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Warren G. Harding, Newspaper Man

    Warren G. Harding is best-known for the “big” person he became. Born on November second of 1865 in Corsica, Ohio, the first child of George and Phoebe Harding, he eventually became the twenty-ninth president of the United States of America, one closely allied with the Conservatives of his party. On August second, 1923, he died of a heart attack, having lived a full, outspoken life. Few consider who he was before he became president, before he entered public office. Few are aware that he was the first—and thus far, the only—newspaper editor and publisher to become president. Yet, much of his life was spent in that field.

     As a young man, he worked at the Caledonia Argus, a local newspaper which his father owned part of. Harding, having displayed no enthusiasm for farming, served an apprenticeship in printing at the Argus. It was through that apprenticeship that he learned the basics of journalism and the business of newspapers.

     While attending Ohio Central College, he worked with Mount Gilead’s Union Register. Before graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree after two years, he succeeded in creating and managing the school’s newspaper. All of this added experience he would later use with his own paper.

     After graduation, he landed a job with the Marion Mirror as a pressman, reporter, and printer. He enjoyed working with this paper, though its left-leaning views continuously irritated him. In 1884, Harding was sent by the Mirror to the Republican National Convention in Chicago. He was there to report and nothing else, as the Mirror saw it.

     At the convention, the Republicans chose James G. Blaine for their presidential candidate. Harding must have been pleased with the decision, because he came home wearing a Blaine campaign pin. When his boss at the Mirror saw this, Harding lost his job.

     Nowadays, such unfair treatment would be met either with a court date for a lawsuit or complete and utter silence. Harding did neither. Though it was likely he was discouraged, he didn’t let that discouragement get the best of him. And rather than suing the Mirror, he attacked it in a less direct way.

     With the help of a friend, he purchased a miserable, four-page paper called the Marion Star. At that time, it was one of three Marion papers and as records have it, doing the worst. It didn’t take Harding long to change that. He updated it, multiplied its circulation, and pushed it from weekly to daily, renaming it the Marion Daily Star.

     Not only did he succeed in making the Star successful, but because of his incredible journalistic talent and fervor, the Marion Star unseated the Marion Independent as Marion’s official paper of record.

     He did all of this while using the paper to express and explain his conservative, Republican principles and to boost the town it represented. His conservative belief that businessmen were the true progressives is probably part of why he was so happy with his town, which at that time, was verging on an economic boom. The town had become a transportation hub, due to railroads, and manufacturing companies were making it a place of action. Huber Manufacturing made farm equipment and the Marion Steam Shovel Company was becoming a world leader in the production of steam shovels. Harding, in his editorials, spoke positively of his town, adding to its habitants’ confidence. The strong stands he took concerning law and order, along with his firm belief in rigid enforcement and sentencing, also rang through in the Star and more than likely helped make Marion a safe place to live.

     His work with the Marion Star, which he eventually owned completely, prepared him to be president of the greatest nation on earth. It added to his leadership skills and strengthened him in his beliefs further than he’d been before. His experience with the Mirror displayed his lack of fear towards opposition—even to those in higher power—and how he dealt with losing his job there showed him to be a man with not only a good head on his shoulders, but also a good heart and a well-mannered temperament. The action he took at fourteen and fifteen in starting a college newspaper from scratch displayed his determination, drive, and leadership skills, all traits that he would need and use as president.

Eldridge Cleaver: Turned Around

     Eldridge Cleaver is known first for his influence on the Black Power movement and then for his denouncement of the Black Panthers, a group he helped start. His life started out rough, militant, but after a number of years on the run, his ideas changed completely. His is a life that proves, there’s no place so far gone that you can never make it back. There’s no thing you can do that will have you forever doing that. There is always the possibility of change and always the choice of turning around.

     Larry Eldridge Cleaver was born in Wabbaseka, Arkansas in 1935 on the last day of August. Twice in his childhood, he moved with his family, first to Phoenix, Arizona, then to Los Angeles, California. It was in LA that he stayed, receiving an education not of books, but of violence and crime. He was arrested numerous times for thefts and selling marijuana. At thirteen, he was placed in reform school for the first time. From then on, he was in and out of detention centers and prisons, never learning the lessons he was supposed to learn, only growing more bitter and hateful to the “white man” who was taking away his freedom.

     In 1957, this hate reached a profound height, when he was arrested for rape and convicted of assault with the intent of murder. This conviction placed him in prison again, his blood continuing to boil beneath his skin. It was while he was in prison at this time that he began to write the essays that would become the foundation of the Black Power movement.

     These essays were first published serially in Ramparts magazine. Later, they were compiled into book form, under the title Soul on Ice. Through these writings, Cleaver’s hate for white people spread like a disease throughout the country. The essays expressed his views on relations between “races” and recounted his criminal involvement, one being serial rape. In a certain essay, he said he delighted in breaking “white man’s law” by raping “his women”. He said he “wanted to send waves of consternation”—waves of unquenchable fear—“through the white race.” Those were his exact words and they revealed him to be a man dangerous to the entire nation, whether in word or deed. Yet, after only nine years in prison, he was released.

     On his release, he helped found the Black Panthers, described in a CNN article as a “militant, leftist, anti-establishment black nationalist group based in Oakland, California.” Cleaver served as spokesperson for the group, with the title of Minister of Information. It was now that his life became influential and hate became his motto. He wanted “total liberty for black people”, meaning they could do anything and everything, while the rest of the population stood aside, helpless. It was either that, he said, “or total destruction for America.” He was willing to stop at nothing until he got what he wanted.

     What one may find the most shocking is that while some saw Cleaver as the terrorist he was, others saw him as a great man fighting for his rights. When Ronald Reagan was the governor of California, Cleaver was invited to speak at the University of California at Berkeley. Reagan was furious: “If Eldridge Cleaver is allowed to teach our children, they may come home one night and slit our throats.” Reagan’s statement was in no way unfounded.

In 1968, Eldridge Cleaver ran for president of the U.S. on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. It was during that year that he was shot during a Black Panther ambush on Oakland police. He’d led the ambush and provoked a shoot-out, which was always a main strategy of Black Panther tactics. “We would go out and ambush cops,” Cleaver said in an interview with Reason.com, after his denunciation of the Panthers, “but if we got caught we would blame it on them and claim innocence.”

     This time, however, his claims to innocence weren’t believed, and he was charged with attempted murder. For the first time in his life, he didn’t just run across town, he fled the country, heading first to Algeria and then to Cuba. He spent the next seven years wandering the Communist world, the world he’d previously seen in a gold-edged, brilliant light. In 1975, he came back to the states, “deeply disillusioned with revolutionary politics. (reason.com)”

     He was a different person. He renounced the Black Panthers, the violent group his book was bible to. He became combatant against Communism and ran for a Republican nomination for a Senate seat unsuccessfully. During that Congressional campaign, he said, “I have taken an oath in my heart to oppose communism until the day I die.” This statement was evidence of the political change that he’d experienced. This change was significant, though he struggled with drug addictions for a number of years after his return, especially since the change wasn’t limited to his political views.

     Eldridge Cleaver went from an angry, hateful, violent Communist, to a man who was proud to be an American. He went from someone who hated Ronald Reagan, to one who supported him in his run for the presidency. In an interview with Reason.com, he spoke of this:

“I myself really used to be obsessed with—I used to really plan on how to kill Ronald Reagan. I’m talking about hatred, hatred that was blind to any other influence. I don’t have that hatred anymore. I’ve had opportunities to kill Ronald Reagan going around the country, and it never occurred to me to do that. And knowing my own heart and how I’ve walked away from hatred, I think other people have done the same thing.”

Other people did do the same thing. Cleaver spoke of a time when he was pulled over on the highway for speeding. When the policeman came to his door, he recognized him. The man was an ex-Panther.

     Eldridge Cleaver, in his ideas, words, and actions, changed completely. He is proof that no matter what you do, no matter how far down the wrong road you’ve gone, you can always change. You can always turn around.

Let's Hear From: Mitali Perkins

MG: You were born in India. Do you remember much about moving to the States?

Mitali: I was seven when we moved to Flushing, Queens, so I remember some of it vividly--the cold winter, the new school, the small apartment, and the tall, tall buildings.

MG: Tell us about your fire escape.

Mitali: It's a metaphor for the relief stories can bring us when we're caught in the heat of life.

MG: Where did the inspiration for the First Daughter series come from?

Mitali: My agent was asked to find a writer who wanted to write about the campaign from a unique angle, so she approached me. It was my idea to make Sparrow adopted from Pakistan. I had no idea back then that Senator McCain would run, nor that he had adopted a duaghter from Bangladesh. When I found out, I was worried that my books would seem like an invasion of Bridget McCain's privacy so I wrote to the Senator's office telling them that I'd pull the project if she thought it was too invasive. They wrote back saying that they thought the books were fine.

MG: What's your favorite part of writing?

Mitali: When I get in the zone, the characters take over, and time flies as the story unfolds from my imagination via the keyboard onto the page.

MG: You keep a blog of your own. What do you tend to blog about?

Mitali: I blog about writing and reading "between cultures," bringing up issues of race and culture related to children's and teen books.

MG: What's your favorite part of blogging?

Mitali: When a post provokes others to think and jump into the conversation to agree or disagree.

MG: What do you think attracts people to blogs?

Mitali: It's a way to connect with somebody else's thoughts, and that's what human beings want, right?

MG: Did you always like to write?

Mitali: Yes, I always enjoyed writing.

MG: What were/are some of your favorite books?

Mitali: I love the classic, old-fashioned books I read when I was first here in America--books by Louisa May Alcott, Maud Hart Lovelace, and L. M. Montgomery, for example. They helped me understand the history of North American culture, and made me feel more at home than anything.

MG: What do you believe causes culture clashes?

Mitali: The ago old human sins that cause clashes of all kinds--hatred, jealousy, discord, malice, slander. It takes humility and forgiveness to break down barriers between those who have seen one another as enemies.

MG: What's your opinion towards the latest presidential election?

Mitali: It's definitely a new chapter for America--and now two lovely new First Daughters are moving into the White House!

Read our review of Mitali's book, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover.

Mitali Perkins's Web Site.