Wisdom from the Oval Office

wisdomfromovaloffice-co_200A new compilation of quotes is a friendly stroll through time with the American Presidents.

by S. Saheb.

From one-liners to substantial speeches, every entry in Wisdom from the Oval Office by Pierce Word offers a thought-provoking snapshot into the life and times of some of the most prominent figures in American history. Covering past (and present) Presidents’ thoughts on patriotism, religion, policies, and war and their more intimate confessions about love, family, friendship, and happiness, this compilation delivers an incisive yet unbiased window into a world often lost to dusty libraries.

The book is comprised of forty topics, ranging from the domestic and political to the moral and philosophical. Within each chapter, the quotes are presented chronologically by President, from Washington to Obama, allowing the reader insight into the ever-changing American viewpoint in the years since the creation of the Union. This arrangement reveals surprising similarities between Presidents identifying with opposing parties as well as, ironically, differences, subtle or otherwise, between Presidents from the same party.

The largest two chapters in the book, at around 20 pages each, are on America and the government. Reading through these two chapters offers an abridged version of American history as the presidential words address the major concerns of their tenure. The excerpts from each inaugural and farewell address allude to the political climate of each President’s term. At the same time, quotes from lesser-known personal records and official letters humanize these figures and help readers identify with their beliefs and fallacies.

Other quotes from infamous speeches reinforce their notoriety by reminding the reader of the grave circumstances under which they were delivered, including the very first quote in the book — “The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves” — given by George Washington in 1776 before the Battle of Long Island.

Other quotes offer a sobering reminder of the misplaced optimism of the past, as evidenced by Herbert Hoover’s, “In America today, we are nearer a final triumph over poverty than in any other land,” and John Quincy Adams’ assertion on Independence Day, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

Some passages are eerily clairvoyant, such as, “Someday, following the example of the United States of America, there will be a United States of Europe,” by George Washington in 1777.

There are also instances where the selections that follow each other do not sound as they could have been spoken by the same person; incongruous though it may be, it serves to enlighten the reader about the multiple facets of Presidents who lived before living memory.

With canny self-knowledge, Dwight Eisenhower, arguably one of the most candid Presidents, is quoted in his witty quips on the government he managed, such as, “Any man who wants to be President is either an egomaniac or crazy,” and, “Indeed, I think that people want peace so much, that one of these days, governments had better get out the way and let them have it,” as well as conventionally presidential quotations like, “Here in America, we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels — men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

Most other indexes of quotes, be they in the Internet or even catalogs such as this one, do not allow readers quite the juxtaposition of chronology, topic, and person as this book does. From the serious to the funny and the ironic to the sobering, every flip through Wisdom offers an interesting journey and new material to muse over.

Pierce Word, the author, is an avid follower of politics and history since an early age. It led him to travel Europe and pursue his studies in American University in Cairo in the field of Middle Eastern Studies. He then went onto further studies at the University of Chicago and Boston University and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.

To read more articles from our Autumn 2013 issue, subscribe to either the print or eReader edition.


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