Who's the most fascinating president of them all? Teachers weigh in

Who's the most fascinating president of them all? Teachers weigh in

Abraham Lincoln isn't the only Aquarius to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With Ronald Reagan's 103rd birthday just behind us and Presidents' Day coming up, we asked area social studies and history teachers which former commander-in-chief — other than Honest Abe — they or their students found most fascinating.

KAMI WHITE

Heritage High School

Hail to ... Harry Truman

"One of my college professors was from St. Louis, as was President Truman, and he actually met him as a young boy. Listening to his insight was quite fascinating. We learned that President Truman never really wanted to become vice president, that FDR practically had to convince him to take the job. We learned that President Truman's wife refused to move to Washington and because of that, he had to travel back and forth from D.C. to St. Louis as often as he could. We learned of Truman's daughter, the opera singer who thought she was very talented, but indeed, received negative reviews — even though she was the daughter of the president. Very intriguing family.

"I find it interesting that he was a man who never really wanted to be president, yet he really expanded the powers of the president. In fact, historians say he is the reason that the 22nd Amendment was passed — because Congress didn't want him to run for president again."

MARK FOLEY

Urbana High School

Hail to ... Lyndon Johnson

"His Great Society was the greatest progressive triumph in the country's history, but his actions in Vietnam caused him to be universally loathed by the progressives in this country. What a contradiction: Is he the best president in American history, or the worst? An argument could be made on both sides."

JENNI CEKANDER

Monticello High School

Hail to ... John F. Kennedy

"I would have to admit that I've always had a strange fascination with President Kennedy. My Mom was a big Kennedy fan, and I grew up hearing her stories of the 'Camelot years.' She was inspired by his optimism and his calls to serve our country. As a result, I was inspired too."

BOB LINDSAY

Fisher High School

Hail to ... Theodore Roosevelt ("He disliked the nickname Teddy," Lindsay notes).

"His whole story is fascinating — growing up as a sickly child, he pushed himself physically. The rest of his life he lead what he called the 'robust life.' He was involved in boxing, horseback riding, all kinds of activities.

"My favorite story of him as president: He was in a boxing match and his opponent hit him so hard his left eye was damaged. That was why he started wearing the monocle.

"The story of his attempted assassination is also incredible. A man shot him from close range, but his folded-up speech and glasses case slowed the bullet. He was still struck by the bullet but went on to give his speech, then go to the hospital."

"All that, and a pet badger named Josiah, are why he is my choice as the most fascinating president — of course, after Lincoln."

KYLE BIELFELDT

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School

Hail to ... William Howard Taft

"He proved that even getting stuck in a bathtub — no one knows if this actually happened but it makes for good press — should not derail you from a fine political career. He had a fine career as a Supreme Court Justice after his presidency. No other president can say the same thing."

AMBER GIDDARD

Mahomet-Seymour High School

Hail to ... Bill Clinton

"He was one of the few presidents in recent history to leave office with a surplus in the U.S. budget, due in large part to his charisma. Despite being impeached for his scandal in 1998, he left office in 2001 with a higher approval rating than when he began, the highest rating for any exiting modern-era president."

GEORGE PELLUM

Central High School

Hail to ... James Madison

"Daniel Webster said James Madison had as much to do as any person in framing the Constitution. That is true and offers an interesting perspective on his presidency. He may be the president who had the most clear understanding of the concept that the writers of the Constitution had when they established the office of the President."

ROGER KLEISS

Unity High School

Hail to ... Theodore Roosevelt

"He was thrust into the presidency at a young age and was more than up to the task. Although a warhawk, he put his skin on the line to defend the principles he stood for. He also ushered in the Progressive Era and fought tirelessly for the rights of the working class."

RICH PATE

Danville Area CC

Hail to ... Richard Nixon

"For my students, he sparks a good deal of interest. His rise from a difficult background and his fall from such great heights always generates interest. Students love to debate his merits as president."

JARED LOFRANO

Rantoul High School

Hail to ... Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Given the current political climate, some see the New Deal as somewhat controversial. However, FDR, like Lincoln, might have bent — or broken — some of the rules, but his strong, decisive leadership saw the country through very dire circumstances."

SCOTT BURGESS

Danville High School

Hail to ... Andrew Jackson

"He represented the common man — the first 'people's president.' He was a self-made man, and the first presidential embodiment of the American dream — born in poverty and rose to the White House. He founded the Democratic party. And the first presidential assassination attempt was aimed at him. When the assassination attempt failed, Jackson broke free from his bodyguards and started attacking the assassin. Ironically, the bodyguards had to save the assassin from Jackson. Now that's a president."

JENNIFER WALTERS

Holy Cross School

Hail to ... Theodore Roosevelt

"His life was full of adventure. He was the youngest president at 42. He was the first president to win the Nobel Peace Prize as a mediator for peace. He worked to establish the National Park System, which is still vital today. And, using the executive order of the president, he gave the White House its official name in 1901."

BILL SUTTON

Urbana Uni High School

Hail to ... Rutherford B. Hayes

"My choice — and my students concur — would be the 19th president, a Republican. Hayes, like many Americans at the time, was deeply ambivalent about the social changes accompanying the rise of industrial capitalism, and his perspectives seem to be particularly relevant in light of the current preoccupation with income inequality.

"In 1887, Hayes wrote: 'In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many.'"

ERIK CISNEY

Bismarck-Henning High School

Hail to ... George Washington

"He helped create a new country and stepped down from power when he could have very easily ruled for a very long time."

KYLE OSBORNE

Villa Grove High School

Hail to ... Harry Truman

"First, he was elected to his first term as vice president alongside Franklin Roosevelt, who was beginning his fourth presidential term. Second, he was elected when our country was involved in one of the largest wars the world has ever seen, and served as VP for less than three months before taking the reins. Finally, shortly after becoming president, Truman was informed about the Manhattan Project, and then faced the difficult decisions about which allies, if any, to share the technology with and ultimately, whether to use the atomic bomb. Both were decisions that had far-reaching implications."

ERIC ZORNS

Hoopeston Area High School

Hail to ... Theodore Roosevelt

"Although there are numerous presidents that the students are fascinated by, I find many are very intrigued by Theodore Roosevelt. They are impressed with the story about how he was shot before he was scheduled to give a speech and continued to give the speech before seeking medical attention. They also respect that Teddy stood up for the United States and did what he knew was in the best interest of the United States and its future."

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