Presidential Trivia Tidbits

On Inauguration Day, I thought I’d cross-post some trivia tidbits that I blogged after Election Day at

Obama will be the first president in U.S. history whose last name ends in a vowel other than E or Y. He is, not surprisingly, the first Barack to appear on a presidential ticket. Joe Biden is the fourth Joe/Joseph, but the first successful one.

While Barack Obama is tall at 6 ft. 1 in., that is only enough to tie him for ninth place in presidential history. His wife Michelle, however, will be tied for first place as the tallest first lady—like Eleanor Roosevelt, she stands 5 ft. 11 in. tall.

President John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic elected to national office in the U.S. There have been other Catholics on national tickets—Al Smith (1928) and John Kerry (2004) for president; Bill Miller (1964), Ed Muskie (1968), Sargent Shriver (1972), and Geraldine Ferraro (1984) for vice president—but they all lost. Vice President-Elect Joe Biden is Catholic, though, so the string of Catholic losses is now over, and John F. Kennedy is no longer the exception that proves the rule.

Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan, and of Luo ethnicity. Luo Kenyans, disgruntled over fraud in the recent presidential election that they say deprived their candidate, Raila Odinga, of a victory, have noted how ironic it is that the U.S. will have a Luo president before Kenya does.

Obama will represent a third consecutive term of Harvard-degreed presidents (Bush has a Harvard M.B.A.). He will end the record five-term streak that Yale had been running (both Bushes went to Yale as undergraduates; Bill Clinton went there for law school), and which Hillary Clinton would have extended. Obama is the second Harvard-trained lawyer to become president; the first was Rutherford Hayes. This ties Yale Law School (Presidents Clinton and Ford).

Barack Obama is the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote since 1976. He is only the fourth Democrat in the party’s entire 180-year history to be elected with more than 51% of the vote.

When a president does not run for reelection, it is difficult for his party to keep control even in the best of times. Since World War II, only Ronald Reagan has managed the feat. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Clinton, and now Bush have all been succeeded by members of the opposing party.

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6 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    You left out this tidbit. As of noon today, apparently the curse of tecumseh is officially dead.

    While Wiki is not generally trustworthy, this page on it is accurate so far as i know, to fill you in on this.

  2. CrazyTrain says:

    Ahh, the importance of punctuation. At first, I read “He is, not surprisingly, the first Barack to appear on a presidential ticket” as “He is not, surprisingly, the first Barack to appear on a presidential ticket” and thought who was the first one then?

  3. Brian Kalt says:

    A.W., it ended in 1989 when President Reagan left office alive.

  4. A.W. says:


    Well, one theory is that since Reagan was shot, the curse wasn’t beat yet. fwiw, which admittedly is not much.

  5. George W. Bush did face an assassination attempt, though. Of course, most recent presidents have. But if the curse is that every president elected in a year ending in zero either dies in office or faces an assassination attempt, then it doesn’t break with Reagan or Bush.

    If it was a curse initiated in 1811, why didn’t it affect James Monroe, who was elected in 1820? Seriously, if people are going to attribute this trend to a curse, the least they could have done is find some event between 1820 and 1840 to tie it to.

  6. Bart says:

    Also A.W.,Obamas term is not over yet.