90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reading Into The Presidential Reading List

President Theodore Roosevelt, considered one of the most well-read American politicians of all time, reads a book with his dog Skij on his lap in Colorado in April 1905. (AP)

Does what a president reads give insight into how he might lead? Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Baton Rouge Advocate, thinks so. He points to the historical examples including President John Adams.

“His reading of the classics and of Greek and Roman political commentators really shaped how he went about forming his presidency,” Heitman told Here & Now’s Robin Young.

“…there is a lot to be said for seeing a president getting off of Air Force One and have a book under his arm.”

Heitman also points to President John F. Kennedy, who read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” prior to the Cuban Missile crisis, and President Theodore Roosevelt, whose love of the wilderness could draw its roots from the fact that he read John James Audubon as a child.

Heitman also has suggestions for the presidential reading list: Poetry, since a president has a limited time to read for pleasure. Novels, because they “can help cultivate a sense of empathy, which is something that you certainly want in a president.” And finally, presidential histories, because “it is useful to read how other presidents perform their duties.”

Historically, literacy initiatives have been advanced by First Ladies, not by presidents.

“We had Barbara Bush, who was a big pro-literacy advocate, also the later Mrs. Bush [was a librarian],” Heitman said.

Ideally, the president would also play a role in encouraging reading, Heitman said.

“If we want to be a reading nation and we want to encourage reading among children and grown-ups alike, there is a lot to be said for seeing a president getting off of Air Force One and have a book under his arm,” Heitman said.

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • J__o__h__n

    My Pet Goat

  • Arnold Rots

    “Does what a president read give insight into how they might lead?” This mix of singular (a president) and plural (they) which is all too common these days, especially from people who know better, drives me nuts. If one finds it too burdensome to say or write “he or she”, there is still no excuse in a case like this: “does what presidents read give insight into how they might lead” – it isn’t hard to produce correct grammar, is it? By the way, it should have been “reads” anyway.

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Edited. Thanks.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 1 5 Comments

Breastfeeding Gets A Boost From Philadelphia Hospitals

The city's major birthing hospitals have stopped sending new moms home with baby formula, to encourage breastfeeding.

August 29 Comment

World Championship Tug-Of-War Is ‘A Thing Of Beauty’

This weekend's competition in Wisconsin is a bit more intense than it was in your grade school gym class.

August 29 Comment

Repelling Mosquitoes With A Natural Sticky Patch

The Kite Patch releases odors that block the bug's carbon dioxide receptors, sending them in another direction.

August 28 3 Comments

Catching Up With The Polyphonic Spree

The choral rock band out of Dallas, Texas, has been thrilling audiences with its live performances for over a decade.