Presidential Historian: Moms May Be Secret Behind Success

Saturday, 12 May 2012 06:40 PM

By Doug Wead

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"All I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother, God bless her."
- Abraham Lincoln

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to confirm that most of America's presidents are "mama's boys."

It must make Sigmund Freud smile, for one of his most enduring discoveries was how the perceived favorite child of a mother is empowered for life. Consider the overwhelming evidence that mothers play a key role. Many recent presidents were literally named after their mothers but none of their many siblings.

Ronald Wilson Reagan named after his mother Nelle Wilson.
Richard Milhous Nixon named after his mother Hannah Milhous.
Lyndon Baines Johnson named after his mother Rebecca Baines.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy named after his mother Rose Fitzgerald.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt named after his mother Sarah Delano.
Woodrow Wilson named after his mother Janet Woodrow.

And on and on it goes back into history. Rutherford Birchard Hayes named after his mother Sophia Birchard. Of course it is not a perfect formula or Marvin Pierce Bush would have been elected president, not his older brother, George W. Bush, but it is common enough to defy any odds.

“You are a Delano,” FDR’s mother, Sarah Delano, used to tell him, “not a Roosevelt.”

“I was a mama’s boy,” said Woodrow Wilson, “no question about it, but the best of womanhood came to me through those apron strings.”

“God bless my mother,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said to his law partner, William Herndon,” all I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”

Keep in mind, the above famous quote, attributed to Lincoln's law partner, may never have really been uttered. Yes, it is featured prominently in almost every biography of Lincoln and appears in the first pages of Pulitzer Prize Award winning books.

But recent research shows that the time and place named by Herndon just couldn't have happened and so, now even the quote is suspect. But there is no denying that Lincoln loved his mother and perhaps, even more, his stepmother, who gave him the gift of books.

When I wrote "The Raising of a President" I blind copied some of the above information to five psychologists, asking them to each give me their opinion. I was especially intrigued about why so many of the children who were namesakes of their mother went on to become presidents.

All five answered back with the same conclusion. When the mother took that infant to her breast she felt a special bond with the child who would bear her name for life and the infant could feel it.

I am only a layman who doesn't pretend to understand such things but if it is true, if a baby can "feel" favoritism, then just imagine the power and the impact for good or bad a mother's — or a father's — words have on their children? I was reminded of the experiments conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society. If the human voice can empower a plant, then it must surely cause powerful reactions for good or bad on a human being.

There is a very predictable family formula for strong leaders, good and bad. They have an attachment to the mother and an absent father. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedung all fit the pattern as neatly as Washington and Jefferson.

Andrew Jackson's father died before the future president was even born. His mother died when he was 14 years old. Even when alive, she was often gone . As a nurse she tended the wounded during the Revolutionary War.

When Andrew Jackson died as an old man, many years later, his body was full of bullets, including one lodged near his heart and too dangerous to remove. They were the result of a life of action, including duels and wars. It was as if he wanted to be worthy, the equal of those Revolutionary War soldiers who took his mother away from him as a boy.

In a sense, Andrew Jackson's life was one long journey back into the arms of his mother.

Doug Wead is a presidential historian and a senior adviser to the Ron Paul presidential campaign. He is a New York Times best-selling author, philanthropist, and adviser to two presidents, including President George H.W. Bush. Read more reports from Doug Wead — Click Here Now. To buy a copy of "The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders," please click here.

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