Our formative years are spent absorbing everything we see and hear. Then, we spend the rest of our lives discovering the origins and reason for what we have seen and heard.
Michael J Gerhardt provides some of those origins in The Forgotten Presidents. He teaches us the great constitutional legacies of thirteen presidents whose imprints upon the American people was less than stellar. Historians brush these men aside as inept or inconsequential, yet each has made their impact on future generations of Americans in ways we see today.
While we remember the deeds of some presidents due to scandal, war, or notoriety, we remember little of those who served in times of peace and complacency.
Mt. Gerhardt describes the world of each of these thirteen leaders; we learn what each faced, what their values were, and what they believed constitutionally. Some, with the ideals of the brightest star and the purest heart, delved into a world they had no experience in, not knowing the rules of the game of politics. These became prime examples for new ideas and new disasters. Others came in with high expectations and few personal skills. Many came in on party lines, only to discover themselves when they reached their destination.
The 'aha!' moments are many as we finally understand a phrase or a policy indentured to our way of life. I might argue that a more intense knowledge of the constitution is necessary to understand much of the ideas demonstrated by Mr. Gerhardt, but in the end, we grasp his ideas through context and the subsequent political biases we have brought with us.
Mt. Gerhardt's book is an intense read, but well worth the effort.