Fun Facts Every American should know…
Before the advent of computers, one would rely on a trip to the library and head straight for the reference section, most likely choosing an encyclopedia and a few non-fiction books. However, those days are long gone, and now a student does not even need to leave his/her home provided that there is an internet connection. The only caution the student must use is that the sources he/she finds must be reliable ones. In other words, most teachers will ban Wiki’s, blogs, and personal websites.
So what could be one of the most reliable sources on the history of US President? I know where I would start: http://www.whitehouse.gov.
It only seems logical that the official White House website should have a section dedicated to the biographies of presidents, and it does. By clicking on the name of any one of the 44 presidents, a student can find a concise biography that highlights important or interesting background information, events, and accomplishments as well as obstacles faced during the term . According to the website, “The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2009 by the White House Historical Association.” (1) **** Just a little note here that a book title should be italicized, not placed within quotations*** The book, last published in 2009, would appear to be mostly objective, although I have not read it and cannot verify. One author, Michael Beschloss, has been described by Newsweek as “the nation’s leading Presidential historian”, has written 8 other books, and works with NBC News and PBS (2). Hugh Sidey, who passed away in 2005, was a journalist for Time Magazine and covered the White House and several presidents as well as serving as president of the White House Historical Association, which publishes this book (3) (4). Based on this information, I would assume that both authors possessed the qualifications and knowledge necessary for writing such a book.
So far so good….seems like reliable, factual, historical information is readily at hand. And for the most part, I must admit that it is.
Once you reach Calvin Coolidge, there is extra material added at the end presented in the form of a “fun fact”.
Did you know?
- On Feb. 22, 1924 Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people. President Coolidge later helped create the Federal Radio Commission, which has now evolved to become the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). President Obama became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. (5)
Although the detail first appears to be a fun fact about Calvin Coolidge, the reality is that this is more about President Obama. And these “fun facts” continue on each president’s bio thereafter, with the exception of Ford. That is 13 former presidents, and Obama is there tagged on to each one.
According to ABC News, the Obama administration added these blurbs to the bios on May 14, 2012. The online article also states, ” But White House sources say the additions of items with hyperlinks are a commonly used Internet best practice to encourage people to browse more pages on a site” (6). The items in question do provide links to other pages on the site, so there is some truth to this. At the very least, it is a plausible excuse.
The only attempt at rational argument in support that I found was that the additional material is merely an elaboration on things done and/or passed before Obama became president (7). Instead, the majority of Obama fans and supporters rant about how it is a twisted argument pushed ahead by conservatives, republicans, and right-wing media. They shift the subject to an attack on previous presidents’ records, blaming them for every current failure, and swiftly move to the typical destructive rhetoric currently being exchanged between members and supporters of both parties. So without having found any reasonable justification, I am left to draw my own conclusions.
I find this practice questionable. I cannot help but wonder why, and there are definitely many strong opinions out there questioning the logic as well (see articles). Is this a campaign tactic to foster support for Obama? Is it as harmless as the White House makes it out to be? If it is not a campaign tactic, then why is more detailed information left out such as,
” ‘President Reagan designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday; today the Obama Administration honors this tradition, with the First and Second Families participating in service projects on this day.’ Left unsaid in this addition: Reagan initially opposed the creation of a holiday to honor the memory of the slain civil rights leader, though when the bill came before him after passing the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, he signed it…” (6).
If it is not a campaign tactic, then why did the changes occur just as the campaign begins to shift into full gear and is really heating up? If it is not a campaign tactic, then why aren’t these “fun facts” and links on President Obama’s bio page, which is much more appropriate as they all highlight him and his administration. Is it simply that Obama (yes he is responsible for anything that includes his name even if he did not write it himself) and his administration are so full of themselves that they feel the need to flaunt it?
I try very hard not to jump to form an opinion, which is why I read and research as much as I can. Nevertheless, I have seen nothing to support the addition of these “fun facts” and can only come to the conclusion that they are either a campaign tactic or an act of hubris by the Obama administration. I am sorry, but I have to agree with the conservatives and right-wing media on this one. If something smells rotten, it probably is. And honestly, I fully support the mocking and satire such a STUPID act deserves. This may not be a major issue, but it sure says something about our current president and administration. And honestly, I’m not sure I can stomach such reckless self-promotion.
*for examples of some of the mocking, visit http://obamainhistory.tumblr.com/. I found it quite humorous.
- Obama Writes Himself Into Presidents’ Bios: WHITE HOUSE SLIPS ITS ACCOMPLISHMENTS INTO BIOS, CONSERVATIVES GUFFAW
- Obama Admin Injects Dear Leader Into White House Bios of 13 of 14 Most Recent Presidents; Press Ignores, or Yawns
- White House under fire for adding Obama policy plugs to past presidents’ bios
- Bam-boozled bios of past presidents