Great Stories of the Presidents!

September 14, 2009

Calvin Coolidge was famously conservative with words. At one White House dinner party, a young woman challenged him directly. She turned to the president and said: "A good friend has bet me that I cannot get three words out of you." Coolidge, without looking up, said just two words: "Guards! Kill!"

America thought it had elected a clean-shaven president in Abraham Lincoln. But while awaiting inauguration, he contemplated a letter from a 9-year-old girl, suggesting he would look better with a beard. Riding the train to Washington, the now bearded Lincoln made sure to stop in that little girl's hometown and thank her for her letter. Seeing him on the platform, the stunned little girl remarked, "You take grooming advice from 9-year-olds? This country is boned."

William Howard Taft was our portliest president. While serving earlier in his career as the governor of the Philippines, Taft spent a day riding 25 miles through the countryside on a horse. When he cabled Washington to report on his activities, War Secretary Elihu Root slyly cabled back, "Christ, you're fat."

John Tyler displeased the Whigs after taking over for William Harrison, and so they kicked him out of the party while he was still president. On his final day in the White House, he hosted a grand gala, and was heard to remark, "Now no one can say I am a president without a party!" But nobody laughed, because it was a cash bar.

Thomas Jefferson's distaste for monarchy and its trappings had been instrumental in breaking with England. As president, he tried his best to keep things informal and "republican," sometimes to a fault: he greeted the minister from England in a dressing gown and slippers! It was seen as a tremendous insult, and led directly to the war of 1812, in which a lot of people died.

John Quincy Adams would often skinny dip in the Potomac before work. Crusading journalist Anne Royall, hoping to interview the president, found his bathing spot and sat on his clothes. When he returned, she refused to give him his clothes without him agreeing to an interview. And that is how Naked Tuesdays started at the White House!

Dwight Eisenhower often had foreign leaders visit his cattle ranch in Gettysburg. He would then impress them by going into a cattle pen with a huge bull, and poking it in the rear with a shotgun to make it stand up! Everyone loved it but Jawaharal Nehru, who was gored in the stomach a few times.

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