Secret Lives of Presidents
by historian and author Cormac O’Brien promise revelations
about U.S. presidents and First Ladies that “your teachers
never told you about”—little-known,
quirky facts that might not always come off flattering, about
George Washington’s bad habits, for example, Jimmy Carter’s
questionable sighting, and now a new chapter on President
O’Brien is best known for his two books, Secret
Lives of the U.S. Presidents and Secret
Lives of the First Ladies.
O’Brien will visit Smith on
Monday, Feb. 18, to discuss U.S. presidents and First Ladies,
including Smith alumnae Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. His
talk, at 4:30 p.m. in Neilson Browsing Room, is sponsored
by the Smith Republican Club and the American Studies Program.
O’Brien, who is also author
of Secret Lives of the Civil War, will sign copies of his
books following his talk. He recently responded to questions
for the Gate.
What do your revelations about presidents' secrets
tell you about the people who lead our nation?
Cormac O'Brien: In
general, I’ve arrived at
the conclusion that our presidents are presented with a nearly
impossible situation. They’re elected by the people and expected
to be “one of us”; but any personal flaws they may expose
could jeopardize their ability to lead. Consequently, they
are having constantly to present an idealized, stage-crafted
version of themselves that undermines their connection to
your perspective, why is it important for Americans, or the
world, to know about some of these quirky secrets about presidents'
important to know about presidential quirks and peccadilloes
because it reinforces that they are ordinary human beings—for
better or worse.
does your research inform your politics regarding the upcoming
presidential candidates need to be so guarded while campaigning
in a media-saturated environment, I try personally to de-emphasize
the reporting that goes on about their personal traits and
attempt instead to weigh what policies they have—or have
did you embark on your series of "secrets" books?
was contacted by a friend of mine, Jason Rekulak, back in
2001. An editor at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, he wanted
to write an unconventional book about the presidents that
looked at their personal lives and knew I was a huge history
buff. I had written a book for him previously called The
Daily Disaster, which Scholastic published. Gradually,
over the course of several conversations, “Secret Lives of
the U.S. Presidents” is
what shook out.