George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson did it. So did Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William H. Taft. More recently, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have done it, too. And, yes, Barack Obama has done it as well.
Write letters to their daughters, that is.
It’s the truth. These U.S. presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, took time out from presiding over momentous affairs of state while in the White House, to perform a parental act no less momentous in its own right. They shared advice with their daughters on topics from education and politics to friendship, marriage, parenting, home life and even the art of letter-writing itself.
With the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign now down to the wire, it’s timely to recognize such historic letters as revealing of presidential timber.
George Washington, for example, presumed to offer his step-daughters advice on love. Thomas Jefferson outlined a detailed daily schedule for his daughter Martha. “Keep my letters and read them at times,” it ended, “that you may always have present in your mind those things that will endear you to me.”
Rutherford B. Hayes warned his daughter “to curb her rebellious spirit.” Theodore Roosevelt, while preparing his assault on San Juan Hill, offered fatherly reassurance to his daughters Alice Lee Roosevelt and Ethel Carow Roosevelt. William Taft counseled his daughter Helen about her impending marriage.
Indeed, there’s a book called “First Daughters: Letters Between U.S. Presidents and Their Daughters.” The anthology, a collection of private correspondence between 21 of the 31 U.S. presidents who had daughters, was co-authored by Gerard W. Gawalt, curator of the papers of presidential families in the Library of Congress.
His co-author? His daughter, Ann G. Gawalt, who came up with the idea for the book in the first place.
Most recently, President Barack Obama wrote an open letter to his daughters, Sasha and Malia. Titled “What I Want For You – And Every Child In America,” it appeared in Parade magazine soon after his election in 2008. “It is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself,” the new president wrote, “that you will realize your true potential.”
Hey, if U.S. Presidents can take the time to do it, you can, too. Here’s my six-part series with advice about how: