Monday, June 22, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 221: Memorize the Presidents of the United States

My presidential 'final exam.'
I’ve always had a healthy interest in American History and for some time it has irked me to run across a U.S. president’s name that I wasn’t familiar with. More often than not, I’d be unaware of where he fit in the order of presidents, that is, who he followed and preceded. For that reason, I added “Memorize the Presidents of the United States” to my “bucket list” a couple of years ago.

I began working on this bucket list item on June 1 by making out 44 flashcards, one for each president so far. I put a number on one side and the president’s name on the other side. For example, the card for the first president, George Washington, had the No. 1 on one side and Washington’s name on the other. President Obama’s card had a No. 44 on one side with his name on the opposite side.

I then spent about 15 minutes each day memorizing the flashcards. I pretty much had the order of president’s down after the first week and added each president’s home state (or states) the second week. A week later, I added what political party (or parties) they were in.

Yesterday, I gave myself a “final exam” on the cards and was satisfied that I knew them backwards and forwards. During this process, I began to remember that I may have had to memorize the presidents in high school, either in the eleventh or twelfth grade. If so, I’ve long since forgotten them.

While memorizing the presidents, I learned more than a few trivial facts. Let’s start with the names. Many presidents shared first names – there are three Georges, four Johns, five James, two Andrews and two Williams. When it comes to last names, there are two Adamses, two Harrisons, two Roosevelts, two Johnsons and two Bushes.

I also learned a good bit of trivia about political parties and the presidency. For example, Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and Andrew Jackson was the first Democratic president. There were also four Democratic-Republican presidents and four presidents from the Whig party. John Adams, the second president, was the only Federalist president.

When it comes to home state, New York and Ohio lead the way with six presidents each to their credit. Virginia has produced five presidents, and Massachusetts can claim four. California, Illinois, Tennessee and Texas have produced three presidents each.

I was also surprised by how many U.S. presidents died in office. Four presidents – Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy – were assassinated, and four others – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harding, Taylor and William Henry Harrison - died from health problems. Harrison had the shortest time in office, so far, at 31 days, while Franklin D. Roosevelt had the longest term in office, that is three full terms with his death coming on the 83rd day of his fourth term.

In the end, how many of you have ever had to memorize the U.S. presidents? How did you do it? Do you still remember then in order? Let us know in the comments section below.

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