Somebody May Need to Stop Me…

Ok, so first it was campaign ads. Then it was campaign buttons. Then I was thinking of doing campaign bumper stickers, and now I am just totally obsessed with anything to do with campaigns. But I figured I should add in some variety, since although the response to the ads and buttons have been extremely positive, I figured we should jump to something else. Believe me, there will be many more posts having to do with past campaign memorabilia in the future. Today, I thought we would look to the opposite side of a presidency. Campaigns are all about electing presidents, but there comes a time for every man (and one day woman) who serves in the White House to leave. Some are booted out, while some complete their two terms and then move on.

There are two jobs a former president must complete upon leaving office. They have to write their memoirs, and they have to build a presidential library. I have yet to visit a presidential library, but it is on my “bucket list”. Imaging being tasked with creating a giant museum, that was dedicated to you, and only you. Yes, they are technically called libraries, but let’s face it, they are giant shrines to former leaders. The libraries are a method of reflecting on a presidency, housing documents and artifacts, and acting as a link to past historical events. Without them, researching and understanding a president, and their time as leader, would be more difficult.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first to discuss some sort of presidential library. Roosevelt realized he had thousands and thousands of pages of documents from his presidency, that he wanted to be preserved. He decided to donate his presidential documents to the national government. Roosevelt believed these documents were an essential part of history, which every citizen deserved access to. He donated a piece of land in Hyde Park, New York to the government, in order to build a museum and library that could house the documents. Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, decided to do the same and also donated his documents to the federal government. This began a trend, that would become solidified through numerous Presidential Libraries Acts. Today, all papers from an administration are the property of the federal government, and the government has a major role in the administration of presidential libraries.

Today, presidential libraries are built in a location of significance to the former president, typically in their home state. Presidential libraries must be built with mostly private donations, and not surprisingly, are very expensive. A president’s approval rating leaving office has a big impact on how quickly they can get their library constructed. Jimmy Carter, for example, had an extremely difficult time building his library. His approval ratings were very low upon leaving office, and it took a lot of effort to come up with the cash necessary to build an acceptable library. The newest library, is of course George W. Bush’s, which is being constructed on the campus of Southern Methodist University. It is expected to be completed in 2013. In most cases, all living former presidents, along with the current Commander in Chief, will attend the opening of a presidential library to show support for their comrades.

Then President Bush, with former Presidents Reagan, Carter, Ford and Nixon at the opening of the Reagan Library.

It is funny how in Canada we have nothing like this. You don’t see Paul Martin busy working on a giant building bearing his name, and all the artifacts from his time as prime minister. Maybe we aren’t are committed to our history? Or maybe, we are less full of ourselves? What are your thoughts on presidential libraries? Are they over the top and unnecessary? Or do they act as a necessary historical link? I obviously, think they are magnificent, and wish we had similar buildings in Canada.

Here are some images related to presidential libraries. As you can see, some are more grandiose than others. Also below are the websites of all 13 presidential libraries, in case anyone is interested.

Hoover Library

Roosevelt Library

Truman Library

Eisenhower Library Entrance

Kennedy Library

Johnson Library

President and Mrs. Nixon are actually buried on the grounds of his library.

Ford Library

Carter Library

Reagan Library

Air Force One, used during the Nixon to Reagan administrations, being transported to the Reagan Library.

Elder Bush Library

The most radical, the Clinton Library


About Chris James

A student of political science at a Canadian University sharing stories of interest on Canadian and American political and social issues.

Posted on March 7, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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