EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by the Ohio History Connection on Feb. 1, 2022. Richland Source is part of a collaborative agreement with the Ohio History Connection to share history content at our respective sites.
This President's Day, programs at the Ohio History Center include a live presentation and several documentaries about the Ohioans who have led our country. To complement our screenings of The Story of Warren G. Harding, we asked Sherry Hall, manager of the Harding Presidential Sites, to share her thoughts on Harding’s personality and political contributions.
It’s not just about George Washington anymore. Presidents Day is about all of the men (sorry, no women yet) who have accepted the biggest job in the nation.
We are rich in presidential history in Ohio. William Henry Harrison, who lived just a month into his first term, ran for the presidency from Ohio but was born in Virginia. The seven Ohio-born presidents – James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Ulysses S. Grant, William Taft and Warren Harding -- did their best to make the nation better.
Each of our Ohio presidents injected his personality into the presidency, as has each of our leaders. As our only journalist president, Harding naturally examined all angles of a problem before making a decision.
He was interested in the human stories behind the statistics. He got his energy from listening to farmers talk about their financial struggles, to women who had lost babies due to poor infant health, to war-weary veterans who wanted to assimilate into society despite an amputated leg or damaged eyesight.
Harding’s ability to listen with his heart, as well as his head, resulted in his support for other measures, including agricultural legislation to ensure farmers wouldn’t lose their farms during a deep recession, a plan to bolster health care for women and infants, and the establishment of the Veterans Bureau.
Harding spoke from the heart when he passionately told a segregated crowd in Birmingham that everyone in the nation, regardless of the color of his or her skin, had the same rights to economic, political and educational opportunities.
He also pushed for an anti-lynching bill, even though it was bottled up in Congress.
Make a vow on this Presidents Day to spend some time this year with our Ohio presidents. Each has a strong story to tell and a wonderful site to visit.
Listen to the experts at the sites. Get a sense of these men and their families. Let them tell you what their heads – and hearts -- heard from the people.