by letting Roosevelt's cause for the Medal of Honor sit and rot for the rest of his life. Roosevelt shrugged it off and ran for governor.

3.       Who was the first President to take up Golf?
A.      Once again, William Howard Taft. Taft was a surprisingly active man considering his weight: he enjoyed dancing, was the first President to throw the opening pitch of the baseball season, and in golf he found an engaging past-time that didn’t place over-strenuous demands on his body. His love for golf helped popularize the sport among Americans, and thus began a long, often painful history of golfing Presidents.

4.       Which President annually dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to school children?
A.      Theodore Roosevelt. Among his many other virtues, Roosevelt was an extremely kind man who loved children (something he no doubt learned from his father, Theodore Roosevelt sr. who created a boarding house for New York’s orphaned newsboys). Every year he would visit Cove School in his hometown of Oyster Bay, dressed as Santa, to talk with the kids and hand out presents (he bought the presents out of his own pocket). Santa got fairly mobbed by his young friends on Christmas 1898, after his exploits in Cuba. Roosevelt continued the tradition until 1918, when his rapidly failing health prevented him. His son, Archie, filled in for him instead.  

And we got some cute baby pictures in after all!
5.       Which President, while serving as an officer during wartime, didn’t lose a single man under his command?
A.      Harry S. Truman. Commanding an artillery regiment in France during the First World War, Truman decided he couldn’t face the prospect of losing a man under his command, so he vowed to see them all safely through to the end. Miraculously, and despite some close shaves, he managed it, and his troops never forgot that fact.

6.       Which President (not counting Obama) was accused of having a Black ancestor?
A.      Warren G. Harding. The rumor that his great-great grandmother was a black woman had begun generations before and entered family legend. His great-great grandfather claimed that it had been started by a thief whom the family had caught in the act as an attempt at extortion, but considering how socially debilitating it would be if true, who knows whether that’s the case or not? Remember, at the time the ‘One-drop’ rule was in effect: in certain parts of the country, any proven Black ancestors meant that you were legally Black (and no, now that you mention it, that doesn't make any sense).
To his credit, when the issue came up in the 1920 election, Harding didn’t bother denying it. His answer when confronted with the question was, and I quote: “How the hell should I know?”

7.       Of the four murdered Presidents, who was the only one who wasn’t shot in the presence of his family members?
A.      William McKinley. Compounding the tragedy of our four Presidential assassinations is the little noted fact that three of them were committed right in front of the murdered man’s family. Lincoln and Kennedy both were shot in front of their wives, while James Garfield was gunned down while in company of his two sons (ages 16 and 18). McKinley was spared this, in part, due to the fact that both his children died in early childhood and that his wife, Ida, was too weak and sickly to join in most of his public events. McKinley’s response to being shot (after stopping the crowd from beating his murderer, Leon Czolgosz) was to urge his secretary to be careful in how he told his wife.

             Bonus Trivia!
McKinley had a habit of wearing a red carnation in his lapel for good luck. He didn’t have it on him when he was shot because he had given it to a little girl just a few minutes earlier.
Rot in Hell, Czolgosz! 

Vivat Christus Rex!

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