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Presidential Families

Volumes have been written about the rich history and the institution of the U.S. Presidency. This course examines the history of the office and explores how first ladies and other relatives influenced presidential administrations and legacies.

We will attempt to cover the entire history of the office, while paying special attention to notable accomplishments, accusations, and scandals. While all presidents will be addressed, special emphasis will be given to those presidents (and family members) who hold a particularly special place in history - for either good or wrongful deeds. Contemporary issues such as presidential morality, ethics, standards of behavior, and requirements of law will be discussed.

As a culminating activity, we will compile a historical ranking of every U.S. president and compare our class results with those of the media, political scientists, and presidential historians.

Individual course topics are outlined in detail below.

Session 1: Early Presidents and the Role of Early First Ladies

A new model for Executive Leadership based on the new Constitution is discussed - as well as what role, if any, was to be had by the First Lady. We look at the Founding Presidents and their families. This session covers George Washington to John Quincy Adams, the "patrician" presidents - only their families are not quite as patrician as they are.


Session 2: The Presidency Belongs to the People

In this session, we will look at methodology of electing the President, the influence of a surging country, how the "frontier" was to be considered, and how the role of presidential families affected presidential performance. These are the first presidents of the people and, in some cases, they brought people with them to the White House. Presidents to be covered will be Andrew Jackson through Rutherford B. Hayes (the Hayes-Tilden election).


Session 3: Presidents at War and at Peace

In this session, we look at how presidents James Garfield through Herbert Hoover handled the Commander in Chief role during wartime. We'll also touch upon all presidents who served in office during, up to, and after World War I. Focused attention will be given to the "new President", scandals, and family roles following the United State's first big foreign war.


Session 4: The Modern Presidency, How the First Lady Role Emerged.

This session concentrates on the role of the president and the first family through the Great Depression, World War II, and beyond. We look at the foibles of presidential siblings through this volatile period and the "modern" First Lady. We ask also if a president can be "effective" without good support. We'll touch on the First Presidential Resignation and why. All presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through Jimmy Carter will be covered.


Session 5: Rating the "Contemporary" Presidents

In this closing session, we'll consider the presidencies of Ronald Reagan through Donald Trump and the influences of family on the contemporary president. We also discuss the 2020 Presidential Election and attempt to determine a historical ranking of all U.S. presidents.

We ask also: Might the White House welcome its First Gentleman in the near future?

Dr. Charles P. Lickson is a frequent lecturer on Presidential topics for lifelong learning programs based in Virginia and West Virginia. He is also a former adjunct professor of political science and public administration at Shenandoah University, where he taught courses on constitutional law, public administration ethics, and the American presidency.

There are no scheduled sessions at this time. Sign up to be notified when this course is available.

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