WTK4Teens Kate and Gabby interviewed Juliette Turner on her new release ‘Our Presidents Rock’
Judy: Juliette, I want to thank you for allowing us to interview you again. I personally am very excited about your new book. I would like to introduce you to Kate and Gabby. Kate (14) and Gabby (12) are our KBN Action News reporters. Isn’t that cool?
Judy: Girls, let’s get started!
Kate: Thank you very much for the books you sent us. It was great to read through it.
Juliette: Oh, I’m glad you liked it!
Kate: Are there any times where there was a threat to the Constitution and the president intervened to protect it?
Juliette: This has happened many times. And our Constitution is currently under threat, and always really under threat, especially through ignorance, because when the American people don’t understand our Constitution, that’s when it is in the most danger of being overstepped or forgotten. But the example I love to use of when a president really upheld the Constitution is James Madison, because he was president during the War of 1812, which was a war when Great Britain invaded America. And James Madison could have easily declared himself a military government or a military dictator, but he didn’t, because as a framer of the Constitution, and he is often known as the father of the Constitution, he realized how important it was to maintain the checks and balances of the Constitution even during times of war. So that was a time when the Constitution could have easily have been overstepped or forgotten, but James Madison, as president, made sure that it wasn’t.
Gabby: What do you think are the five best qualities a President should have?
Juliette: The first one would have to be determination and love of country, because all of our presidents, the most important thing that they had is a deep love of America, and a want for her to succeed, and really maintain and become the best and greatest nation on earth. And another quality I think all of our presidents have had is that they have each gone through their difficulties in their life, so resiliency is a quality that our presidents must have, because nine presidents were raised by single mothers. Ulysses S. Grant wasn’t able to hold a job before he became president. Harry Truman’s small business failed. So all these presidents were very resilient and were able to bounce back after their hardships and become the president. All of our presidents have had a deep faith, and I think that played a part in their ability to rule, in their ability to lead America in the best way possible. So I think all of our presidents have not only had those qualities, but need to have those qualities in the future.
Kate: What is the most important action a president could take to protect people’s rights in America?
Juliette: The most important thing that a president can do is to uphold the Constitution, because that is the only way for our rights as American people to be protected. And I think a lot of danger has occurred in our government, with executive orders, and with the president believing that he can overstep the Congress and kind of make his own laws with executive orders. Executive orders have been around for a very long time, but I think they are being used in the past years at a more rapid and frequent rate than ever before. So the president always needs to look at the Constitution and make sure that he is inside the bounds of the Constitution, in order to protect the rights of all Americans.
Gabby: Who is your favorite president?
Juliette: That’s such a hard question! That’s like picking a favorite child—you really can’t. I can tell you some of the most underestimated presidents, because I really think that when you look through history a lot of the presidents have been overlooked. And I think one of those is Herbert Hoover. He was president during one of the hardest times in American history, during the Great Depression, and he is often blamed for causing the Great Depression, but really it was just the reckless spending of the 20s that was occurring. It is often noted by historians that if Herbert Hoover had been president during any other time in American history he would have gone down as one of America’s greatest presidents, because he was amazingly philanthropic. As a young boy he was orphaned and penniless and he became a self-made millionaire and used his money to help protect Americans during World War I and helping them fly back to America, those who were stranded in Europe, and he then returned to Europe during World War II, after he was president, to protect Americans there and also Europeans and help them with famine relief. So he was not only amazingly philanthropic, but he was a great leader as well. I think at any other time in history he would have been one of our greatest presidents. I think he is very underestimated.
Juliette: Wow. These are good questions, kids. This is really good. The most important foreign relations action of any president? One of the most landmark foreign relations achievements of any president would be the Monroe Doctrine. That was actually written by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who then became president after James Monroe. But the Monroe Doctrine really changed the way Americans viewed foreign policy, because it made America the protector of our hemisphere, of South America and Middle America. So, that was a great change. And many presidents all the way up to today, and especially up to Theodore Roosevelt, a lot of presidents used the Monroe Doctrine as justification for their actions in regard to foreign policy.
And another great foreign achievement and one that is greatly coming into play today is the Truman doctrine, when after World War II American foreign policy became as one of protecting democracies all across the world, and now on a global scale, against communism. And we are still using that and implicating it today, not necessarily against communism, but against enemies of the free world.
Gabby: Could you explain checks and balances?
Juliette: Checks and balances is a great aspect of our American government. And what’s so special about our democratic republic is that we have three different branches of government. We have the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. And what has preserved our form of government for now over 226 years is the checks and balances, and that is when the Congress can check the president and the president can check the Congress, through vetoes or anything of that nature. Then more importantly the judicial branch can check the legislative and the executive branches through their Supreme Court rulings. So that’s what’s so important about our Constitution and about our president’s role, because at any time, the president can choose to obey or disobey the checks and balances of our Constitution. It’s up to we the people to hold him accountable.
Kate: What is the most difficult challenge that affects the president today and in the past?
Juliette: Well the presidency is a very hard job, because he’s up there leading America, which is the greatest nation on earth and his hardest job I think is to work with both sides of the political forum, because it doesn’t just take one party to rule the nation—it takes two. It takes a left wing and a right wing to fly, as my mother likes to say. So the president really has to serve not only as a leader but as a mediator. He has to listen to both sides and help them come to an agreement. I think that is what we’re missing a lot today in America, and we really need to return to this, because without mediation, and without agreement, we can’t run our government effectively. So I think that is one of the most important jobs, and the most difficult of any president.
Gabby: In your book, on page 194, on Woodrow Wilson’s page, he said, “The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straightjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness.” What does that mean? What did he mean by that?
Juliette: Woodrow Wilson was a very interesting man. He didn’t exactly believe in the Constitution. And he was definitely one of America’s most progressive presidents. He didn’t agree with our legislative form of government. He thought that the executive branch should be able to act much more on its own. So he really disagreed with the limitations and enumerated powers of the Constitution, and so he didn’t want to be confined by obeying the Constitution. He actually wrote in a book that he published previous to becoming president that he more agreed with the British form of government than the American. He wanted to amend the American form of government, which he helped do through the 17th amendment, which really changed the structure of our government by changing the election of senators from state-legislature-appointed senators to popular election of senators, as the house of representatives is elected. So Woodrow Wilson really in that way was a progressive, and that’s what he meant by that statement.
Kate: Why do you think that in America there has not been a female president?
Juliette: Well I think that just is going to have to change, isn’t it, because there are many strong American leaders who are women, and it is time for women’s rights to really be put to the forefront, because we are just as able to lead as men, and quite frankly I do not know why there hasn’t been a female president. I think it’s due time.
Gabby: Have there been any first ladies who have made an impact on society?
Juliette: Definitely. There have been many great first ladies. Eleanor Roosevelt is often looked to as one of the first revolutionary first ladies by changing the position of the first lady. If you look before her, Grace Coolidge was also a great renegade, as well as Warren Harding’s wife. Both of them really changed the way the American public looked at first ladies, because Warren Harding’s wife actually was one of the first first-ladies to hold her own press conferences and show her political beliefs. Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife, Ladybird Johnson, who we love down here in Texas, was one of the first to actually see her own beliefs during her husband’s campaign. First ladies have really impacted the office of the presidency. There is always the woman behind the man, so to speak.
Kate: Where do you see America in the future?
Juliette: I always believe that America will continue to soar, and that she will continue to be the greatest nation on earth. I hope that we continue to elect presidents who follow the Constitution so that we can maintain our democratic republican form of government, because that is truly what has made America great and what has maintained her for such a long time.
Kate: If you could tell the children of America anything, what would it be?
Juliette: That’s a great question, because my generation is really kind of apathetic toward our government today, sadly. And what I believe the reason is, is because we think that our government is very distant up there in Washington, DC, and that the president is just a man who goes up there and sits in the White House and doesn’t listen to our beliefs or our thoughts. And what I really think that also stems from is the idea that the presidents are not like us at all. What I realized from my research is that the presidents were men just like us. They endured hardships, they overcame adversity, they battled with sickness and with depression. Abraham Lincoln often said that his humor and his ability to lead stemmed from his depression as a youth. So I really think that it’s inspirational to look at American history and especially our presidents, because you can see how our presidents have overcome and serve our nation so well.
Kate: Thank you very much. We really appreciate it and wish you the best of luck on your book.
Gabby: Thank you!
Juliette: Thank you so much. You guys were awesome, and great questions!
WOW, WHAT COOL KIDS!
KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK, JULIETTE!
John Quincy Adams owned a pet alligator? Ulysses S. Grant received a ticket for riding his horse too fast down the streets of Washington, D.C.? Gerald R. Ford briefly worked as a fashion model?
You are invited on a totally unique journey through presidential history with Juliette Turner, the National Youth Director of Constituting America. Through fun cartoons, quotes, great graphics, and Juliette’s quirky sense of humor, you’ll discover tons of fun new facts about the presidents of the United States and the role of the executive branch. These aren’t just a bunch of old men in suits! Many of them were ordinary people like you who overcame trials in order to become America’s leader, and all of them entered the political arena with the goal of protecting the country they loved. Written for kids by a kid, Juliette’s passion and excitement breathes new life into American history and the role of one of the most powerful positions in the world.