"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
It's a short oath of office for a very big job: President of the United States. Forty-three people have taken up the responsibilities of the Presidency as the nation has grown from the birth of the republic into a modern superpower. They've faithfully executed the duties of President—signed treaties, addressed Congress, and appointed government officials. But their impact goes far beyond the bounds of their Constitutional job description. Each President has left his mark on the history of the United States and on the lives of the American people.
Our Country's Presidents is packed with information about America's leaders. Find out why George Washington gave up his life as a Virginia planter to lead a nation, and why John Tyler was nicknamed "His Accidency." Walk with the Presidents through wars, depressions, civil rights movements, the race for space, and terrorist attacks. Romp with the Garfield kids in a White House pillow fight and mourn with the nation over John F. Kennedy's assassination. Carefully researched text and historic images combine to make this volume the definitive family reference guide to the fascinating lives of the Presidents of the United States.
I wrote the original edition of Our Country's Presidents during the election year of 2000. It was a perfect time to study U.S. Presidents, elections from years past, and American history. This book was a collaborative project with the National Geographic Society. As hard as I worked on the text, others worked just as hard finding the photos, designing the fit of text and images, and editing everything into a well-timed, inviting book.
None of us expected our book about history to be caught up in history, but that's exactly what happened thanks to the events of Election 2000. When we went to bed the night of Election Day, all of us planned to wake up and put the finishing touches on a book that featured the newest U.S. President. We had parallel pages about President Al Gore and about President George W. Bush for everything from the front cover to the index, from an introduction by the newest President to an introductory essay about him. The rest of our book, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, was ready and waiting to be printed.
So much for best-laid plans. Instead we woke up to five weeks of uncertainty, revision, substitution (it's Gore, no, it's Bush, no Gore. . .), and delay. Instead of recording history, we were living through it. What a thrill—and a challenge. I followed news accounts, trying to keep my facts and rewrites up-to-date. Our photo editor found new images about the controversial election that replaced less timely ones. Our designer and my editor patiently substituted one change after another after another into the layouts. Staff members at National Geographic juggled revised printing schedules, creating "what if" dates that would work if only the election results would become final.
Those "what ifs" came to pass after the Supreme Court ended vote counting on December 12, 2000, and Al Gore conceded the race. We polished up our final changes in time for a late-December print run that actually put Our Country's Presidents into the bookstores the same week that George W. Bush took the oath of office to become our nation's 43rd President.
During 2012 I collaborated for the third time with the National Geographic Society on revising Our Country's Presidents in light of an upcoming election. As we had done before, we developed parallel editions reflecting the two possible election outcomes: President Barack Obama or President Mitt Romney. I wrote up profiles of each candidate as if he had become President, and we developed dual sets of pages for each candidate's edition of the book—from the title page, to the table of contents, to the index. By Election Day we had two completed versions of the book, and we turned to the voters to see which one we would send to press.
Unlike the election of 2000—or even 2004 when the outcome wasn't settled until the day after votes had been cast—there was no uncertainty about the victor of the 2012 race. By Tuesday night we knew we needed to add last-minute updates to our Obama edition, and within days of the election our finished book had been released to the printer for publication.
The fourth edition of Our Country's Presidents is 32 pages longer than the original book that was published in 2001. Some of those new pages were required to provide additional information about President Obama (who started out with two pages of material at first but now has four pages allocated for his Presidency) and about the 2012 election. Over the years we've added additional thematic spreads to the book, too, including ones about White House traditions, the Vice Presidents, presidential landmarks, the Presidents and the Supreme Court, Presidents at war, the role of pollsters and polling in the political process, presidential security, and what Presidents do after retiring from office.
Of course there are always facts that need to be updated, too—when a former President dies, for example—so the story of our country's Presidents remains an ever-changing work in process. I hope you will enjoy this latest edition of history and will stay-tuned as we watch current events unfold toward the making of yet another edition of Our Country's Presidents.
Nothing but the Facts:
A Not-so-trivial Look at Our Country's Presidents and First Ladies
A program for children grades 3-8
by Ann Bausum
In Our Country's Presidents and Our Country's First Ladies I've tried to breathe life into each of the men and women who have served our country as chief executive and first lady of the land. These books are chock-full of stories, engaging facts, and unexpected details of human interest.
This program romps through a summary highlight of presidential facts and trivia. How many Presidents graduated from college? (Answer: 30.) Have more governors or Vice Presidents gone on to become President? (Answer: governors.) Which presidential couple holds the record for the longest marriage? (Answer: George and Barbara Bush—with the record growing daily.) Who held the shortest term in office? (Answer: William Henry Harrison—one month.) Who gave birth to the most children that survived infancy? (Answer: Anna Harrison.) What was the 20-year curse? (Answer: you'll learn about this jinx that felled seven Presidents—plus dozens of other brain-teasing facts—when I present this program!)
Illustrations, stories, facts, and figures draw children into the story of our national leaders and our nation's history.
Length: 40 minutes, 10-15 minutes for questions.
Technical requirements: LCD projector and projection screen.
Audience feedback on this program:
"Content was very appropriate for the grade levels. The trivia will be remembered as a favorite moment, I'm sure....It was a wonderful day, and we'll be talking about it for quite a while!"
—Elementary school librarian, Wisconsin
" author came early and made sure all the tech equipment was set up properly....After the talk, you wanted to go out and buy the books. I would love to have her visit our school....Ann is very personable."
—Volunteer coordinator of book festival program, South Dakota
"This attractive volume, originally published in 2001, has been revised and expanded to include the 2004 election....The short profiles provide essential information for report writers....The beautiful illustrations...current information, and user-friendly layout make this a solid addition for most libraries."
—School Library Journal
April 1, 2005
"Bausum's new edition is extensively updated....Lavish use of period and modern illustrations, quotes, solid research, and the kind of offbeat facts so dear to readers young and older are included....Bausum gives a real sense of the person behind the office in every case....A valuable resource."
May 15, 2005
"This is a great book, one filled with excellent information and large amounts of trivia and "I didn't know that" facts. Definitely pick it up."
2006 Books for the Teen Age
New York Public Library
2002 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
Joint selection by the National Council for Social Studies and the Children's Book Council
"The American Presidency—A Glorious Burden"
Smithsonian National Museum of American History online exhibition
Library of Congress
American Memory Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies
Our Country's First Ladies by Ann Bausum
Our Country's Presidents: All You Need to Know About the Presidents, From George Washington to Barack Obama
4rd edition published 2013
National Geographic Society
224 pages, hardcover
More than 300 color photos and illustrations, index, bibliography