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getty images/istock

Who Were the Presidents’ Favorite Presidents?

getty images/istock
getty images/istock

Everyone’s got their role models, and world leaders are no exception. Among U.S. presidents, many—including these eight—have professed a deep admiration for some of their predecessors. Which commander-in-chief would top your list?

1. James Buchanan

Born during George Washington’s administration, Buchanan regarded the first president as his personal hero.

2. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln took Washington fanboyism to a whole new level. In Honest Abe’s mind, the man was more than some great leader or national hero. Washington, he felt, also deserved to be remembered as nothing less than a completely flawless person. “It makes human nature better to believe that one human being was perfect,” Lincoln reasoned, “… that human perfection is possible.”

3. Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy admired Abraham Lincoln so much that, during his 1905 inaugural ceremony, the “Bull Moose” wore a ring that contained an actual lock of hair from the 16th president. When Roosevelt’s first daughter, Alice, happened to be born on Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th), he was positively elated by the coincidence.

4. Harry S Truman

Having grown up in Jackson County, Missouri, Old Hickory always held a special place in Truman’s heart. Thanks to his lobbying efforts, a dynamic statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback was mounted before the local courthouse, where it still stands today (a miniature version later went on display in Truman’s Oval Office). The 33rd president also admired Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Polk, Cleveland, Wilson, and both Roosevelts.

5. Dwight Eisenhower

Who did Ike like? Washington. Eisenhower began admiring his fellow general-turned-president at a very young age, and devoured several texts on his revolutionary battle strategies. He was also quite captivated by the lives of Julius Caesar, Socrates, and Hannibal.

6. Lyndon Johnson

Johnson campaigned so energetically for FDR’s social programs in 1937 that he dropped 40 pounds while doing so. Later, he got to meet his idol when Roosevelt visited the Lone Star state shortly thereafter. During their chat, 28-year-old Johnson (ambitious as always) straight-up asked the president for an Appropriations Committee post, a request FDR politely dodged.

7. Richard Nixon

Even as a young boy of 11, Nixon waxed poetic about Abraham Lincoln, calling him a “martyred patriot” in his childhood diary. While running for office, Nixon frequently called upon his Republican colleagues to help unify the party as Lincoln once had.

8. Ronald Reagan

The Gipper was quite fond of Calvin Coolidge. “I happen to be an admirer of silent Cal,” he said, “and believe he has been badly treated by history… I’ve done considerable reading and researching of his presidency. He served his country well and accomplished much.” Reagan’s decision to replace the Cabinet Room’s long-standing Truman portrait with Coolidge’s likeness caused a brief media uproar in 1980.

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Big Questions
What Does the Sergeant at Arms Do?
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Donald Trump arrive for a meeting with the House Republican conference.
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Donald Trump arrive for a meeting with the House Republican conference.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

In 1981, shortly after Howard Liebengood was elected the 27th Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate, he realized he had no idea how to address incoming president-elect Ronald Reagan on a visit. “The thought struck me that I didn't know what to call the President-elect,'' Liebengood told The New York Times in November of that year. ''Do you call him 'President-elect,' 'Governor,' or what?” (He went with “Sir.”)

It would not be the first—or last—time someone wondered what, exactly, a Sergeant at Arms (SAA) should be doing. Both the House and the Senate have their own Sergeant at Arms, and their visibility is highest during the State of the Union address. For Donald Trump’s State of the Union on January 30, the 40th Senate SAA, Frank Larkin, will escort the senators to the House Chamber, while the 36th House of Representatives SAA, Paul Irving, will introduce the president (“Mister [or Madam] Speaker, the President of the United States!”). But the job's responsibilities extend far beyond being an emcee.

The Sergeants at Arms are also their respective houses’ chief law enforcement officers. Obliging law enforcement duties means supervising their respective wings of the Capitol and making sure security is tight. The SAA has the authority to find and retrieve errant senators and representatives, to arrest or detain anyone causing disruptions (even for crimes such as bribing representatives), and to control who accesses chambers.

In a sense, they act as the government’s bouncers.

Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin escorts China's president Xi Jinping
Senat Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin (L) escorts China's president Xi Jinping during a visit to Capitol Hill.
Astrid Riecken, Getty Images

This is not a ceremonial task. In 1988, Senate SAA Henry Giugni led a posse of Capitol police to find, arrest, and corral Republicans missing for a Senate vote. One of them, Republican Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, had to be carried to the Senate floor to break the filibustering over a vote on senatorial campaign finance reform.

While manhandling wayward politicians sounds fun, it’s more likely the SAAs will be spending their time on administrative tasks. As protocol officer, visits to Congress by the president or other dignitaries have to be coordinated and escorts provided; as executive officer, they provide assistance to their houses of Congress, with the Senate SAA assisting Senate offices with computers, furniture, mail processing, and other logistical support. The two SAAs also alternate serving as chairman of the Capitol Police board.

Perhaps a better question than asking what they do is pondering how they have time to do it all.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Alexander Hamilton’s Son Also Died in a Duel
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton on July 11, 1804, the scene must have been eerily familiar to the former Secretary of the Treasury. After all, his son died in a similar setting just three years earlier.

On November 20, 1801, 19-year-old Philip Hamilton and his friend Richard Price had a run-in with a young lawyer named George I. Eacker at Manhattan's Park Theatre. A supporter of Thomas Jefferson, Eacker had delivered a Fourth of July speech that harshly criticized the elder Hamilton, and his son was apparently determined to take revenge.

On that fateful day in November, according to biographer Ron Chernow, Price and the younger Hamilton "barged into a box where Eacker was enjoying the show ... [then] began taunting Eacker about his Fourth of July oration."

As onlookers started to stare, Eacker asked the two young men to go into the lobby, where he called the pair "damned rascals." Tempers rose, and although the trio went to a tavern in an attempt to settle their differences, they failed miserably. Later the same night, Eacker had a letter from Price challenging him to duel.

Customs of the time meant that Eacker had little choice but to accept or face social humiliation. He and Price met that Sunday in New Jersey, where the penalties for dueling were less severe than in New York. They exchanged four shots without injury—and considered the matter between them closed.

Philip Hamilton wasn't so lucky. Cooler heads tried to negotiate a truce with Eacker's second, but their efforts were also for naught. Once the duel had been scheduled for November 23 on a sandbar in today's Jersey City, the elder Hamilton advised his son to preserve his honor by wasting his first shot—by waiting until Eacker fired first or firing into the air, a move the French called the delope. The intent was to cut the duel short, and, if the other side fired to kill, plainly show they had blood on their hands.

Philip seemed to follow his father's advice. For about a minute after the duel officially began, neither man made a move. Then, Eacker raised his pistol, and Philip did too. Eacker fired, and Philip shot back, though it may have been an involuntary reaction to having been hit. The bullet tore through Philip's body and settled in his left arm. Despite being rushed to Manhattan, he died early the next morning.

On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr also departed to New Jersey, this time Weehawken, to settle their infamous differences. This time, the elder Hamilton fired the first shot—and he aimed to miss. (According to his second, anyway.) Burr, on the other hand, seemed to have every intention of connecting with his target. He shot Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet lodged in his spine.

Just like Philip, Hamilton died the next day.


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