Presidential Birthday Spotlights

January – FDR, Nixon, Fillmore, McKinley

Just in time for the New Year, we’ve got some new Presidential birthday fun facts for you, starting with the man who offered America a “New Deal.”

FDR

1938-FDR Arrives Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or FDR, born January 30, 1882, was the longest-serving US President with three full terms—he died during his fourth. Besides his obvious political talents, he acquired many other skills and hobbies during his life. As a teen, two of his preferred activities were golf and sailing—his longshot became quite formidable, and his sailboat was named the “New Moon” (no relation to the Twilight series). Later, he took up model shipbuilding, many of which are still on display at the South Street Seaport Museum in NY, and stamp collecting; he had over 1 million of them when he died.

Of course, there were some things in which FDR wasn’t talented: he never did sell his screenplay. His most impressive feat, however, was convincing the whole country that he was “getting better” from his permanent lower body paralysis. When he appeared in public, he always stood (usually leaning on someone), and even taught himself to “walk” several feet with a brace—enough to maintain the illusion.

Fillmore

Our 13th President was Millard Fillmore, the successor to Zachary Taylor, born January 7, 1800. He presents a bit of a puzzle in American history, as even PBS describes him as “an uninspiring individual with no particular talents.” Still, he had the “teacher’s pet” advantage (in fact, he married his teacher, Abigail Powers). If only he had lived today, he could have made a killing by doing an impersonation of Alec Baldwin.

Nixon

Nixon is next on our January birthday roster on January 9, 1913—he took quite a dive from his spot in the popular club, but this could be his chance to redeem himself. His school years were marked by an impressive number of extracurricular activities, from football to debate club. While he won a number of debate championships, his football team rarely let him play in games. Many are surprised to learn that Richard Nixon was a talented pianist and composed his own music, but few could forget his comedic appearance on Laugh-In or (posthumously) Futurama?

McKinley

Finally, we have William McKinley, born January 29, 1843, whose fierce looks and soul-piercing gaze make him quite well suited for a staring cWilliam McKinley ontest. His visage adorned the $500 bill, which has been out of print since 1934. McKinley received much acclaim for his oratory skills—his “front porch campaign” brought Americans to his house in droves, 6 days a week, to listen to him speak. They were so enamored of him that many secretly carved off pieces of his porch as souvenirs. McKinley is also admired for being a good husband—he tended to his epileptic wife for more than 25 years—and a compassionate man. Even after being shot, he yelled out for the crowd not to hurt his assassin.

Those are the Presidents of January—who’s your favorite? Be sure to let us know!

February – Washington, Harrison, Lincoln, Reagan

Washington

It’s time for another round of Presidential birthday spotlights! This month is stacked with some popular names, including our very first president. Why not begin with the first-born president, George Washington, born February 22, 1732?

Washington’s talent is hard to deny when you consider he was the first President of the United States in 1788, the unanimous choice of the 69 electors. He was a farmer, military leader, and surveyor. Washington had quite the talent for agricultural innovation. He liked to keep busy, as he was involved in livestock breeding, commercial fishing, a distillery (quite the entrepreneur), and gristmill. Even with his many talents and accomplishments, he was quite the humble leader; Congress had to talk George into accepting his presidential salary.

Harrison

Next on our list is William Henry Harrison, our ninth president and one of the oldest men to take office – born on February 9, 1773, his presidency didn’t begin until 1841, the year he died of typhoid. Although he served the shortest tenure in U.S. presidential history (31 days!), he still accomplished quite a lot as a major general, congressman, senator, and governor. He is most famed for leading U.S forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe, by which he was nicknamed. When he wasn’t busy climbing the career ladder, Harrison was quite the family man; he and his wife had 10 children together. No doubt he deserves his revered title as national hero!

Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Another popular name that appears on our list this month is Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809. Lincoln was a heck of a speech writer and skilled debater. He wrote his own speeches and it’s even rumored that his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, wasn’t his best! He is known for being a great reader and public speaker. He had a lot of practice as a boy, when he would memorize, rewrite, and practice conversations he would overhear from his father. At 6’4’’, Lincoln was (and still is) the tallest president on record. He was also very strong, a talented wrestler, and skillful with an axe. All this considered, he had a very empathic and calm demeanor; he thoroughly disliked bringing harm to any kind of animal. Lincoln also dabbled a bit with machines and gadgets – he even patented a device to alter buoyancy of steamboats in 1849. Abraham Lincoln was also quite the jokester and made a number of clever statements over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard this one: “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Reagan

Ronald Reagan Fast forward about a century and we find President Ronald Reagan – born February 6, 1911. Ronald was both an actor and an athlete throughout high school and college. His hard work earned him the title of student body president, roles in school plays, and eventually a college athletic scholarship. Even in college, he continued to be a standout student as he served as student council president, played football, ran track, captained the swim team (quite the over-achiever!), and acted in school productions. I guess it’s no surprise that Reagan became a successful actor, performing in more than 50 films! He must have enjoyed the title of “president” before taking office for the United States; he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild as well. Ronald Reagan holds the title of oldest president to enter office. There was no stopping Reagan during his time – not even a bullet could.

March – Madison, Jackson, Tyler, Cleveland

Let’s pay our respects to the March Presidential birthdays here – we’ve got some real overachievers this month!

Madison

James Madison James Madison is up first. He was our fourth president and was born on March 16, 1751.  Madison was a key president because he is revered as the “Father of the Constitution” as well as a major champion to the Bill of Rights. James Madison was quite the intellectual; growing up he studied Latin, Greek, sciences, mathematics, rhetoric, philosophy, speech, and (whew!) debate.  It’s no surprise, then, to learn that Madison is recognized for being America’s first graduate student. In addition to being a very distinguished thinker, he helped to found the American Whig Society.  Much danger and peril prevailed during the establishment of the Continental Congress, so James Madison developed and used a secret code in order to write and communicate with Thomas Jefferson and other friends. We owe a great amount of respect to this man, who risked his life to help establish the rights that we still enjoy today.

Jackson

Andrew Jackson Born March 15, 1767, we recognize Andrew Jackson this month as well! He was the first president who did not come from a wealthy family. This accomplishment taught many Americans that anyone, with hard work, can succeed.  Andrew Jackson’s election was seen as the “rise of the common man”. He was the 7thpresident and, like many other presidents, studied law in school. Prior to becoming a frontier lawyer, he received a sporadic education and worked in a saddle-maker’s shop.  He was given the nickname “Old Hickory” because he was known for having a very tough and aggressive personality. He regularly fought in duels, some fatal to his opponents. Andrew Jackson achieved an esteemed military career during the War of 1812. During election, opponents referred to him as “jackass”, which Jackson liked and used it as a symbol. In 1835, Andrew Jackson achieved what no president has been able to do since: he paid off the entire national debt! Today Jackson’s portrait can be seen garnishing the US $20 bill.

Tyler

John Tyler John Tyler, born March 29, 1790, was America’s 10th president. John Tyler was vice president to William Henry Harrison, and was playing marbles when he learned of William Henry Harrison’s premature death and that he would become president. Tyler’s most notable accomplishments were making Florida part of the Union and the annexation of Texas. John Tyler was an accomplished musician and enjoyed playing the violin. He was not popular during his presidency because he supported state rights, which alienated him from his political allies. John Tyler opposed the Whig platform and made an unsuccessful attempt to form a new party. As a result of his opposition, most of his cabinet resigned; the Whigs even dubbed Tyler “His Accidency”. Although some credit John Tyler for his accomplishments and political boldness, it is said that historians hold his presidency in low esteem.

Cleveland

Born on March 18, 1837 is not just our 22nd, but our 24th president as well.  Stephen Grover Cleveland was so popular with the American people that he won the popular vote in 1884, 1888 and again in 1892. There was even a movement for him to run for president again in 1904! Grover, which he preferred to be called, won praise for his honesty, independence, integrity, and the commitment to the principles of classical liberalism. He maintained a successful career practicing law for a number of years. Grover fought political corruption and was considered by historians to be one of America’s better presidents. Stephen Grover Cleveland acted on his own convictions instead of opposition within his political party.

April – Jefferson, Buchanan, Grant, and Monroe

It’s time for the next round of birthdays; we’re up to April! Ready?

Jefferson

First up is Thomas Jefferson, president #3 and drafter of the Declaration of Independence, born April 13, 1743. He excelled in linguistics; he spoke French, Spanish, Greek, Latin, German, and Italian (and English, we assume). Once, he bragged to have taught himself Spanish in only 19 days, and that was before Rosetta Stone or Dora the Explorer. Jefferson also had a knack for inventing. Like Doc Brown’s workshop, his home was littered with homemade contraptions, from revolving chairs and music stands to a pedometer, to a chair that could be collapsed into a walking stick.

Buchanan

James Buchanan was the 15th President, born April 23, 1791 and the only one hailing from Pennsylvania. His talents were primarily academic, having attended college at age 14, graduated with top honors, and joined the bar association by age 21. He also had a talent for bachelorhood (the only president who never married) and for philanthropy, regularly taking in younger relatives who had lost parents.

Grant

The 18th president, Ulysses S Grant, born April 27, 1822, is of course near and dear to our hearts for his role in the Civil War. You can certainly count “military genius” among his finest attributes. Lesser known was his affinity for horses; by age 9 he mastered the art of breaking and training horses, so well that neighbors hired his services. Unfortunately, he later became very talented in a number of vices, like the ability to smoke 20 cigars a day or make large amounts of whiskey disappear.

Monroe

James Monroe, the 5th President of the USA, was a strong political leader whose name you might recognize from the “Monroe Doctrine,” or you might associate him with the Louisiana Purchase. He was very popular – in fact, when he ran for his second term, he was essentially unopposed and received all but one electoral vote. A lesser known talent was his retro fashion sense, perhaps the birth of the “hipster” movement. He wore a powdered wig, a tricorner hat, and knee breeches long after they were out of fashion.

May – JFK and Truman

Two Presidents go in. One comes out. May is a slow month for presidential births, but the ones who are in May sure pack a punch!

Truman

Our first presidential May baby: Harry S. Truman, hailing from Lamar, Missouri and born on May 8, 1884. In spite of his weak eyesight, he was an avid reader—according to his memoirs, he had read every single book in the Independence Public Library by the age of 14, and was quite proud of it (we estimate that would have been around 1,750 books!) Truman’s other passion was music, and he demonstrated his commitment even as a child, waking up at 5:00 AM to practice the piano for two hours. Later in life, he often claimed that if he had been a better piano player, he never would have become President.

JFK

1963 JFK in gettysburg Our other May-born president is John F. Kennedy, a President of many talents, born on May 29, 1917. A reader like Truman, he also honed his writing skills and eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for his book Profiles in Courage. When he said that From Russia with Love was his favorite James Bond novel, Eon Productions made it the next Bond movie. JFK was a powerful swimmer, from the Harvard team to the White House pool. He became a WWII hero in the Solomon Islands—when his ship sank, he spent 30 hours bringing survivors to safety, then swam 4km to other islands to look for food and help. Kennedy was notoriously likable—it was after the Bay of Pigs catastrophe that he received his highest approval rating. “My God,” he said, “it’s as bad as Eisenhower. The worse I do, the more popular I get.” Don’t you wish you could say the same?

June – H.W. Bush and Garfield

Only one president was born in the month of June and, as talented as George H.W. Bush might be, it wouldn’t be fair for him to be spotlighted all alone! In the interest of equality, we’ve borrowed a President from a busier month, so get ready to meet your June (and November) presidents!

H.W. Bush

The 41st President, George H.W. Bush, born June 12, 1914, has a long list of talents to choose from. At age 18, he became the youngest naval aviator of his time and would go on to complete a bombing run while his plane’s engine was on fire! He followed that achievement by enrolling in Yale and graduating in just 2½ years. He was a skilled sportsman, serving as varsity captain of both his soccer and baseball teams. In baseball, he played in the very first two College World Series games—Yale was the runner-up both years, and they haven’t placed since then.

Garfield

Our surprise guest, borrowed in advance from November 19, 1831, is James Garfield. You might not be as familiar with him, but he brings a lot to the presidential table. For example, he was the first ambidextrous president, and (reportedly) could write in Latin with one hand and Greek with the other, simultaneously. He was also a juggler, but just for the exercise! For fun, he wrote geometric proofs. Garfield was not very talented at campaigning for other people, however—in 1880 he campaigned for John Sherman as the presidential nominee, and accidentally won it himself. Oops! And did we mention that the metal detector was invented specifically to try and save his life?

July – W. Bush, Ford, Coolidge, and Quincy Adams

The Presidential Birthday Spotlight treks on in the month of July, beginning with the man known as “W.”

Bush

First on the roster is George W. Bush, born July 6, 1946. While W. Bush’s popularity might still be controversial, he does have a number of talents you probably don’t know about. For example, you might know of his athletic history, but did you know he was also the head cheerleader at the Phillips Academy? His knowledge of baseball trivia is extensive, as well, and he’s a much bigger reader than most people would give him credit for, having read 186 books (14 of them Lincoln biographies!) during his final three years of presidency. And how many people bike with Lance Armstrong on their vacation?

Ford

In terms of athletics, Gerald Ford, born July 14, 1913, might just trump George W. He played college football at the University of Michigan, made the all-star team, and was named MVP in his senior year. After graduation, he declined NFL offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers and later became Yale’s head coach of boxing and assistant coach of football. It’s no wonder he’s considered the most athletic president! But here’s a little-known fact: Ford also spent time as a male model!

Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge was quite skilled at silence, earning him the nickname “Silent Cal.” In fact, a dinner party hostess once bet a friend that she could get at least three words out of him–she explained the bet to Coolidge, who answered, “You lose.” It’s ironic that Silent Cal should be the first President to appear and speak in a film with sound (President Coolidge, Taken on the White House Grounds). His favorite thing to do, however, was to ride the mechanical horse that he kept in his bedroom–he probably would have done well at rodeos!

Quincy Adams

The final July president is John Quincy Adams, born July 11, 1767. JQA (as he called himself) was an adroit lawyer and successfully defended the slaves that revolted on the Amistad. A gifted swimmer, he could tread water for 80 minutes and customarily took nude swims at 5 AM. He kept a pet alligator (a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette) in the East Room of the White House, and amused himself by terrorizing government officials with it. His wife also raised strange pets – silkworms, whose silk she used to make her own gowns.

August – Harrison, Johnson, Hoover, and Obama

It’s time for another round of Presidential birthdays! This promises to be another fierce one with four* Presidents in the mix.

Harrison

First, let’s take a look at Benjamin Harrison, born August 20, 1833. Harrison could have given “Silent Cal” Coolidge a run for his money when it came to social interaction. He was nicknamed the “Human Iceberg” because he could be so chilly and stiff during social encounters. That said, you might be surprised at his other talent—giving speeches. For all his formality, the man sure talked a lot, once giving 140 separate, unique speeches in the space of thirty days. That’s almost five speeches a day!

Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson came along on August 27, 1908. He was a skilled debater and a great teacher who spent his early years educating underprivileged Mexican children. A lesser known talent was his knack for driving—perhaps because he often drove drunk. He used to invite friends and guests (who didn’t know any better) to go for a ride in one of his various automobiles, then cruise around the ranch at 90 mph. One such automobile was actually an amphibious convertible that looked just like a regular car. He’d wrap up those thrill rides by pretending the brakes had failed and driving his guests right into the lake! Who knew he was such a prankster?

Hoover

If we go back a few years, we find Herbert Hoover—born August 10, 1874. Hoover was a master of the game Hooverball, perhaps because he invented it, and a talented fisherman to boot. He set a fishing record in Florida that lasted for 11 years. It’s believed that he also held the world record at the time for honorary degrees awarded—87 of them! A geologist and mining engineer, he used his career skills to make millions of dollars in the mining industry and was sometimes known as the “Doctor of Sick Mines.” Rumor has it that if you come to The Hall of Presidents on Hoover’s birthday, you will receive Girl Scout Cookies (but don’t let them sway your vote!)

Obama

Finally, we arrive at President Barack Obama, who was born on August 4, 1961. In high school, they called him “O’Bomber” for his basketball prowess and, more recently, he could bench press 200 lbs. Thanks to audiobooks, Obama is one of only three Presidents to have won Grammy Awards—and he won two of them! While living in Indonesia he developed something of an iron stomach: he ate snake meat, dog meat, and even roasted grasshopper. His love of comic books, particularly Conan the Barbarian, led to a special comic mini-series called Barack the Barbarian—which now holds a place in his extensive comic book collection.

*To those of you keeping count, Bill Clinton took a raincheck for September, so he could keep Taft company!

September – Taft, Clinton, and Arthur

We’re ready for the September edition of the Presidential Birthday Spotlight! Only one President was born in September, so we “borrowed” some talent from other months, to make it a fair spotlight!

Taft

William Howard Taft is our lone “September baby” President, born September 15, 1857. That said, he was not the most athletic President–weighing in at over 300 pounds and requiring a special bathtub to be installed at the White House–but he was the first President to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game, back in 1910. If there is such a thing as an almond-eating contest, he would have been a champion—Taft was known to down pounds of almonds in a single sitting! One honor that sets him apart from every other President—he is the only former President to be appointed to the Supreme Court, as the Chief Justice, no less!

Clinton

Spotlighted with Taft this month we have Arkansan Bill Clinton, born August 19, 1946 (he felt August was getting a little too crowded). It’s common knowledge that Bill plays the saxophone (tenor sax, to be exact), but maybe you don’t know that he very nearly pursued a career in music. It’s a good thing he went into politics, though—his power of persuasion is unrivaled. Not only was he the only sitting President to shake hands with Fidel Castro, but he even convinced Fleetwood Mac to reunite for his inaugural ball. And it’s probably worth mentioning that he received an honorary induction into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. That really must have taken some talent!

Arthur

Finally, we have the 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, who was born October 5, 1829, on loan from the October-born Presidents. Arthur was very well-dressed and was rumored to own 80 pairs of pants; some called him “Elegant Arthur,” due to his expensive tastes. On top of that, he cultivated some impressive muttonchops that would put most facial hair to shame. One might speculate that those bushy sideburns are what caused four young ladies to propose to him on his last day in office. Arthur wasn’t the most popular President—shady pre-presidency connections caused many to distrust him—but he had Mark Twain’s approval: “It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur’s administration.”

October – Eisenhower, Carter, Adams, and Hayes

It’s time again for the Presidential Birthday Spotlights! We’ve got some powerhouse presidents this month, so let’s jump right in!

Eisenhower

time cover eisenhower Gettysburg favorite Dwight D. Eisenhower is up first, born October 14, 1890. Ike was a skilled sportsman and outdoorsman, who learned cooking, hunting, fishing, and cards from an illiterate river-dweller. He played every sport available to him, including football, baseball, boxing, fencing, horseback riding, gymnastics, and cheerleading. Not bad, considering that doctors wanted to amputate his leg in his freshman year! His greatest disappointment was not making the basketball team. If you needed help moving, Ike was the guy you called – he and his wife moved 35 times in 35 years! Later in life, he developed an interest in painting and produced 260 oil paintings over 20 years.

Carter

Next up is Jimmy Carter, born on October 1, 1924 and the only President to win a post-presidency Nobel Peace Prize for his pursuits in diplomacy, disease prevention, and humanitarianism. It’s probably safe to say that, out of all our Presidents, he was the greatest peanut farmer. In high school, he was a member of the Future Farmers of America, and was king of the basketball court, which surely would have made Eisenhower jealous. Today, Carter is widely regarded as more talented at being an ex-President than he was at being a President.

Adams

Let’s go back to the Founding Fathers with John Adams, our second President born on October 30, 1735 and the subject of an HBO miniseries starring Paul Giamatti. Perhaps his most defining skill was his ability to judge a man’s character. After all, it was he who nominated George Washington to be the first President! Eventually, he would be the one to nominate famed Chief Justice John Marshall, as well. Adams excelled as a political theorist and peacemaker–he brokered the peace treaty between the USA and Great Britain, following the Revolution, and it’s a good thing he did!

Hayes

Rutherford B Hayes, our 19th President born on October 4, 1822, was elected (barely) soon after the American Civil War and was renowned for the bravery he displayed in battle–he was wounded five times! His election was fiercely disputed, as he lost the popular vote, but rather than calling for a recounta compromise was made: Hayes could have the presidency in exchange for the end of military occupation in the post-War South. His talents, in his own words, were “silence and brevity. I can keep silent when it seems best to do so, and when I speak I can, and do usually, quit when I am done.”

Roosevelt

Last, but certainly not least is Teddy Roosevelt, born on October 27, 1858 and one of the most accomplished and most highly-regarded Presidents in our history, as well as the epitome of a “manly man.” From mastering taxidermy as a child to embarking on an African safari for the Smithsonian, his life was full of adventure and he was bursting with talents. Nature and zoology were central to his activities, and he wrote many books on both subjects. He is the only person to have received both the Nobel Peace Prize (for mediating the Russo-Japanese War) and the highest military honor, the Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously for his actions as leader of the Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill).

November – Pierce, Polk, Harding, Taylor

November brings some of the lesser-known Presidents into the spotlight, but just because they’re not as “cool” as Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt doesn’t mean they don’t have awesome talents in a Napoleon Dynamite kind of way.

Pierce

First up is Franklin Pierce, born November 23, 1804. In his time, he was very popular and was described as thoughtful, charming, and even handsome (he could have used some hairstyling tips, however). He was such a successful lawyer that he was offered a number of esteemed placements, all of which he turned down. His recall was impressive: Pierce was the first to recite his inaugural address from memory. The funny thing is, Pierce was nominated (and subsequently elected) not for his strong views, but for his lack of them. Nobody knew where he stood on the slavery and he ended up winning in a landslide. Historians now view Pierce as one of the least effective Presidents, but democrats then tried twice more to nominate him—he declined.

Polk

A predecessor to Pierce, James K Polk was born November 2, 1795. He achieved great things in his time as President: the opening of the Smithsonian Institution, the beginning of the US Naval Academy, and the first steps in the construction of the Washington Monument. He could probably match Teddy Roosevelt for toughness; in 1812 he had urinary stones removed while wide awake and with brandy for his only anesthetic. Polk was also a man of his word: he promised not to run for a second term, and delivered on that promise, then promptly died three months later as if to underscore the point.

Harding

Like Polk and Pierce before him, Warren G. Harding was a “compromise” candidate, but don’t underestimate him. Born on November 2, 1865, he was very bright, graduating from college at age 17 and launching directly into a newspaper career that was one of the most successful in the nation. When a newspaper nemesis gave him bad press, he took his shotgun and demanded a retraction; a few years later, he boldly married the daughter of his rival. In a talent show, Harding would probably display his undisputed coronet skills—he competed in festivals and played in a number of bands. Many consider him to have been the most musical President – he even played with the band that performed at his nomination! In his words, “I played every instrument but the slide trombone and the E-flat coronet.”

Taylor

Finally, November saw the birth of Zachary Taylor in 1784. He was a short-lived President (as was Harding) and did little of consequence (as did Pierce). He had a reputation as a military leader, having fought the Native Americans (but also defended their lands from white settlers). In the war against Mexico, he led a successful attack on Monterrey, the “un-destroyable” city. Maybe it isn’t a “talent” per se, but he was also renowned for his habit of swearing colorfully.

December – Johnson, Van Buren, and Wilson

Have you been enjoying the spotlights each month for the Presidential Birthdays? We’re finally all the way to December! We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about your presidents as much as we’ve enjoyed writing about them!

Johnson

For December, we begin with Democrat Andrew Johnson, born on December 29, 1808, whose rise and fall was as epic as any rock-and-roll star’s. He was born in a log cabin and never received a formal education—he learned math and even literacy from his wife. He was a skilled tailor and, once he ran away from his tailoring apprenticeship, a skilled fugitive, eluding capture for years with a reward on his head. He ascended to the Presidency in spite of all this, but unfortunately squandered most of his time hindering Reconstruction and civil rights progress. He came within one vote of being impeached. It’s generally agreed that he showed foresight in the decision to purchase Alaska, though at the time they called it “Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.” Oh, and he had an awesome Grizzly Bear Chair.

Van Buren

Martin Van Buren was the first President to be born a US Citizen and, ironically, the only President who didn’t speak English as his first language—he spoke Dutch. Born on December 5, 1782, his campaign for Presidency has been attributed with originating the term “O.K.” (or “okay”), a reference to his birth village of Old Kinderhook. He was welcomed to the office by the Panic of 1837, which put him in the position of scapegoat and earned him the nickname “Martin Van Ruin.” It seems he did have a flair for interior decorating, however: he selected a blue theme for the White House’s central stateroom, where the President has traditionally welcomed guests. “The Blue Room” has maintained blue décor ever since.

Wilson

Woodrow Wilson, born on December 28, 1856, had a wide range of talents, which is especially evident in his undergraduate extracurricular activities. He was an editor for the Princeton school newspaper, he sang in a quartet as well as the glee club, he acted in plays and joined debate clubs, and he served as president of the Princeton baseball association and secretary of the football association. Talk about well-rounded! As President, he took us through WWI, formed the League of Nations, and received the Nobel Peace Prize.