Cover image for First dads : parenting and politics from George Washington to Barack Obama
First dads : parenting and politics from George Washington to Barack Obama
Kendall, Joshua C., 1960- , author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, 2016.

Physical Description:
391 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
"The acclaimed author of America's Obsessives provides a look into American history and the fathering styles of U.S. presidents, "--NoveList.
Prologue: the sense and sensibility of James Garfield: "It is a most intense and innocent passion" -- The preoccupied: "I should like to have your opinion on it" -- Playful pals: "My father likes snakes" -- Double-dealing dads: "You know such things happen on plantations" -- Tiger dads: "I could feel nothing but sorrow and shame in your presence" -- The grief-stricken: "I always see my boy playing tennis on the court out there" -- The nurturers: "When is my daddy coming" -- Epilogue: presidential choices: "I knew I had to share my daddy".
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E176.45 .K46 2016 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E176.45 .K46 2016 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E176.45 .K46 2016 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E176.45 .K46 2016 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Every president has had some experience as a parent. Of the 43 men who have served in the nation's highest office, 38 have fathered biological children and the other five adopted children. Each president's parenting style reveals much about his beliefs as well as his psychological make-up. James Garfield enjoyed jumping on the bed with his kids. FDR's children, on the other hand, had to make appointments to talk to him. In a lively narrative, based on research in archives around the country, Kendall shows presidential character in action. Readers will learn which type of parent might be best suited to leading the American people and, finally, how the fathering experiences of our presidents have forever changed the course of American history.

Author Notes

Joshua C. Kendall is the author of The Man Who Made Lists , about the creation of Roget's Thesaurus , and The Forgotten Founding Father , a biography of Noah Webster, the lexicographer responsible for Webster's Dictionary . He is also an award-winning journalist, with work in the Wall Street Journal , Los Angeles Time s, New York Times , Psychology Today, and BusinessWeek , among other publications. He is an Associate Fellow of Yale's Trumbull College.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A president can rightfully be called the father of his country because his role is to lead and guide. In this fact-packed book, Kendall (America's Obsessives, 2013) examines the relationships between 18 presidents and their children. He divides the group into six categories (with three dads in each) based on parenting styles, and shares examples from their lives in and out of the White House. Interestingly, Kendall goes out of his way to include at least one lesser-known president in each group, skipping popular choices such as John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and opting, instead, for Jimmy Carter (preoccupied), Woodrow Wilson (playful), John Tyler (double-dealing), John Adams (tiger), Franklin Pierce (grief-stricken), and Rutherford Hays (nurturer). Kendall points out the similarities between governing and parenting styles and includes details on the fates of political offspring (which are more often than not dire). Keeping track of all children and grandchildren can be daunting, but the insights into the presidents' lives (not to mention the dollops of gossip) will hold readers' interest.--Smith, Candace Copyright 2016 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

As biographer Kendall (The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture) argues, one can learn a great deal about American presidents by examining their parenting styles. To that end, Kendall highlights three distinct styles identified by child-development experts: authoritarian (Jimmy Carter, who put his family to work first in his peanut farming business and then in his political campaigns), authoritative (Barack Obama, who mandates family dinners five nights a week), and permissive (Ulysses S. Grant, who brought his children to visit him during the Civil War and rarely, if ever, offered a rebuke). Kendall doesn't categorically endorse or condemn any of these, only noting that pros and cons exist for each. Perhaps most interesting is Kendall's take on a side issue: How does dedication to parenting affect a political career? Can one have both? The book's organization leaves something to be desired, interpolating brief histories of presidents and their families into the text seemingly at random, rather than chronologically or by parenting style. Nonetheless, this volume may give readers a better idea of what qualities to look for in their leaders. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

In this fascinating title, award-winning journalist Kendall gives a new flavor to the presidential biography with a look at fatherhood as experienced by the White House residents. Divided into chapters such as -"Tiger Dads" and "The Grief Stricken," it groups presidents by parenting styles, giving new insight into their already rich lives. Jimmy Carter, for example, rarely spent time at home when his children were young and was an "autocratic head of household" who "held the expectation that those junior to me would honor my commands." In contrast, Gerald Ford falls under the nurturing category, while James Garfield supposedly delighted in jumping on the bed with his kids. VERDICT This inspiring title is likely to appeal to many different readers. History buffs, U.S. presidential scholars, and Dad on Father's Day will all relish this walk though time and the shared experience of parenting. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Sense and Sensibility of James Garfieldp. 1
"It Is a Most Innocent and Intense Passion"
1 The Preoccupiedp. 11
"I Should Like to Have Your Opinion on It"
2 Playful Palsp. 71
"My Father Likes Snakes"
3 Double-Dealing Dadsp. 130
"You Know Such Things Happen on Plantations"
4 Tiger Dadsp. 185
"I Could Feel Nothing but Sorrow and Shame in Your Presence"
5 The Grief-Strickenp. 240
"I Always See My Boy Playing Tennis on the Court Out There"
6 The Nurturersp. 294
"When Is My Daddy Coming?"
Epilogue: Presidential Choicesp. 347
"I Knew I Had to Share My Daddy"
Acknowledgmentsp. 353
Sources and Notesp. 357
Photo Creditsp. 375
Indexp. 379