They are international superstars, and yet they are public servants. We are united by the ideal they represent, but we are often divided by the policies they enact. As the 2012 election concludes, take a look beyond the ballots and past the process.
Explore President Obama’s inspiring upbringing. See President George W. Bush’s choices in a whole new way. Discover President Clinton’s perception of his own complexities. Get a rare glimpse at President George H.W. Bush’s personal side. And follow President Reagan’s road from home to Hollywood to the White House.
Written by the five most recent Americans to be known as the Leader of the Free World, the Commander in Chief, Mr. President and (to a select few) POTUS, here are five books that transcend politics to help us understand the human beings who have occupied the Oval Office.
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
"That my father looked nothing like the people around me — that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk — barely registered in my mind.
In fact, I can recall only one story that dealt explicitly with the subject of race; as I got older, it would be repeated more often, as if it captured the essence of the morality tale that my father's life had become."
Decision Points by George W. Bush"The decision process was all-consuming. I thought about it, talked about it, analyzed it, and prayed about it. I had a philosophy I wanted to advance, and I was convinced I could build a team worthy of the presidency. I had the financial security to provide for my family, win or lose. Ultimately, the decisive factors were less tangible. I felt a drive to do more with my life, to push my potential and test my skills at the highest level."
My Life by Bill Clinton"Perhaps if Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had lived, things would have been different. Perhaps if Humphrey had used the information about Nixon's interference with the Paris peace talks, things would have been different. Perhaps not. Regardless, those of us who believed that the good of the 1960s outweighted the bad would fight on, still fired by the heroes and dreams of our youth."
All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings by George H.W. Bush"Dear Mum, Well today was the big day—in fact one of the biggest thrills of my life, I imagine. We marched down to the #1 hanger and they read out the names for the first hop. I was in. I went down, got my gear, and then consulted the board. Plane P-18 1st hop—2nd hop Plane P-18 check pilot Boyle. I immediately went around trying to find out what kind of a check Boyle is. All I got was 'pretty tough'. This was quite disheartening."
An American Life: The Autobiography by Ronald Reagan
"If I'd gotten the job I wanted at Montgomery Ward, I suppose I would never have left Illinois.
I've often wondered at how lives are shaped by what seem like small and inconsequential events, how an apparently random turn in the road can lead you a long way from where you intended to go—and a long way from wherever you expected to go. For me, the first of these turns occurred in the summer of 1932, in the abyss of the Depression."