Kenneth C. Davis is the author of "Don't Know Much About History" and the forthcoming "Don't Know Much About the American Presidents" scheduled for publication on September 18, 2012. You can read more about Kenneth here.
Today, as the president takes the oath of office once more, the palpable hope and excitement of Obama's first inauguration has waned. How will President Obama's second inaugural compare to his first, and how does it fit the history of second inaugurals, from Lincoln on forward? Historian and author Kenneth C. Davis explores the history of second inaugurals, and discusses the expectations for President Obama.
Do you know the first president to write a memoir? Or the one to host the first White House Easter Egg Roll? And if we were to grade each president, would Reagan really come out on top — as many modern Republicans suggest? Kenneth C. Davis knows plenty about the commander-in-chiefs. He's the author the new book, in stores this week, “Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents.”
Historian Kenneth C. Davis takes us on a historical tour of the Olympic Games, and reminds us that the Olympics have always been about politics as much as games.
The national anthem commemorates the struggle of our nascent country at war. The lyrics come from a poem Francis Scott Key penned 200 years ago during the War of 1812: "The Defence of Fort McHenry." But does the song reflect the country today, centuries later?
It's the ultimate summer reading list: the Library of Congress has announced a list of the 88 "Books That Shaped America," an eclectic mix of literature that has contributed to the American conversation over the years.
Two hundred years ago today, the War of 1812 began. The United States was still in its infancy when Congress declared war, but by the time the Americans and British signed the Treaty of Ghent in 1815, the U.S. had emerged from its adolescence into adulthood.
If Tuesday's vote doesn't lean in his favor, Scott Walker will join the ranks of only a handful of politicians who've been ousted in recall elections. The Wisconsin vote has grabbed headlines for months, but it turns out that booting a governor from office is a fairly rare event. Ken Davis takes a historical perspective in this audio essay, examining recalls of the past.
It’s Memorial Day, a day that Americans often conflate with Veterans Day. Just to clarify: Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, was founded just after the Civil War; Veterans Day, once known as Armistice Day, was founded after World War I. Veterans Day is in November; Memorial Day, of course, is the last Monday in May. Kenneth C. Davis, author "Don't Know Much About History," gives a more comprehensive history of the origins and evolution of Memorial Day.
Here on The Takeaway, we don't make predictions about the upcoming presidential race. But, as always, history repeats itself. So a look at the past can give a glimpse to the future. We call on our friend, historian Kenneth C. Davis for a little help. He's the author of "Don't Know Much About History". And today he's talking about one-term presidents and what the failure to win re-election means for their legacy.
As they look towards the general elections, it's clear that President Obama and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney both face very specific problems. Romney’s problem is one of personality: no candidate in the modern polling era with personal favorability ratings as low as his has ever won the presidency. Obama doesn't have a popularity problem, but he does face some trouble with the economy: no incumbent president has ever won re-election with unemployment rates as high as they are likely to be in November. Carroll Doherty, associate director for Pew Research Center, and Kenneth C. Davis, author of "Don't Know Much About History," explain what is behind these numbers.
On Sunday, during an appearance on ABC News' "This Week," Rick Santorum pushed his socially conservative message to new heights by denouncing the separation of church and state. Specifically, he stated that John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech supporting the split "made [him] want to throw up," and began the turn away from American values. However, some historians assert that the age-old debate over the role of religion in politics is actually quite recent, and only entered public discourse with the rise of the religious right in the late 80s and early 90s.
In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, writer Timothy Egan makes this observation about the voters turning out for GOP primary contests around the country: "There is no other way to put this without resorting to demographic bluntness: the small fraction of Americans who are trying to pick the Republican nominee are old, white, uniformly Christian and unrepresentative of the nation at large." He goes on to make this observation about the demographic of the Republican primary electorate: "They are much closer to the population of 1890 than of 2012."
Some years just seem to have less impact than others. But 2011 held the Arab Spring, the death of Osama bin Laden, Occupy Wall Street, protests against austerity measures and the ousting of Berlusconi, as well as the end of the Iraq War. Which events of the past year will make it to the history textbooks, and which will be esoteric stories we confuse our grandkids with?
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has never shied away from controversy. This time it is the commentator's new history book, "Killing Lincoln," that's in the eye of the storm. A reviewer for the National Park Service's bookstore at Ford's Theatre has recommended that the store pull the book due to "lack of documentation" and "factual errors." O'Reilly responded to his critics on his show. (Video after the jump.)
"In God We Trust" — that's what it says on our greenbacks. It's the national motto and on Tuesday, the House voted to reaffirm the motto. Virginia Congressman J. Randy Forbes, the man who sponsored the bill, says that this vote is to "directly confront a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges, and efforts to remove God from the public domain." There are about five Democrats who have challenged the bill, but everyone else seems to be pretty much on board.
Today is Columbus Day, a federal holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who famously landed on American soil in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, after spending over two months sailing from Spain. His voyage across the Atlantic prompted many other explorers to follow suit, eventually opening the doors to settlement and trade between North America and the rest of the world. Many people disagree, however, with applying the word "discovered" to Columbus's landing in America, and others criticize him for his cruelty toward Native Americans, and insist that he doesn't deserve a holiday.
Before President Obama had even made his deficit speech, Congressman Paul Ryan spelled out his concerns over its impact. On Sunday, he accused Obama on Fox News of launching "class warfare" by introducing the so-called Buffett Rule. The president rebuffed the remarks saying "This is not class warfare. It's math."
On this Labor Day many are celebrating a free day off from work with barbecues and beach trips. The holiday originally started in 1882 in New York City as a way for early unions to organize for basic workers rights. On the first Labor Day 30,000 union members to a picnic with their families in Union Square Park.
American students are worse at U.S. history than any other subject. This is not a new fact, but continues to be troubling, particularly for Kenneth Davis, author of "Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned." The New York Times reports that only 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated "proficiency" in U.S. history and 55 percent scored "below basic" in nationwide testing. In other words: we don't know our own history and haven't improved for the past two decades. Davis takes a closer look at the reasons behind this continued lack of historical knowledge.
Relations between the White House and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remain strained, after a confluence of U.S. policy statements and Israeli response has left the two countries' leaderships at odds on the path towards peace. The diplomatic strife comes mainly from comments the president made in a speech last week saying that land swaps and a general return to pre-1967 borders in the area was the best way forward for Palestinians and Israelis. But what has America's relationship been with these borders for the last 44 years?