YOU Magazine - January 2009 - Hail to the Chief Fun Facts About the Presidency
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Lyn Bankowski     Lyn Bankowski
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Hail to the Chief
Fun Facts About the Presidency

Hail to the Chief - Fun Facts About the Presidency

This month, everyone from your family and friends to your children's school will undoubtedly be talking about the historic inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.

But did you know that Barack Obama won't actually be the 44th president? He'll only be the 43rd person to hold the office. So why all the confusion?

It all goes back to Grover Cleveland, who was elected to two terms as president. However, because his terms were not consecutive, he was counted twice – Cleveland is listed as the 22nd and the 24th president. As a result, the number of people who held office is actually one less than the number of presidents the United States has had.

That's just one of many fun presidential facts behind the story of America's presidents. For even more oddball twists and tidbits, take the quiz below and share the answers with your family and friends this month!

Take the Presidential Tidbit Challenge...

1. Who was the first president to live in the White House?

A. George Washington
B. John Adams
C. Millard Fillmore
D. Theodore Roosevelt

ANSWER: This is a bit of a trick question. Officially, John Adams became the first president to live in the presidential residence that we know as the White House. However, when he moved into the residence during 1800, it wasn't called the White House. Instead, it was referred to as the President's Palace, the President's House, or the Executive Mansion. The first president to live in the "White House" was Theodore Roosevelt, who gave the residence its official name in 1901.

2. Who was the tallest president?

A. James Madison
B. Abraham Lincoln
C. Benjamin Harrison
D. Franklin Pierce

ANSWER: The tallest president of the United States was Abraham Lincoln, who stood 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Conversely, the shortest president was James Madison, who was only 5 feet, 4 inches tall – an entire foot shorter than Lincoln.

3. Although it seems like an odd question, who was the first president to be born as a US citizen?

A. Abraham Lincoln
B. Martin Van Buren
C. Herbert Hoover
D. Richard M. Nixon

ANSWER: Martin Van Buren was the first president to be born as a citizen of the newly created United States of America. The seven presidents prior to Van Buren (Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, and Jackson) were considered British subjects. Incidentally, William Henry Harrison, who took office immediately after Van Buren was also born as a British subject. The other names listed above also represent interesting facts about birthplaces of US presidents. Abraham Lincoln was the first president born outside of the original colonies. Herbert Hoover was the first president born west of the Mississippi River. And, finally, Richard Nixon was the first and only president born in California.

4. Who was the youngest president of the United States?

A. Theodore Roosevelt
B. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
C. John F. Kennedy
D. Ronald Reagan

ANSWER: This is another tricky one. Theodore Roosevelt was actually the youngest president of the United States. He was only 42 years old when he took office; however, he became president after William McKinley died in office. John F. Kennedy was the youngest president ever "elected" to office. He was only 43 years old when he was elected president in November of 1960. So depending on how you interpret the question, either answer could be correct. On the flip side, Ronald Reagan was the oldest president. He was 69 when he took office and 77 when he left.

5. Who was the first president to appear on television?

A. Warren G. Harding
B. Rutherford B. Hayes
C. Franklin D. Roosevelt
D. John F. Kennedy

ANSWER: Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to appear on TV. The appearance took place during the opening ceremonies of the World's Fair in 1939. John F. Kennedy, however, was the first president to give a live television news conference. Warren G. Harding and Rutherford B. Hayes had famous firsts of their own. Harding was the first president to address the nation via radio, and Hayes was the first president to have a telephone in the White House.

6. Which president was born on July 4th?

A. John Adams
B. Thomas Jefferson
C. James Monroe
D. (John) Calvin Coolidge

ANSWER: The only president to be born on the Fourth of July was Calvin Coolidge, who was born on July 4, 1872. However, three presidents died on this national holiday. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826. And James Monroe died on July 4, 1831.

7. Which president lost the popular vote, but still became president?

A. John Quincy Adams
B. Rutherford B. Hayes
C. Benjamin Harrison
D. George W. Bush

ANSWER: All of the above. John Quincy Adams was actually voted into office by the House in 1824 after the general election failed to produce a majority of the electoral votes. The other three presidents listed above also took office despite losing the popular vote: Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876; Benjamin Harrison in 1888; and most recently George W. Bush in 2000.

8. Which president graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis?

A. Ulysses S. Grant
B. Woodrow Wilson
C. Dwight D. Eisenhower
D. Jimmy Carter

ANSWER: The only president to graduate from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis was Jimmy Carter, who graduated in 1946 and then served in the nuclear submarine program. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower both graduated from West Point. Woodrow Wilson, on the other hand, was the only president who had a Ph.D. He received a doctorate in political science from Johns Hopkins University in 1886.

9. Which president served in the US Congress after leaving office?

A. Andrew Johnson
B. John Quincy Adams
C. John Tyler
D. William Howard Taft

ANSWER: Andrew Johnson and John Quincy Adams were the only two former presidents to serve in the US Congress after leaving office. Johnson served in the Senate, and Adams served in the House. John Tyler did not serve in the US Congress, but he did serve as a delegate to the provisional Congress of the Confederacy after the outbreak of the Civil War. On the other hand, William Howard Taft is the only president to serve as chief justice of the US Supreme Court. After leaving the White House, he became a professor of constitutional law at Yale and was later appointed chief justice in 1921.

10. Who is the only person to become president without being elected as either president or vice president?

A. Millard Fillmore
B. Theodore Roosevelt
C. Gerald Ford
D. Lyndon Johnson

ANSWER: The only person ever to become president of the United States without being elected as either president or vice president is Gerald Ford. He was nominated to be Richard Nixon's vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned. Later, when Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Ford became the 38th president.

As the country celebrates its democracy this month with the inauguration of our new president, take some time to talk about the history of the presidency with your friends and family members by sharing these fun tips and learning more about our nation's leaders.

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