April 30, 2014, will mark 225 years since George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States. The nation has had 44 different presidents during those years. Many of these men began their careers as lawyers, soldiers, or politicians. But I was curious to find out what some of our presidents did before they entered the political arena. So I went to whitehouse.gov and did some research. I read the bios available for all of our presidents and found three different presidents that, in my opinion, had interesting beginnings.
President from 1865 to 1869, Johnson was born into a poor family in 1808. As a boy he became a tailor’s apprentice. Eventually, he moved to Greeneville, Tennessee, and opened his own tailor shop. While there, Johnson married Eliza McCardle. He would eventually participate in debates at the local school there, aiding his speaking skills.
His term shortened because he was assassinated, Garfield “was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in 1831.”1 As a young man, he worked with canal boats. In 1856 he graduated from Williams College before going to work for the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Ohio. Eventually, Garfield was elected to the Ohio senate; he went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming president.
President from 1929 to 1933, Hoover worked for many years in China as an engineer. He and his family were still in China when the Boxer Rebellion occurred and helped their Chinese neighbors during that tumultuous time. Hoover would continue to help in other countries as World War I began. Eventually he became president, and his presidency would be marked by the Great Depression. These are just a few of the presidents that I found who led interesting lives before their political careers began. I must admit I found those who were born in Ohio to be the most interesting—but that could be my Ohio-born bias. That said, I think it’s good to know that many of our presidents had a strong work ethic that led to their presidencies and helped them while in office. To me, that legacy makes honoring them important on this Presidents’ Day.
How do you observe Presidents’ Day?
1. James Garfield. Whitehouse.gov. http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/jamesgarfield (accessed: January, 24, 2014).