My fifth-grade teacher gravely told our class, "You boys and girls may not realize it yet, but your country is at war.”It would have been difficult for any American who grew up during the 1960s–the Cold War confrontations, the struggle for civil rights, the Great Society, Vietnam, the race to the moon–to escape the notion that a president loomed, almost physically, over the lives of every American.
I presumed at the time that this must have been true for most of American history.
For the next quarter-century, with the exception of James Polk, who pursued American expansion and revived the independent treasury, the candlepower of the presidency dimmed.
Martin Van Buren struggled against the Panic of 1837.
Only much later, as an historian, did I come to understand how sharp were the ebbs and flows of presidential power–and of the quality of the men who have served in America's highest office.
Stirring displays of presidential leadership continue to affect us today: George Washington inventing key elements of our political system, Andrew Jackson battling the Bank of the United States, Abraham Lincoln binding the Union, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson involving the government more than ever before in our economic affairs and expanding our role among nations, Franklin Roosevelt rescuing our society and the world, Harry Truman improvising the means that would defeat the Soviet empire, Ronald Reagan seeking to end the Cold War.
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Introduction Introduction to Being There: Encountering America's Presidents List of Sites and Descriptions Maps (print separately) Learn More (print separately) Credits (print separately) Introduction The National Park Service, in partnership with the White House Historical Association and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, proudly invites you to explore and experience 75 historic places associated with American Presidents.
These powerful tangible links to the presidents tell their stories and illuminate their achievements and impact on the office and the nation, bringing several centuries of American history to life.
The American Presidents travel itinerary offers several ways to discover and experience the historic places that shaped and honor the leaders of our nation:• Descriptions of each featured historic place on the List of Sites focusing on its significance, photographs and other illustrations, and information on how to visit.