Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

America's [presidents] got talent

May 16, 2012 by Holly Munson

 

The addition of Howard Stern to "America's Got Talent" this week seems to be off to a promising start.

Now here's another addition we'd love to see on "America's Got Talent": U.S. presidents. Although the historical presidents might be tricky, here are five presidents that should be at the top of the audition list.

President Barack Obama

President Obama recently revealed his vocal skills, coolly crooning a line from Al Green and slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon.

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President Bill Clinton

President Clinton played the saxophone throughout high school and, according to his biography My Life, even considered pursuing a career as a musician. Although he obviously pursued another career, the paths of musician and politician crossed when his he performed sax solos on the campaign trail.

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President Harry Truman

Although he was modest about his talent, President Truman was an ardent pianist. According to the Truman Library & Museum, as a boy he woke up at five in the morning to practice, and later in life he said that if he had been a good pianist he never would have become president. His skills may have come in handy as president, though. In 1945, as he performed for an audience in Missouri, he winked and quipped: "When I played this, Stalin signed the Potsdam Agreement."

President James Garfield

Let's not forget that there are other talents besides singing and dancing. Enter James Garfield, the 20th president, who was both ambidextrous and multilingual. The impressive part: he could write in two languages at the same time--Greek with the left hand and Latin with the right.

President George Washington

The father of our country also ruled on the dance floor. One observer extolled: “The ball was opened by his Excellency the General. When this man unbends from his station, and its weighty functions, he is even then like a philosopher, who mixes with the amusements of the world, that he may teach it what is right, or turn trifles into instruction.”

Check out a re-enactment of a dance inspired by George Washington below.

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Runners-up

Three other presidents could be interesting contestants: Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan.

President Jefferson played three instruments and composed his own music, while Reagan was trained in all things entertainment as a contract actor for Warner Brothers back in the golden age of Hollywood.

And Richard Nixon would be a wild-card contestant. He played piano and wrote music—and made a big splash in the 1968 presidential election when he appeared on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”

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If NBC wants to really make the most of its show, it should certainly consider making "America's Got Talent" a presidential affair.

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Holly Munson is a programs coordinator at the National Constitution Center and the assistant editor of Constitution Daily.

 

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