Saturday, June 14, 2008

So You Want to Be President?

It seems somehow appropriate that I found So You Want to Be President? The Revised and Updated Edition, written by Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small, during a presidential election year. I'd seen it a few weeks ago and read it in the store, but I finally picked it up today. As you might notice from the cover image, it is a Caldecott Medal winner (in 2000; the Caldecott is awarded "to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.")

This revised and updated edition was released in 2004, and I realize it will be a little outdated come November, but it is still something to help young children think a little bit about the office and those who have held it.

There are pros and cons to being president, and some that might be of interest to kids are listed in the beginning: you get to live in the White House, you have your own swimming pool, bowling alley and movie theater; you have to be dressed up all the time, can't go anyplace by yourself and always have "lots of homework".

Much interesting trivia about our presidents is given: 6 James', 4 Johns and 4 Williams, 3 Georges and 2 Franklins; 8 presidents born in log cabins; the tallest, shortest, and biggest; the oldest and youngest; they have all had siblings; several are related to other presidents; all kinds of animals have lived in the White House; some were musicians and some were good dancers; most were honest and some were not.

But, I think the most important part of the book is in the last four pages:

It's said that people who run for President have swelled heads. It's said that people who run for President are greedy. They want power. They want fame.

But being President can be wanting to serve your country - like George Washington, who left the Virginia plantation he loved three times to lead the country he loved even more.

It can be looking towards the future like Thomas Jefferson, who bought the Louisiana Territory and then sent Lewis and Clark west to find a route to the Pacific. (They did!)

It can be wanting to turn lives around like Franklin Roosevelt, who provided soup and bread for the hungry, jobs for the jobless, and funds for the elderly to live on.

It can be wanting to make the world a better place like John Kennedy, who sent Peace Corps volunteers around the globe to teach and help others.

Every single President has taken this oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Only thirty-five words! But it's a big order when you're President of this country. Abraham Lincoln was tops at filling that order. "I know very well that many others might in this matter as in others, do better than I can," he said. "But...I am here. I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take."

That's the bottom line. Tall, short, fat, thin, talkative, quiet, vain, humble, lawyer, teacher, or soldier - this is what most of our Presidents have tried to do, each in his own way. Some succeeded. Some failed. If you want to be President - a good President - pattern yourself after the best. Our best have asked more of themselves than they thought they could give. They have had the courage, spirit, and will to do what they knew was right. Most of all, their first priority has always been the people and the country they served.

At the back of the book, there is a listing of all the people shown in the illustrations: Presidents, mostly, and some significant people in their lives. Also, each of our Presidents is listed, along with the years of service and very basic biographical information, as well as noting that while there have been 43 presidencies so far, only 42 men have actually served.

I highly recommend sharing this book with your children or your students. It would probably be best for children 8 to 11 year old. It's a wonderful addition to any children's book library.


Kat said...

I love this post! Thank you for sharing this book with me.

Miss Ladybug said...

I try to be of service! ;-)