As our nation’s Founders designed their plan for a more perfect union, they understood that the success of a modern republic would require more than a political document like the Constitution. From their study of history, the Founders had learned of the pitfalls of republics before this one. They concluded that even the Constitution alone could not curb individual selfishness. They believed that virtues were necessary for sustaining the American experiment. Their fervent prayers were an integral part of the birth of our nation.
This Week in History
February 21, 1972 – President Richard Nixon Arrives in China
Historic meetings with Chinese Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Chou En-lai began when President Richard Nixon determined to “open” China and engage the Chinese officials in normalizing relations.
It marked the first time a U.S. president had visited the People’s Republic of China which, at that time, considered the U.S. one of its foes, and the visit ended 25 years of separation between the two governments. It was also during that time, that the One China Principle was adopted—a principle that insists both Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single China.
The visit allowed the American public to view images of China for the first time in over two decades. Throughout the week, President Nixon and his most senior advisors, including National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, engaged in substantive discussions with the PRC. Nixon dubbed the visit “the week that changed the world.”
Presidential Quote of the Week
Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States
I only look to the gracious protection of that Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all. May it be among the dispensations of His Providence to bless our beloved country with honors and lengths of days; may her ways be pleasantness, and all her paths peace. – Inaugural Address, March 4, 1837
Martin Van Buren was born December 1782 in the village of Kinderhook, New York, about 25 miles south of Albany. He was the first president born a citizen of the United States, as all previous presidents were born before the American Revolution.
Van Buren received a basic education at a dreary, poorly lit schoolhouse in his native village, and later studied Latin at the Kinderhook Academy and Washington Seminary in Claverack. His formal education ended before he reached 14, when he began studying law in the offices of a prominent Federalist attorney in his home town. After six years there, he spent a final year of apprenticeship in a New York law office, and as a result was admitted to the New York Bar.
Van Buren had been active in politics from the age of 17 when he attended a party convention in Troy, New York. He became an early supporter of and campaigner for Aaron Burr. At age 39, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York. Eight years later he was elected Governor of New York, but his tenure there was short, barely three months, as President Andrew Jackson appointed him Secretary of State. Two years later, President Jackson named him United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Less than two years later, he assumed the office of Vice President of the United States, serving alongside President Jackson.
During the concluding year of the Jackson Administration, Van Buren announced his intention to follow in the footsteps of his “illustrious predecessor,” and was elected President. There was an economic panic in 1837, followed by a five-year depression, with the failure of banks and record-high unemployment levels. His unpopular handling of the nation’s economy resulted in his being a one-term president.
On the expiration of his term, he retired to his estate in Kinderhook, where he planned out his return to the White House. Despite his hard work, his plan failed. He died in the fall of 1861 of bronchial asthma and heart failure. He was 79 years old.
President Van Buren was married to Hannah Hoes, his childhood sweetheart and a distant relative, and they had five sons and one daughter. He is buried at the Kinderhook Cemetery. Van Buren’s faith was Dutch Reform.