Library Notes: Some non-fake news about presidents

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 12, 2020

By Jim Whalen

Rowan Public Library

In nine months, the presidential race will be over. Yet it seems like another one starts almost immediately. For awhile you can get some relief from all the mailings, YouTube political ads and television ads. For those who like politics maybe it’s time to try some non-fake news about presidents.

What do we know about George Washington? Well he could not tell a lie, chopped down a cherry tree and had wooden teeth — not exactly. Washington was a complicated man and much more than the previous “facts.” In Joseph J. Ellis’ book, “His Excellency George Washington,” he discusses the accomplishments along with his personal struggles. Washington’s skills are sometimes overlooked. He was a remarkable leader who was in many battles but never shot. The same cannot be said for his horses. He was unusually tall, over six feet, and stood out. “George Washington: A Life” by Willard Sterne Randall and Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life” offer a similar a perceptive.

If you are not familiar with Herbert Hoover, or maybe a little, the first and sometimes only fact is he was president during the great depression. “Herbert Hover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency” by Charles Rappleye is a portal of a very successful man who accomplished many things before becoming the 31st president.

Although accused by some of reacting callously to the millions of Americans forced onto bread lines during the Great Depression, Hoover was recognized around the world as such a great humanitarian that he was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize. After Hoover spearheaded a private effort to ensure the safe return of 120,000 American tourists stranded in Europe at the outbreak of World War I, the United States government recruited him to deliver food to neutral Belgium, where 7 million people faced starvation.

Later, Hoover headed the American Relief Administration, which delivered food to tens of millions of people in more than 20 war-torn countries. Between 1921 and 1923, the aid he directed to famine-stricken Soviet Union fed more than 15 million people daily. “Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!” he declared to opponents who accused him of aiding communism.

One week before Hoover celebrated his 40th birthday in London, Germany declared war on France, and the American Consul General asked his help in getting stranded tourists home. In six weeks his committee helped 120,000 Americans return to the United States. Next Hoover turned to a far more difficult task, to feed Belgium, which had been overrun by the German army.

The library has many biographies of the presidents. You can discover that Thomas Jefferson hated public speaking and invented the swivel chair. Ulysses S. Grant could not stand the sight of blood. Dwight Eisenhower changed the presidential retreat to Camp David, which was formally called Shangri-la. And Leslie Lynch King, Jr. was the biological father of Gerald Ford.

Learn about these and more by visiting our biography section.

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