American Presidency Is Celebrated by National Geographic


The historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States has seized the imagination of people across the world.

The American Presidency is a spectacle even in ordinary times. The trappings of office — White House, Camp David, Air Force One, Secret Service, custom-built limousines — are only some of the props that give the Presidency its aura of power. The inauguration and other ceremonies add luster.

The Obama Presidency has kicked the spectacle up a notch, as demonstrated by the euphoria of millions of people who have come to Washington to be part of his inauguration.

So it’s fitting that National Geographic should be publishing books and airing documentaries this month that celebrate some of the many facets of the American Presidency.

Two books that are especially timely are an updated version of “Our Country’s Presidents” (National Geographic; 2009: $24.95) and “Abraham Lincoln’s Extraordinary Era” (National Geographic; 2009; $35).

“What is so exceptional about the American Presidency is that any American can seek it,” writes Barack Obama in the foreword to “Our Country’s Presidents.”


“As a student, I was impressed by the story of another man from my home state of Illinois who served as our nation’s leader 150 years ago — Abraham Lincoln.”

“President Lincoln helped save our nation, free a people, and called on all Americans to rise above their differences and come together around a common purpose. His life is an example that all of us can strive to follow.”

Our Country’s Presidents” chronicles the lives and achievements of all 44 of America’s chief executives, the chapter on Obama obviously ending on the eve of his move to the White House.

Side bars throughout the book look at different aspects of the Presidency, including the White House and its history, the powers of the President, election campaigns, Presidents at war, the First Ladies, and former Presidents serving as elder statesmen.

“The overriding lesson of our past is that people who love their country can change it,” Obama writes. “That is the lesson that inspired me to enter public service; and it is the lesson I hope you take away from the pages that follow.”


Illustration of Lincoln’s second inauguration and photo of Lincoln bible courtesy Library of Congress

Obama has drawn deeply from the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. His train ride from Philadelphia to Washington this weekend was meant to recall the trip to Washington taken by Lincoln at the start of his presidency.


Obama asked if he could swear the Presidential oath of office on the bible used at the Lincoln inauguration. He frequently quotes Lincoln in his speeches.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. How fitting it is that we should be remembering that now, when the first African American takes up the office of President of the United States.


Abraham Lincoln’s Extraordinary Era” is the official book of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is in Springfield, Illinois.

The book is a trove of stories and photos about one of America’s most loved Presidents. It is also crammed with “world perspectives,” essays about the truly extraordinary times he lived in — the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, certainly, but also great happenings in Europe, South America, Russia, and elsewhere.

Many of the images are of artifacts from the Lincoln Presidential Library, including the oldest piece of writing in Lincoln’s own hand, a page from his schoolboy “sum book.”

All of this is fascinating and brings to life one of the greatest names in history

But what makes the book so relevant is the inspiration that the 44th President draws from the 16th President.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn