"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
It's a short oath of office for a very big job: President of the United States. Forty-four people have taken up the responsibilities of the presidency as the nation has grown from the birth of the republic into a modern superpower. They've faithfully executed the duties of the President—signed treaties, addressed Congress, and appointed government officials. But their impact goes far beyond the bounds of their Constitutional job description. Presidents leave their marks on the history of the United States and on the lives of the American people.
Our Country's Presidents is packed with information about America's leaders. Find out why George Washington gave up his life as a Virginia planter to lead a nation and why John Tyler was nicknamed "His Accidency." Walk with the Presidents through wars, depressions, civil rights movements, the race for space, and terrorist attacks. Romp with the Garfield kids in a White House pillow fight and mourn with the nation over John F. Kennedy's assassination. Carefully researched text and historic images combine to make this volume the definitive family reference guide to the fascinating lives of the Presidents of the United States.
I wrote the original edition of Our Country's Presidents during the election year of 2000. It was a perfect time to study U.S. Presidents, elections from years past, and American history. This book was a collaborative project with the National Geographic Society. As hard as I worked on the text, others worked just as hard finding the photos, designing the fit of text and images, and editing everything into a well-timed, inviting book.
None of us expected our book about history to be caught up in history, but that's exactly what happened thanks to the events of Election 2000. When we went to bed the night of Election Day, all of us planned to wake up and put the finishing touches on a book that featured the newest U.S. President. We had parallel pages about President Al Gore and about President George W. Bush for everything from the front cover to the index, from an introduction by the newest President to an introductory essay about him. The rest of our book, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, was ready and waiting to be printed.
So much for best-laid plans. Instead we woke up to five weeks of uncertainty, revision, substitution (it's Gore, no, it's Bush, no Gore. . .), and delay. Instead of recording history, we were living through it. What a thrill—and a challenge. I followed news accounts, trying to keep my facts and rewrites up-to-date. Our photo editor found new images about the controversial election that replaced less timely ones. Our designer and my editor patiently substituted one change after another after another into the layouts. Staff members at National Geographic juggled revised printing schedules, creating "what if" dates that would work if only the election results would become final.
Those "what ifs" came to pass after the Supreme Court ended vote counting on December 12, 2000, and Al Gore conceded the race. We polished up our final changes in time for a late-December print run that actually put Our Country's Presidents into the bookstores the same week that George W. Bush took the oath of office to become our nation's 43rd President.
During the 2016 election year I collaborated for the fourth time with National Geographic on a revision of Our Country's Presidents. This time, in addition to crafting the latest chapters of history, we injected new life into the book's appearance. Graphic artist Carol Norton designed the layout with art direction from Callie Broaddus. These two talented women then undertook the painstaking work of migrating text from the previous edition, published in 2013, into the new design template.
It took months to make sure that all the elements from the earlier book had been properly transferred into the new design files. Some parts, such as the essays about each President, moved fairly easily from one style to the next, but others required not only design work but text changes, too. Every photo caption, for example, had to be reevaluated and, in many cases, rewritten, to complement a new design where each image has a unique caption rather than the pattern followed in previous editions with shared captions.
Even as the redesign progressed, all of us worked to update the book's content. Every illustration was evaluated for possible replacement, and many new images found their way into this new edition as a result. Facts about the Presidents change over time, so I was kept busy sharing everything from the latest discoveries about the death of the William Henry Harrison to new revelations about William Howard Taft and his famous oversized bathtub. Hundreds of details of the text were evaluated, updated, and otherwise revised during our work.
Then we had to anticipate the history to come. As we have done for every other edition, we developed parallel editions for the two possible election outcomes, one for each major party nominee. Each draft of history included a profile of the potential victor, accounts of the upcoming election, and supporting facts that aligned that particular outcome with all relevant sections of the book, from the title page, to the table of contents, to the index. Even the ages of the two candidates had an impact on the book, with one nominee set to eclipse the record set by Ronald Reagan by becoming the nation's oldest President. By Election Day we had two completed versions of the book, and within days of the national vote, we had entered our final updates and sent the victor's edition out for printing.
History may seem dusty and settled, but each time I work on this book I'm reminding that we're making new chapters of history every day.
Nothing but the Facts:
A Not-so-trivial Look at Our Country's Presidents and First Ladies
A program for children grades 3-8
by Ann Bausum
In Our Country's Presidents and Our Country's First Ladies I've tried to breathe life into each of the men and women who have served our country as chief executive and first lady of the land. These books are chock-full of stories, engaging facts, and unexpected details of human interest.
This program romps through a summary highlight of presidential facts and trivia. How many Presidents graduated from college? (Answer: 30.) Have more governors or Vice Presidents gone on to become President? (Answer: governors.) Which presidential couple holds the record for the longest marriage? (Answer: George and Barbara Bush—with the record growing daily.) Who held the shortest term in office? (Answer: William Henry Harrison—one month.) Who gave birth to the most children that survived infancy? (Answer: Anna Harrison.) What was the 20-year curse? (Answer: you'll learn about this jinx that felled seven Presidents—plus dozens of other brain-teasing facts—when I present this program!)
Illustrations, stories, facts, and figures draw children into the story of our national leaders and our nation's history.
Length: 40 minutes, 10-15 minutes for questions.
Technical requirements: LCD projector and projection screen.
Audience feedback on this program:
"Content was very appropriate for the grade levels. The trivia will be remembered as a favorite moment, I'm sure....It was a wonderful day, and we'll be talking about it for quite a while!"
—Elementary school librarian, Wisconsin
" author came early and made sure all the tech equipment was set up properly....After the talk, you wanted to go out and buy the books. I would love to have her visit our school....Ann is very personable."
—Volunteer coordinator of book festival program, South Dakota
"This attractive volume, originally published in 2001, has been revised and expanded to include the 2004 election....The short profiles provide essential information for report writers....The beautiful illustrations...current information, and user-friendly layout make this a solid addition for most libraries."
—School Library Journal
April 1, 2005
"Bausum's new edition is extensively updated....Lavish use of period and modern illustrations, quotes, solid research, and the kind of offbeat facts so dear to readers young and older are included....Bausum gives a real sense of the person behind the office in every case....A valuable resource."
May 15, 2005
"This is a great book, one filled with excellent information and large amounts of trivia and "I didn't know that" facts. Definitely pick it up."
2006 Books for the Teen Age
New York Public Library
2002 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
Joint selection by the National Council for Social Studies and the Children's Book Council
"The American Presidency—A Glorious Burden"
Smithsonian National Museum of American History online exhibition
Library of Congress
American Memory Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies
Our Country's First Ladies by Ann Bausum
• Our Country's Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency
• 5th edition published 2017
• National Geographic
• 224 pages, hardcover
• More than 400 color photos and illustrations, index, bibliography
• ISBN 978-1-4263-2685-1
• Library binding edition available