MHCC Instructor Writes Book on Little-Known Political Office, the U.S. Vice Presidency
Posted: January 2, 2013
Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) instructor James Hite explores the rare topic of the U.S. vice presidency in his book, “Second Best: The Rise of the American Vice Presidency,” published by Cognella Academic Publishing.
An MHCC instructor for six years, Hite teaches a course on the American vice presidency, which inspired him to research and write a comprehensive book on the topic. “There are not many great sources of information on the institution of the vice presidency and the existing books usually belittle the institution and the individuals who have held the office,” he says. In addition, most academic treatments of the office focus on aspects of vice presidential selection and elections, specifically rationales for why nominees were chosen and if they made a difference in elections. “There have been vice presidents who have won Nobel Prizes, authored books and become esteemed figures of their time, and many more who had significant careers in Congress or even went on to the Oval Office,” says Hite.
Hite says the vice presidency is a topic that is often forgotten, but actually plays an important role in the executive branch. “Anyone can name a president, and state what they stood for or how they helped our nation, but it is also a good idea to pay attention to their second, the vice president, because the executive branch is not a one-man team.”
Vice Presidential Facts
Second Best includes a collection of interesting anecdotes about vice presidents and presidents that are unfamiliar to many readers, such as Hannibal Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president.
“Hamlin was a trusted adviser to Lincoln, and was asked for suggestions during the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves,” says Hite. “Because Lincoln’s second vice president, Andrew Johnson, succeeded to the presidency after the assassination of Lincoln, Hamlin remains a mystery to most Americans.”
Little may be known about Hamlin, but Hite’s research reveals some interesting facts about other U.S. vice presidents:
- In several instances, 19th century presidential and vice-presidential candidates did not meet one another until after they had won the general election.
- For the first 185 years of the nation, vice presidents and their families were without an official residence. It was not until 1974 that the federal government accorded “Admiral’s House” on Observatory Hill to be the home for the vice president. However, it was 1977 when Walter Mondale was inaugurated that a vice president and his family actually lived in the vice president’s official home.
- Charles Curtis, who served as President Herbert Hoover’s vice president, was of Native American ancestry, thus making him the first minority elected to one of the two national offices of the United States.
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