It is little known that 13 of America’s 44 U.S. presidents have been given a special privilege that the others have not. It is not a partisan thing, as six have been Democrats and seven Republican.
Initially, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s idea.
The bakers’ dozen most recent former U.S. chief executives have established unique, often fascinating institutions officially titled “Presidential Libraries and Museums.” Overseen by the National Archives, there are 15 such facilities spread throughout the country.
Upon leaving office and raising tons of private donations for construction and maintenance costs, former presidents go to work in creating what have become treasure troves of our nation’s history. The libraries serve the general public and have become important sources of information for historians and other researchers who study our nation’s presidents and our history.
The libraries, generally also affiliated with think tanks and foundations, have frequently hosted C-SPAN productions of prominent speakers or policy discussion forums featuring big-name media stars and members of various presidential administrations contemplating current issues together.
Did I mention that I have visited all of them?
Here are some presidential library questions to ponder (my own answers can be located at the end of this article):
- The first lady who gets the most attention as a presidential partner.
- The president who has two official presidential libraries.
- An orphaned Quaker and multimillionaire engineer prior to entering public life.
- Uniforms displayed of the one-time Boy Scout who was All Big Ten.
- The most pictures of him on display in, arguably, the most beautiful location.
- The 30-acre library, foundation and school are the town’s No. 1 tourist attraction.
- Proud of creating the Cabinet-level departments of Energy and Education.
- With only a $112.56 per month military pension, he initially struggled to secure a post-White-House home.
- Every library visitor gets a personal, signed letter from him and his wife.
- Said “a people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
- The first president to broadcast live news conferences from the Oval Office.
- Initially he insisted there be no charge for admittance to his library. Not so today.
Prior to Richard Nixon, when a court ruling changed things, it was the custom that the papers and documents generated by a presidential administration belonged exclusively to the officeholder. FDR felt that these historical papers should be in the public domain, and that is why in his will he donated his Hudson River home in Hyde Park, N.Y., to create the first presidential library.
I plan, the good Lord willing, to visit another presidential library in Chicago about 3-4 years after Barack Obama concludes his eight years in the world’s most important job.
Chuck Slocum is President of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm, and can be reached at Chuck@WillistonGroup.Com He recently returned from visiting the George W. Bush and William J. Clinton libraries.
SLOCUM ANSWERS: 1. Laura (Mrs. George W.) Bush (Dallas, Texas); 2. Richard Nixon (Yorba Linda, Calif. and College Park, Md.); 3. Herbert Hoover (West Branch, Iowa); 4. Gerald Ford (Grand Rapids, Mich.); 5. Ronald Reagan (Simi Valley, Calif.); 6. Bill Clinton (Little Rock, Ark.); 7. Jimmy Carter (Atlanta, Ga.); 8. Harry Truman (Independence, Mo.); 9. George H.W. Bush & Barbara (College Station, Texas); 10. Dwight Eisenhower (Abilene, Kan.) 11. John Kennedy (Boston, Mass.); 12. Lyndon Johnson (Austin, Texas).
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at email@example.com.)