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Ulysses S. Grant was elected President in 1868, just over three years after the Civil War ended. At the time of his election, white supremacists were conducting a reign of terror throughout the South against African-Americans who had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Although African-Americans had gained the vote in the south, Southern Democrats formed organizations that intimidated the freedmen through the use of violence. The most prominent of these organizations was the Ku Klux Klan.


The Klan was formed in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865. It was originally founded purporting to be a social club for former Confederate soldiers, but the Klan quickly evolved into a terrorist organization. Over time the Klan would be responsible for thousands of deaths of African-Americans and of those who supported their cause, in an effort to weaken the political power of Republicans in the south.

In 1866, what began as a minor fight in Memphis, Tennessee, between white ex-Confederates and African-Americans who were former Union soldiers soon became a full-fledged riot. White policemen were supposed to keep the peace, but instead they assisted the mobs in their violent rioting through the African-American sections of the city. By the time the violence ended, 46 people were dead, 70 more were wounded, and numerous churches and schools had been burned. Just two months later, on July 30, a similar outbreak of violence occurred in New Orleans when a white mob attacked the attendees of a convention promoting suffrage among African-Americans. Thirty-seven black men and three white men who supported them were killed by their attackers.

The Ku Klux Klan grew in size and strength in the south and by the time Grant was elected in 1868, the Klan had become a hooded terrorist organization that its members called "The Invisible Empire of the South." The reorganized Klan's first leader, or "Grand Wizard," was Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had been a Confederate general during the Civil War. White Southerners from all classes of society joined the Klan's ranks. The Klan set as its goal the preservation of a white-dominated society. Klansmen targeted freedmen for the flimsiest of reasons, including behavior that they considered to be "impudent" toward whites. Their terrorist activities included whipping the teachers of freedmen's schools and buring their schoolhouses.

The Klan sought to eliminate Republican influence in the South by terrorizing and murdering its party leaders and all those who supported the party. In the time leading up to the 1868 presidential election, the Klan's activities increased both in frequency and in the level of brutality. The election had Grant running against Democrat Horatio Seymour. Grant's election was crucial for Republicans to continue their programs that would prevent Southern racist whites from gaining political control in their states. Klan members sought to prevent this by preventing the African-Americans in their communities from voting.

Across the South, the Klan and other terrorist groups used brutal violence to intimidate Republican voters. In Kansas, over 2,000 Republican supporters were murdered and in Georgia, an even greater number were beaten, threatened and otherwise intimidated. In Louisiana, 1000 African-Americans were killed as the election neared. In these three states, Democrats won decisive victories at the polls.

But the Klan's violent actions angered many Northerners, who felt that the South had properly repented for its conduct in the recent war. In the 1868 presidential election, Grant won, running on the slogan, "Let Us Have Peace." Republicans also won a majority in Congress. Many Northerners, disgusted by Klan violence, lent their support to the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to African-American men in every state.

Grant was not content to stop there. He pressed for more legislation to attack the Klan directly. Between 1870 and 1871, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, officeholding, or jury service by African-Americans. Over 5,000 people were indicted under these laws, though only 20% of those were convicted. In 1871 Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations. Grant ordered the arrest of hundreds of Klan members, though with the overwhelming support of the Klan in the South, convictions proved difficult to obtain. To assist in the crackdown, Grant suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus, as Abraham Lincoln had done during the war, which allowed the arrests of Klansmen to take place far more rapidly than they would have otherwise, because the authorities didn’t have to bring the persons arrested before a judge and charge them with a crime. As a result, many Klansmen fled their home counties, some fled their state and a few even fled the country.

Grant ordered his generals in the South to enforce the Reconstruction Act and the enforcement Act, which made racist terrorism a federal offense. He created the Justice Department to deal with the prosecution of these offences and he sent in the army and federal agents to enforce the law.

Unfortunately for Grant, when the financial panic of 1873 hit, northerners were less inclined to see the federal government protect the freedmen from the problems of Southern racism, though this did not stop Grant from continuing his war on the Klan for the remainder of his term. When Rutherford Hayes became president in 1876, after a very controversial victory, he agreed to withdraw most federal troops from the south, removing much of the protection for the freedmen that Grant had installed. Grant's war on the Klan suffered a further setback in 1882, when the United States Supreme Court declared Ku Klux Klan Act unconstitutional.

For Ulysses Grant however, freedom and equal rights were matters of principle, not merely a means to gain more votes. Grant used his political capital to fight for the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, and this was one of the things that he remained most proud of in his life. He later said, “A measure which makes at once four million people voter who were heretofore declared by the highest tribunal in the land to be not citizens of the United States, nor eligible to become so, is indeed a measure of grander importance than any other act of the kind from the foundation of our free government to the present day.”

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Until recently, many historians had ranked Grant as among the worst presidents, because of the corruption and scandals that occurred on his watch. But recent analyses of Grant's presidency, including H. W. Brands' 2012 book The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace, have viewed Grant's presidency more favorably. His reputation has significantly improved in recent years because of greater appreciation for his commitment to civil rights, and his moral courage in his prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan, and enforcement of voting rights.
The Republicans

As of today, there is only one candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Prior to the Indiana Primary, which was held on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, it was not mathematically possible for Ted Cruz or John Kasich to win the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination for President. Their only hope was to accumulate enough delegates to deny front-runner Donald Trump the 1,237 delegates himself, thereby forcing a contested convention. Cruz and Kasich adopted a strategy which attempted to focus their efforts in different states, with Cruz challenging Trump head-to-head in Indiana and Kasich challenging Trump head-to-head in Oregon and New Mexico. The alliance was a fragile one that seemed to fracture when Kasich told voters in Indiana to still vote for him. Following this, Cruz displayed a lukewarm attitude towards any sort of agreement.

Indiana Republicans voted in their "winner-take-all" primary for their 57 delegates, and they were not on board with the "Dump Trump" movement that Cruz and Kasich and many others were calling for. Following the previous week's primaries, Cruz attempted to bolster his chances by announcing that, if nominated, he would name Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Fiorina had been a Cruz campaign supporter since March after suspending her own presidential campaign in February and Cruz hoped that Fiorina could help his campaign in Indiana and her home state of California. On April 29, 2016, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana announced that he would vote for Cruz in the primary election. But all of this proved to be insufficient to stop Trump, who handily won Indiana, despite being outspent by a margin of more than 4 to 1.

In the final results, Trump received 587,710 votes (53.3%) and captured all 57 bound delegates. Cruz finished second with 404,332 votes (36.67%) and Kasich came in third with 82,783 votes (7.51%). Following the Indiana primary on the evening of May 3, 2016, Cruz announced he was suspending his campaign. In making the announcement, Cruz said: "From the beginning I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory. Tonight I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed. With a heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign."

Cruz left the race after disparaging Trump in very harsh terms, calling him a "serial philanderer," a "pathological liar," and a "narcissist", adding, "The man is utterly amoral."

Today, John Kasich also suspended his campaign. In making the announcement, he said, "I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me as he has for everyone, and as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward, and fulfill the purpose of my life."

Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, tweeted that Trump was the presumptive nominee in the GOP. Later, Mike Huckabee officially endorsed Trump. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN, Trump said that the 2016 election has officially begun.

The Democrats

Meanwhile in Indiana, Bernie Sanders scored another primary victory, but because delegates were awarded proportionally, the media did not see much excitement in the results. Sanders received 331,707 votes (52.7%) to win 44 delegates, only six more than Hillary Clinton who received 297,150 votes (47.3%) and 38 delegates. Sanders victory was somewhat surprising, considering that he had been trailing in the latest opinion polling by 7 points. The Clinton campaign downplayed the results, noting that they had been outspent and that Clinton's delegate count is estimated to be 2205 of the 2382 that she needs, while Sanders is now estimated to only have 1401 delegates.

Despite the unlikelihood of ultimate victory, Sanders promised to fight on. He told his supporters, following the victory, "It's an uphill fight for us. But you know what? I started this campaign 60 points behind Secretary Clinton. We've been fighting uphill from day one. We will continue to fight uphill and I think we still have a narrow path toward victory."
On September 4, 1957, when a defiant Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support segregationists school boards to prevent nine African-American students from attending high school, it created a politically difficult situation for President Dwight Eisenhower. He could either enforce the law and pay a political price for doing so, he could attempt some mushy middle ground solution that would leave these nine students at the mercy of racist masses, or he could do nothing. Eisenhower courageously chose to do the right thing and uphold the law.

These students were known as the Little Rock Nine and the actions of the segregationist governor led to a confrontation with President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the issue of integration of schools. The U.S. Supreme Court had issued its historic decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas on May 17, 1954. The decision declared all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, and it called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation.

Following the decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attempted to register black students in previously all-white schools in cities throughout the South. In Little Rock, the Little Rock School Board initially said it would comply with the high court's ruling. Virgil Blossom, the Superintendent of Schools, submitted a plan of gradual integration to the school board on May 24, 1955, which the board unanimously approved. The plan would be implemented during the fall of the 1957 school year, which would begin in September 1957. By 1957, the NAACP had registered nine black students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High, selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance. The nine students were Ernest Green. Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals. Ernest Green was the first African American to graduate from Central High School.

When Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to block the students from attending high school, it made national headlines. One of the students, Elizabeth Eckford, would later recall about her experience in trying to attend the school:

"They moved closer and closer. Somebody started yelling. I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me."

On September 9, Little Rock School District issued a statement condemning the governor's deployment of soldiers to the high school and called for a citywide prayer service on September 12. President Eisenhower at first attempted to inject reason into the situation and summoned Governor Faubus to meet him. The President warned the governor not to defy the Supreme Court's ruling. But Faubus was swayed more by how backing down would affect his electability. He refused Eisenhower's request.

Woodrow Wilson Mann, the Mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration and protect the nine students. Although it was a difficult decision for the former five star general to use American troops against Americans, on September 24, the President ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to Little Rock. He also federalized the entire 10,000 member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Governor Faubus.

By the end of September 1957, the nine students were admitted to Little Rock Central High under the protection of the U.S. Army (and later the Arkansas National Guard). This action alone did not make it easy for them. They were subjected to physical and verbal abuse from many of the white students. The most serious incident was when Melba Pattillo had acid thrown into her eyes. Minnijean Brown was taunted by members of a group of white, male students in December 1957 in the school cafeteria during lunch. She dropped her lunch—a bowl of chili—onto the boys and was suspended for six days. Two months later, after more confrontation, Brown was suspended for the rest of the school year. She transferred to New Lincoln High School in New York City. White students were only punished when their offense was both egregious and witnessed by an adult.

Many of the contemporary documents relating to this incident can be found on the Eisenhower Library website here. In 2007, the United States Mint made available a commemorative silver dollar to "recognize and pay tribute to the strength, the determination and the courage displayed by African-American high school students in the fall of 1957." One side of the coin depicts students accompanied by a soldier, with nine stars symbolizing the Little Rock Nine. The other depicts an image of Little Rock Central High School. Proceeds from the coin sales are to be used to improve the National Historic Site. On December 9, 2008, the Little Rock Nine were invited to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Eisenhower explained his actions in a radio and television address on September 24, 1957. He said:

"Our personal opinions about the decision have no bearing on the matter of enforcement. The responsibility and authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution are very clear. Local Federal Courts were instructed by the Supreme Court to issue such orders and decrees as might be necessary to achieve admission to public schools without regard to race—and with all deliberate speed.

"During the past several years, many communities in our Southern States have instituted public school plans for gradual progress in the enrollment and attendance of school children of all races in order to bring themselves into compliance with the law of the land. They thus demonstrated to the world that we are a nation in which laws, not men, are supreme.

"I regret to say that this truth—the cornerstone of our liberties—was not observed in this instance.

"It was my hope that this localized situation would be brought under control by city and State authorities. If the use of local police powers had been sufficient, our traditional method of leaving the problems in those hands would have been pursued. But when large gatherings of obstructionists made it impossible for the decrees of the Court to be carried out, both the law and the national interest demanded that the President take action...

"Proper and sensible observance of the law then demanded the respectful obedience which the nation has a right to expect from all its people. This, unfortunately, has not been the case at Little Rock. Certain misguided persons, many of them imported into Little Rock by agitators, have insisted upon defying the law and have sought to bring it into disrepute. The orders of the court have thus been frustrated. The very basis of our individual rights and freedoms rests upon the certainty that the President and the Executive Branch of Government will support and insure the carrying out of the decisions of the Federal Courts, even, when necessary with all the means at the President’s command.

"Unless the President did so, anarchy would result. There would be no security for any except that which each one of us could provide for himself. The interest of the nation in the proper fulfillment of the law’s requirements cannot yield to opposition and demonstrations by some few persons.

"Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts."
Before he became President, Chester Alan Arthur had always been thought of as a party hack, and as a "spoilsman", that is, as someone who thought that the purpose of winning elections was so that the victorious party could dole out political patronage positions. Arthur had been part of Republican New York Senator Roscoe Conkling's "Stalwarts", the faction of the party that was opposed to civil service reform. The Stalwarts believed that government patronage positions should be awarded not on the basis of merit, but rather as rewards for those who supported the winning faction.

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It was the spoils system that had resulted in Arthur becoming Collector of the Port of New York, perhaps the highest paying government job. The Collector was responsible for hiring hundreds of workers to collect the tariffs due at the nation's busiest port. Typically, these jobs were dispensed to adherents of the political machine that appointed the Collector. Employees who were hired for these positions were required to make political contributions (known as "assessments") back to the machine. The job was the most highly coveted political plum. Arthur held the post from 1871 until 1878 when President Rutherford Hayes fired him as part of Hayes' attempt to attack the spoils system.

Two years later, in 1880, the Stalwarts backed Ulysses S. Grant for the nomination as the Republican Party's candidate for President. Grant and his main opponent James G. Blaine both lost the nomination to compromise candidate James Garfield. Garfield's campaign management knew their man would face a difficult election without the support of the New York Stalwarts. It was decided to offer one of the Stalwarts the vice presidential nomination. Levi P. Morton was the first choice of Garfield's supporters, but he was told by Conkling to decline the position. They next approached Arthur, and Conkling told him to also reject the nomination. In a surprising show of independence, Arthur did the opposite and accepted the nomination.

Garfield won the election and Arthur became Vice-President. It was the first time he had ever held elected office. Then, a half a year after his inauguration, Garfield died on September 19, 1881, the result of being shot on July 2nd by Stalwart supporter Charles Guiteau. Arthur was now President.

Many people expected the worst from Arthur. They believed that he was going to become Conkling's puppet as President and that his administration would be one of the most corrupt in history. They also believed that civil service reform had suffered a serious setback. But they were wrong.

Conkling expected Arthur to appoint him to the position of Secretary of State. Instead, Arthur appointed Frederick T. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. He balanced out the rest of his cabinet with men from all factions of the party. Most shocking to Conkling, Arthur became a supporter of civil service reform.

When Arthur became president, a scandal had just been exposed, in which contractors for star postal routes were greatly overpaid for their services with the connivance of government officials. Reformers wanted this fraud prosecuted and they feared that Arthur, as a supposed supporter of the spoils system, would not continue the investigation into the scandal. But Arthur's Attorney General, Benjamin Brewster, did continue it and hired notable Democratic lawyers William W. Ker and Richard T. Merrick to strengthen the prosecution team. Arthur forced the resignation of officials suspected in the scandal.

An 1882 trial of the ringleaders resulted in convictions for two minor players and a hung jury for the rest. A juror later came forward with allegations that the defendants attempted to bribe him. The judge ordered a new trial be held. Arthur removed five federal office holders who were sympathetic with the defense. Although the second trial did not result in a guilty verdict, this occurred in spite of Arthur's efforts to put a stop to the fraud.

Both Democrats and Republicans read the mood of the public and realized that what the public wanted was an end to the spoils system and a bipartisan effort began in favor of reform. In 1880, Democratic Senator George H. Pendleton of Ohio had introduced legislation that required selection of civil servants based on merit as determined by an examination. In his first annual presidential address to Congress in 1881, Arthur requested civil service reform legislation and Pendleton once again introduced his bill. When Congress did not pass it, Republicans lost seats in the 1882 congressional elections, as Democrats campaigned on the reform issue. In a lame-duck session of Congress, the Senate approved Pendleton's bill 38–5 and the House soon concurred by a vote of 155–47.

Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act into law on January 16, 1883. In just two years as President, Arthur, the former Stalwart spoilsman became the president who ushered in long-awaited civil service reform. Even after he signed the act into law, its proponents doubted Arthur's commitment to reform. Some thought he might veto the bill, but he had no intention of doing so. To the surprise of many, Arthur quickly appointed the members of the Civil Service Commission that the law created, naming reformers Dorman Bridgman Eaton, John Milton Gregory, and Leroy D. Thoman as commissioners. The chief examiner, Silas W. Burt, was a long-time reformer who had once been Arthur's opponent when the two men worked at the New York Customs House. By 1884, half of all postal officials and three-quarters of the Customs Service jobs were to be awarded by merit. Arthur praised the new system, stating that it was an effective "in securing competent and faithful public servants and in protecting the appointing officers of the Government from the pressure of personal importunity and from the labor of examining the claims and pretensions of rival candidates for public employment."

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Arthur's integrity was not enough to secure his party's nomination in 1884, in part because of serious health problems that Arthur was experiencing. When he left office, the political commentators of his day praised him for his leadership. Muck-raking journalist Alexander McClure wrote: "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe." The New York World summed up Arthur's presidency at his death in 1886, writing: "No duty was neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation." Mark Twain wrote of him, "It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration." While Arthur has become one of the most obscure presidents, more recent biographers have reminded us about Arthur's positive accomplishments. In 1975, Thomas C. Reeves wrote of Arthur that "the corruption and scandal that dominated business and politics of the period did not tarnish his administration." In 2004, biographer Zachary Karabell observed that although Arthur was "physically stretched and emotionally strained, he strove to do what was right for the country."
The Presidency of George W. Bush is remembered for many things that Bush's critics like to bring up: the Iraq War, the subprime mortgage crisis, an inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, to name a few. Bush is generally not given enough credit for launching an initiative to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa known as PEPFAR, a program that has saved millions of lives.

PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) is a governmental initiative designed to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and to help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa. The program's initial goal was to provide anti-retroviral treatment to 2 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited countries in order to prevent millions of new infections, and to support care for 10 million people by 2010. PEPFAR increased the number of Africans receiving anti-retroviral treatment from 50,000 in 2004 to over 1.2 million by early 2008. It is the largest health initiative ever initiated by one country to address a disease. The program has made anti-retrovirals widely available, saving millions of lives. According to a 2009 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the program had prevented about 1.1 million deaths in Africa and reduced the death rate due to AIDS in the countries involved by 10%.

In 1998, when George W. Bush considered running for president, his foreign policy adviser (and future Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice suggested that Africa should be a focus of his. In 2002 he commissioned a report, which ultimately was titled "The Next Wave of HIV/AIDS: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, India, and China". It was written by the National Intelligence Council. This repirt was significant because it discussed the mortality associated with the poorly controlled HIV pandemic across several decades and also forecast the impact of that excess mortality on U.S National Security interests. The U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (also known as the Global AIDS Act) was passed and it contained a series of goals, identifying measurable outcomes to be reached on the subject of controlling the spread of the disease and providing aid to its victims. The legislation also established the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to oversee all international AIDS funding and programming.

In July 2008, PEPFAR was renewed, and expanded to more than triple the initiative's funds, increasing funding to $48 billion through 2013, including $39 billion for HIV and the global Fund, $4 billion for TB, and $5 billion for malaria. In May 2009, the Obama Administration launched the Global Health Initiative (GHI) as an effort to develop a comprehensive U.S. government strategy for global health and it included PEPFAR as a central component.

When PEPFAR was signed into law, 15 countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and limited resources to combat the disease, were designated to receive the majority of the funding. The 15 "focus countries" were Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

When the Bush administration inaugurated the program in 2003, fewer than 50,000 HIV-infected people on the African continent were receiving the antiretroviral drugs needed to keep the virus in check and halt the progression toward full-blown AIDS. By the time Bush left office, the number had increased to nearly 2 million. Today, the United States is directly supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 4 million men, women and children worldwide, primarily in Africa.

Before PEPFAR, the prevailing theory was that the drug-treatment regimens that were saving lives in developed countries would not work in Africa because poor, uneducated people in these communities could not be counted on to take the right pill at the right time every day. When the drugs are taken haphazardly, the virus mutates and becomes resistant. Critics of PEPFAR's approach argued that trying to administer antiretroviral treatment in poor African countries might actually be worse than doing nothing at all. The Bush administration rejected these arguments. According to a survey by Doctors Without Borders, 11 African countries — including some of the hardest-hit by the epidemic — are providing antiretroviral drug treatment to well over half of their citizens infected with HIV. Treatment not only extends the patient’s life but also decreases the likelihood that he or she will pass the virus to an uninfected person. According to one official from Doctors Without Borders, "the end of the AIDS epidemic is not yet in sight, but it is no longer unimaginable."

Bush's biographer Peter Baker of the New York Times sums up the significance of this accomplishment as follows:

"Bush did more to stop AIDS and more to help Africa than any president before or since. He took on one of the world's biggest problems in a big, bold way and it changed the course of a continent. If it weren't for Iraq, it would be one of the main things history would remember about Bush, and it still should be part of any accounting of his presidency."
In March, the theme in this community was "Presidents Behaving Badly" in which the negative actions, scandals, extra-marital affairs and other misdeeds of a number of presidents were examined. While somewhat interesting, this overlooked the fact that throughout the history of the presidency, there have been a number of noble and selfless acts, particularly in the time before instant media, when presidents were not as pressed by advisors to do what was politically expedient in order to feed the 24 hour news cycle machine. This month I'd like to look at some of those positive deeds of some of the presidents. I'd like to begin with Calvin Coolidge and his enlightened attitude towards civil rights.

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Although the 1920s were not the most enlightened times, and although racial prejudice could earn a candidate votes in the southern states, Calvin Coolidge was not his usual "silent" self when it came to speaking out against racial prejudice. In his very first State of the Union Address, Coolidge spoke in favor of the civil rights of African-Americans, telling Congress that the rights of these citizens were "just as sacred as those of any other citizen" according to the Constitution. He called it a "public and a private duty to protect those rights."

At the time, the Ku Klux Klan were not just a small group of lunatics running around in white sheets. They had a very large membership and were a prominent political force. The issue of the Klan was one of the factors which split the Democratic Party and one of the causes of the badly divided Democratic Convention of 1924 that took 103 ballots to nominate a candidate. But for Coolidge, support for the Klan was something that he was not interested in. He appointed no known members of the Ku Klux Klan to office; indeed, and the Klan lost most of its influence in government during his term.

Coolidge repeatedly called for laws to prohibit lynching. He said in his 1923 State of the Union address that it was a "hideous crime" against African-Americans and other victims. Although he urged Republican leaders to press for anti-lynching legislation, most Congressional attempts to pass this legislation were filibustered by Southern Democrats. Coolidge also appointed some African-Americans to federal office, including some in southern states. He retained Harding's choice of Walter L. Cohen of New Orleans, Louisiana, as the comptroller of customs.

Coolidge also enjoyed positive relations with the Native American community. He commissioned studies to improve programs for Native Americans and on June 2, 1924, Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted U.S. citizenship to all American Indians, while permitting them to retain tribal land and cultural rights. He appointed the "Committee of One Hundred", a reform panel to examine federal institutions and programs dealing with Indian nations. This committee recommended that the government conduct an in-depth investigation into reservation life and to examine areas such as health, education, economics, justice, and civil rights. The report was commissioned through the Department of Interior and conducted by the Brookings Institution, resulting in the fampus Meriam Report of 1928.

On June 6, 1924, Coolidge delivered a commencement address at Washington, D.C.'s Howard University, in which he thanked African-Americans for their rapid advances in education and their contributions to U.S. society over the years. He also complimented the nation's African-American population for their eagerness to serve in World War I, while being faced with discrimination and prejudices at home. In his address, he said:

"The propaganda of prejudice and hatred which sought to keep the colored men from supporting the national cause completely failed. The black man showed himself the same kind of citizen, moved by the same kind of patriotism, as the white man. They were tempted, but not one betrayed his country. They came home with many decorations and their conduct repeatedly won high commendation from both American and European commanders. No part of the community responded more willingly, more generously, more unqualifiedly, to the demand for special extraordinary exertion, than did the members of the Negro race. Whether in the military service, or in the vast mobilization of industrial resources which the war required, the Negro did his part precisely as did the white man. He drew no color line when patriotism made its call upon him. He gave precisely as his white fellow citizens gave, to the limit of resources and abilities, to help the general cause. Thus the American Negro established his right to the gratitude and appreciation which the Nation has been glad to accord."

In August 1924, Coolidge expressed a similar sentiment in response to a letter from a New York man who argued that the United States was a "white man's country" and that African-Americans should not be allowed to hold elected office. Coolidge strongly disagreed, He told the man that African-Americans were "just as truly citizens as are any others," and he commended the service of African-American soldiers during World War I. He wrote:

"I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. As president, I am one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race. A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy in a party primary, as is any other citizen. The decision must be made by the constituents to whom he offers himself, and by nobody else."

In December 1924, Coolidge delivered his second State of the Union address, in which he stressed that the constitutional rights of African-Americans should be respected and protected. He told Congress:

" These developments have brought about a very remarkable improvement in the condition of the negro race. Gradually, but surely, with the almost universal sympathy of those among whom they live, the colored people are working out their own destiny. I firmly believe that it is better for all concerned that they should be cheerfully accorded their full constitutional rights, that they should be protected from all of those impositions to which, from their position, they naturally fall a prey, especially from the crime of lynching and that they should receive every encouragement to become full partakers in all the blessings of our common American citizenship."

Coolidge also spoke out about the need to welcome immigrants to the nation. In an address before a group of naturalized Americans of European background at the White House in October 1924, Coolidge called for tolerance of differences, stating that this was an American value. He thanked the immigrants for their contributions to U.S. society. He said that immigrants have "contributed much to making our country what it is" and said that while the diversity of peoples was a source of conflict and tension in Europe, this was not the cause in the United States, where cultural diversity was a "harmonious benefit" for the nation. Coolidge argued that the United States should assist and help immigrants. He urged those who came to the United States as immigrants to reject "race hatreds" and "prejudices". He said:

"Among these I should place, first, the broadly tolerant attitude that has been a characteristic of this country. I use the word in its most inclusive sense, to cover tolerance of religious opinion, tolerance in politics, tolerance in social relationships; in general, the liberal attitude of every citizen toward his fellows. As a Nation, our first duty must be to those who are already our inhabitants, whether native or immigrants. To them we owe an especial and a weighty obligation. They came to us with stout hearts and high hopes of bettering their estate. They have contributed much to making our country what it is. They cannot help other nations by bringing old world race prejudices and race hatreds into action here. In fact, they can best help other countries by scrupulously avoiding any such motives."

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While Coolidge is most often remembered for his fiscal conservatism, an often overlooked aspect of his legacy is in his fervent belief in civil rights and in his willingness to speak out for tolerance even when it was not politically expedient for him to do so.
President Obama's favorite sport is basketball. He has been playing the game for over 40 years, and received his first basketball from his father, even though Barack Obama Sr. during a brief Christmas visit. He played the sport as a teenager growing up in Hawaii, where he had posters of the soaring Julius Erving ("Dr. J") on his bedroom wall. In the yearbook of an older high school classmate who wanted to be a lawyer, he wrote: “Anyway, been great knowing you and I hope we keep in touch. Good luck in everything you do, and get that law degree. Some day when I am an all-pro basketballer, and I want to sue my team for more money, I’ll call on you. Barry.”

Obama kept playing the game throughout his life, during the time he attended college at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard. During his first trip back to Honolulu after being elected president, he rounded up a bunch of his old high school friends for a pickup game in the gym at Punahou School. When the game was over, his high school friend Darryl Gabriel, who had been the star of their championship-winning team, was quoted as saying, “Man, Barack is a lot better than Barry ever was!”

Shortly after taking office, Obama had the White House tennis court adapted so it could be used for both tennis and basketball. The White House has had a smaller outdoor court since 1991, but the adapted tennis court now has enough room for a full court game of basketball. The new court has played host to a number of distinguished visitors, from college basketball championship teams to Wounded Warrior players.

During his presidency, Obama was frequently seen sitting courtside at Washington Wizards games, especially when his favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, were in town. He also watched a game between North Carolina and Michigan State on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, and he even invited ESPN cameras into the Oval Office to watch him fill out his bracket for March Madness.

As a teenager, young Barry Obama played on one of the best high school teams in the country. He was described as having good court sense and an ability to cut to the basket, but was an unreliable outside shooter with an average jump shot. His nickname as a high school player was Barry O’Bomber, a hybrid of his last name and a propensity to take long range shots. His team-mate, Darin Maurer, went on to play Division I basketball at Stanford as a walk-on.

The first spark of Obama's interest in basketball was noted after he arrived back from Indonesia at age 10, when his grandfather took him to see Red Rocha’s 1971 University of Hawaii Rainbows, a team fueled that came over from the mainland.

Craig Robinson is President Obama’s brother-in-law, and was the head coach at Oregon State University from 2008 to 2014. He had jokingly said of Obama that he is "too skinny to be an imposing presence, but he is fast, with good wind even when he was a smoker." He said that Obama's signature move is to fake right and veer left, surprising players used to guarding right-handed competitors. He also describes the president as "confident, even a bit boastful" on the court.

His friend, former Illinois state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias says of Obama, “If he would hit a couple buckets, he would let you know about it.” The two friends have had their arguments on the court. Giannoulias also added, “There are always elbows, there’s always a little bit of jersey tucking and tugging. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to win.” He describes Obama as fiercely competitive on the court.
Herbert Hoover was very accomplished at almost everything he tried, at least before the presidency. When he played on the Stanford University baseball team however, he was, by his own admission, a "not so good" shortstop.

Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, where his father Jesse Hoover was a blacksmith and a farm implement store owner. His father died in 1880 when Herbert (known as "Bertie") was five. After working to retire her husband's debts, his mother Hulda died in 1884, leaving nine year old Bertie, his older brother, and his younger sister as orphans.

After a brief stay with one of his grandmothers in Kingsley, Iowa, Hoover lived the next 18 months with his uncle Allen Hoover in West Branch. In November 1885, he went to Newberg, Oregon, to live with his uncle Dr. John Minthorn, a physician and businessman whose own son had died the year before. As a young man, Hoover had little time for sports and recreation. He attended Friends Pacific Academy and worked as an office assistant in his uncle's real estate office, the Oregon Land Company, in Salem, Oregon. He did not attend high school, instead attending night school and learning bookkeeping, typing and mathematics.

Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, its inaugural year. Hoover claimed to be the very first student at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory. While at the university, he was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams and was a part of the inaugural Big Game versus rival the University of California. In the first volume of his autobiography, "The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, Volume 1: Years of Adventure 1874-1920", at page 21, Hoover described his brief baseball career in a self-deprecating manner, including this account of a game his college team played against some professional ball players:

"I was for a short time on the baseball team as shortstop, where I was not so good. In full belief in our prowess as a team, we challenged the San Francisco professional team to play us on the campus. They good humoredly accepted, but when the score was something like 30 to 0 at the end of the fifth inning and getting dark, we called it off. In time my colleagues decided that I would make a better manager than shortstop. The job of manager consisted of arranging games, collecting the gate money and otherwise finding cash for equipment and uniforms. On one occasion we played the local team at Santa Rosa. The receipts from the gate were not enough to buy the tickets home. I had to canvass the Stanford parents in the town to raise the deficit. Some of them were caustic persons."

I had heard a story from a volunteer at the Benjamin Harrison Museum in Indianapolis, about Harrison forgetting to pay admission to a ball game at which Hoover was the ticket taker. Hoover includes this story in his autobiography. He writes:

"It was this activity which brought my first contact with a great public man. Former President Benjamin Harrison had been induced by Senator Stanford to deliver a course of lectures upon some phases of government. I profited by the lectures. But then as manager of the baseball team, I had a stern duty to perform. We had no enclosed field. We collected the 25 cents admission by outposts of students who demanded the cash. One afternoon Mr. Harrison came to the game. Either he ignored the collector or the collector was overcome with shyness. Anyway that outpost reported to me that Mr. Harrison had not paid. I collected the money. Mr. Harrison was cheerful about it and bought also an advance ticket to the next week's game. He would not take the fifty cents change from a dollar. But I insisted that we were not a charitable institution and that he must take it. Justice must occasionally be done even to ex-Presidents and I here record that he took two more tickets. Upon this solution he became even more cheerful."


As President, Hoover attended nine major league ball games, including three World Series games. He was often booed when introduced because of the nation's anger over the great depression. Many years later, on August 13, 1960, Hoover threw out the first pitch at an old timers game in Yankee Stadium, when he was eighty-six years old.
On Tuesday, April 26th, the frontrunners for each of the major political parties moved a step closer to wrapping up their party's nomination for president, as primaries were held in five eastern states: Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland and the most delegate rich of all, Pennsylvania. For the Republicans, Donald Trump ran the table, winning all of the states and all but 8 of the 172 delegates up for grabs. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton won four of the five states, narrowly losing to Bernie Sanders in Rhode Island. Though their opponents were not mathematically eliminated, both candidates now look more certain to win their party's nomination ahead of the summer conventions.

The Republicans

The primaries in this area of the country were nicknamed the "Amtrak" or "Acela primary" (in reference to the Acela Express, Amtrak's high speed train which runs through the area.) Going into the primaries, Ted Cruz and John Kasich hoped to maintain their strategy of winning enough delegates to prevent Trump from winning a majority of delegates in the primaries, leaving the choice up to delegates at the party's convention. On April 19, after Trump won New York primary, the gap between him and Cruz grew by over 300 delegates. On April 20, Cruz still maintained that no one would get the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. He continued to predict a contested convention.

On April 22, Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Trump supporter, accused Cruz of reversing his position after promising to back a "unity slate". LePage said that the Cruz campaign "stabbed us in the back, reneged on the unity slate, and betrayed the people of Maine."

The campaigns of Kasich and Ted Cruz discussed dividing some of the remaining primaries in an effort to block Donald Trump from gaining the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But it was a tenuous alliance. For example, Cruz had planned to focus on the Indiana primary, but Kasich told his supporters that they should still vote for him there. Cruz later declared that there was no alliance. He said that he and Kasich "made a determination where to focus our energies."

On the day of the vote, all five primaries were won by Trump by overwhelming margins of between 29% and 41%. Trump received no less than 54% of the vote in all five states. He claimed all the delegates available in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, as well as all 17 pledged delegates in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania also elected 54 unpledged delegates. Only in Rhode Island, where delegates were allocated proportionally, did Kasich or Cruz win any pledged delegates. Trump attained 11 of the 19 there, with 5 for Cruz and 3 for Kasich. In total Trump won 110 of the 118 available delegates that night. Trump received over 10 million votes, more than John McCain or Mitt Romney did in the two previous primaries.

According to RealClearPolitics, Trump now is estimated to have 992 of the 1237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. Cruz has 562 and Kasich has 153. On April 27, 2016, in a unusual move for a candidate in a contested primary, Ted Cruz announced that Carly Fiorina would be joining his campaign as his vice presidential running mate.

The Democrats

After a series of primary losses, Hillary Clinton's campaign had regained momentum following a victory in the New York Primary on April 19th. Clinton continued her winning ways on April 26th, with wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. She lost narrowly to Sanders in Rhode Island. Clinton won the Connecticut primary receiving 28 of the available 55 delegates and 51.8% of the vote. She won the Delaware primary, receiving 12 of the available 21 delegates and 59.8% of the vote.She won in Maryland, receiving 61 of the available 95 delegates and 63.0% of the vote. In Pennsylvania she won 104 of the available 189 delegates and 55.6% of the vote. Her loss to Sanders in Rhode Island was not much of a setback, as she still received 11 of the available 24 delegates and 43.3% of the vote.

RealClear Politics estimates that Clinton has won 1645 delegates and has the support of another 520 super delegates for a total delegate count of 2,165 of the 2,382 delegates that she needs to win the nomination. Sanders is estimated to have won 1,318 delegates and to have the support of another 39 super delegates for a total of 1357. Clinton need just 217 more delegates to reach the magic number. Primaries will be held in May in Indiana, Guam, West Virgina, Kentucky and Oregon. She could potentially secure the nomination by the end of May, but if not, more primaries will be held in June in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, North and South Dakota, Montana New Jersey, California and in the District of Columbia.


As the above graphic shows, media sources differ on the precise numbers, but they are unanimous in their conclusion that Trump and Clinton seem to be destined to meet in the November contest for the presidency.

Happy Birthday James Monroe

On April 28, 1758 (258 years ago today) James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, was born in his parents' house located in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Today the site is marked and is one mile from the unincorporated community now known as Monroe Hall, Virginia. Monroe, who served two terms as President, from 1817 to 1825, was the last president who is considered to be a Founding Father of the United States, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty.

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Monroe's father died when James was 16 years old, which gave the future president the responsibility of being the head of the family at an early age. He fought in the American Revolutionary War and was wounded in the Battle of Trenton from a musket ball to his shoulder. He studied law under Thomas Jefferson from 1780 to 1783, and later served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. As an anti-federalist delegate to the Virginia convention that considered ratification of the United States Constitution, Monroe opposed ratification, claiming it gave too much power to the central government. He opposed James Madison in that battle, but the two men became perhaps the best example of how political differences of opinion need not ruin a friendship. Monroe took an active part in the new government, and in 1790 he was elected to the Senate of the first United States Congress. He later served as the Governor of Virginia and rose to national prominence as a diplomat in France, when he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During the War of 1812, Monroe held the critical roles of Secretary of State and later also as Secretary of War in the cabinet of President James Madison.

Facing little opposition from the fractured Federalist Party, Monroe was easily elected president in 1816, winning over 80 percent of the electoral vote. As president, he bought Florida from Spain and sought to ease partisan tensions, by embarking on a tour of the country, in which he was well received. With the ratification of the Treaty of 1818, under the successful diplomacy of his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the United States extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, gaining harbor and fishing rights in the Pacific Northwest. The United States and Britain jointly occupied the Oregon Country. Nationalism surged, partisan fury subsided and the "Era of Good Feelings" enveloped the nation until the Panic of 1819 struck and dispute over the admission of Missouri in 1820 drew the country into a debate between slave and free states (leading to the Compromise of 1820). Monroe won near-unanimous reelection. (One elector cast a vote for John Quincy Adams because he believed that the honor of unanimous election should be reserved for George Washington.)

Monroe supported the founding of colonies in Africa for free African Americans that would eventually form the nation of Liberia. Its capital, Monrovia, is named after him. In 1823, he announced the United States' opposition to any European intervention in the recently independent countries of the Americas with the Monroe Doctrine, which became a landmark in American foreign policy.

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Following his retirement in 1825, Monroe was plagued by financial difficulties. He died in New York City on July 4, 1831, becoming the third president to die on the fourth of July. In my view, James Monroe ranks high on the list of underrated presidents, possibly at the top of that list.


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