Monday, June 23, 2008

What We're Reading - Polk by Walter R. Borneman

So I will admit that I am likely one of the few people in the Library, let alone Burbank, who when I saw this book on the shelf was excited at the prospect of reading it. As Popeye said "I yam what I yam".

That said, James K. Polk has always been an intriguing figure to me. He frequently ranks high on surveys [see Historical rankings of United States Presidents on Wikipedia] as a near great President. Yet to most of the public he's "Polk who?" Well wonder no longer as Walter R. Borneman's new biography Polk will provide the answers with a solid, readable portrait of our 11th President.

In many ways, James K. Polk is fairly typical of the men who have served as President. He encounters childhood difficulties [poor health] that lead to a more intellectual drive and focus, early entry into the political life and a political career that leads to defeats and one of the more unlikely comebacks when he becomes an unexpected candidate in the election of 1844.

And in a couple of ways Polk, is in turn, an unusual President, as when running, he stated that he'd run for only one term and is the only President who did not seek reelection. [Hard to imagine that happening again isn't it?] and also, given his drive and focus, Polk is one of the few President's to put forth his Presidential agenda and succeed at fulfilling all of it. Polk wanted tariff reform, the establishment of an independent US Treasury, resolution of the Oregon territory questions and the purchase of California (and what became the American Southwest from Mexico. [and how many Presidents are able to state their agenda and complete it?].

So if you are up to reading about one of our lesser known Presidents, I think that you'll enjoy Polk, which is a welcome addition to the collection and will likely become the standard, go to biography on a President who plays a key role both in California's and America's history.

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