Political aficionados will enjoy reading ‘Presidential Courage’
by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Jun 19, 2008 | 1138 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989” 
by Michael Beschloss
Simon & Schuster
448 pages, 
includes index
“Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989” by Michael Beschloss c.2007, Simon & Schuster 448 pages, includes index
According to the U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clause 5), anyone can be president of the United States, as long as he or she is a natural-born citizen, age 35 or older, and has lived the last 14 years in this country.

Any child born in this country can grow up to be president.

But would they want to?

To be president, one must have diplomacy, tact, and be willing to go without sleep. Bravery has been an important asset in the presidency, as has a sense of humor. Author Michael Beschloss says being a good leader also takes “Presidential Courage” and in his book with that title (newly released in paperback), Beschloss gives many good examples.

Beginning with the father of our country, it’s taken careful thought and caution in diplomacy to be America’s leader. George Washington faced not one, but two scandals that could have ended his career and changed the course of history. Even so, he stayed the course, supported an unpopular treaty, and made peace with England.

In refusing to recharter the corrupt Bank of America — though the House and Senate wanted it so — Andrew Jackson set the stage for widespread use of one of the presidency’s most change-making abilities: the veto.

Abraham Lincoln knew that his life was in danger, but he still signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was forced to consider Americans’ reluctance for war, all the while holding conversations with Churchill about U.S. support for Great Britain in defeating Hitler. Harry S. Truman all but ignored anti-Semitism in America — and in his own home — as he “helped create the state of Israel.” Despite that much of the South was against it, John Kennedy worked for civil rights. Ronald Reagan helped end the Cold War.

The word “hero” should come to mind right about now, as it will when you’re reading “Presidential Courage.” The word “Huh?” will also enter your brain.

On the good side, this book will thrill any historian and delight any minutiae maven with little-known factoids, including that Martha Washington named her pet tomcat after Alexander Hamilton because of Hamilton’s propensity for “tomcatting around”; that FDR, who had at least one mistress, also had a distant cousin who was smitten by the charismatic president; and that JFK donated his entire $500 Pulitzer Prize winnings (for Profiles in Courage) to the United Negro College Fund.

On the flip side, author Michael Beschloss will surprise you with his choices and with the reasons he chose the men whose stories he tells. In some cases, you’ll disagree. History shows other passionate, courageous presidents, and I was a bit baffled by their omissions. Could there be another book in the works?

Far from light fare but engrossing (and possibly controversial) nonetheless, I think reading this book is a good way to spend a pre-election summer. It will certainly give you food for thought on the next generation of candidates. If you’re interested in politics, either now or in the past, “Presidential Courage” deserves a “yea” vote.
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