February 20 is President's Day in the United States. Many Americans may be aware that two of the nation's best known chief executives were born in February -- Abraham Lincoln on the 12th and George Washington on the 22nd. But how many people know that George Washington preferred bowing to shaking hands, or that Abraham Lincoln's favorite sport was wrestling?
Noah McCullough, 10, includes those bits of information and much more in The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia, just published by Random House. The Texas native has been hailed as America's youngest Presidential historian, and he is already planning his own bid for the nation's highest office… in the year 2032.
If Noah McCullough gets to fulfill his dream and run for President some day, he will already have plenty of experience with the media. At age 10, Noah has reported on politics for Scholastic Magazine, appeared on nationwide television programs like The Tonight Show, and acted as a spokesperson for Progress for America, a conservative advocacy group.
The staunch young Republican says his interest in politics dates back to the 2000 Presidential campaign, when his school held a mock election. "I asked my teachers if my vote was an electoral vote or a regular vote, if I was a delegate or if I was a regular voter, and they didn't know. So I asked my parents to give me a Presidents' book for my birthday. So they gave me a President's book, and I read that, and then I read more and more, and learned more along the way."
Out of all that reading came The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia, in which Noah McCullough details everything from the names Presidents gave their pets to the historic milestones that took place during their terms in office.
Noah says the biggest surprise in his research was that American Presidents were just "normal people who were serving in an extraordinary position." He cites America's 36th President as an example. "Lyndon Johnson bought his wife's wedding ring for $2.50 at Sears."
So what did he learn about America's first President, the revered George Washington? "He had only one tooth at the inauguration," says Noah, adding that he wants to put to rest the myth that George Washington had wooden teeth. "He never had wooden teeth. They were dentures, and it became passed down that they were made out of wood."
The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia also notes that George Washington was said to be such a good dancer that women waited in long lines to be his partner. And Washington had what Noah McCullough describes "a flair for fashion." He even decorated his Mount Vernon estate himself. The author adds, "He was like America's first Renaissance man."
As for Abraham Lincoln, readers may be surprised to learn that he never slept in the famous Lincoln Room at the White House. "It wasn't created by the time he was there," Noah McCullough explains. "And Abraham Lincoln was the first President born outside of the 13 original colonies. He was born in Kentucky."
Noah McCullough lists Lincoln as one of his three favorite Presidents, together with George Washington and George W. Bush. "George Washington because America was clay, and he made it a masterpiece, and Abraham Lincoln because he withstood a war that was very hard for America. It ripped America apart. It was brother against brother, but he made the best decisions that he could. He was very unpopular during that war. And (within) 20 to 40 years he was considered a great President. So I believe George W. Bush, in 20 to 40 years, will be a very popular and great President."
The young author has met three Presidents himself: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
"Jimmy Carter told me he wouldn't vote for me in 2032 on the Republican ticket which is when I'm running," Noah recalls. "He said I would have to be a Democrat and his grandkids might be running."
And George W. Bush -- he shook my hand, and he said that he would vote for me in 2032. And George H.W. Bush -- he promised me his vote, but I asked him how does it feel to be one of the few people to have spanked the current leader of the free world? He said he didn't know the feeling because he didn't spank George W. -- Mrs. Bush did."
Noah McCullough has tested his knowledge of Presidential trivia against some formidable foes over the years. During the 2004 Democratic Convention, he tested Howard Dean, now the Democratic National Committee Chairman, and journalist Tim Russert. Among the questions that brought down his challengers? "Who was the first President born in a hospital? The answer is Jimmy Carter."
The young Presidential hopeful also got a chance to interview candidate John Kerry during the 2004 election. He recalls that Mr. Kerry asked him if he was going to be a journalist when he grew up. "And I said, 'No, I'm going to be the President of the United States in 2032,' and he said 'What party?' and then my dad just picked me up and left the room."
Noah McCullough has no plans to announce his campaign platform for another 26 years, as he expects the challenges facing the nation to change over the next two decades. But for now, he is focused on Social Security reform and juvenile diabetes. He is donating part of the proceeds from his book to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
As for how his study of past Presidents might help him prepare for the job himself someday, Noah McCullough says it is important to learn from their example. "A lot of the answers to problems are in our past history, and also you have to stand your ground and make decisions on your own basis. You can't live by the popularity polls. You have to live by what you believe in."
Noah McCullough is already getting a first hand feel for what life in the White House might be like. He has decorated his bedroom like the President's Oval Office, complete with a big flag, bookshelves and a Presidential seal.