[00:06.06]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:12.65]Today we are talking about William Howard Taft, who took office in 1909.
[00:19.83]In some ways, the story of Taft’s presidency is also a story about Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency.
[00:28.52]Roosevelt had been president for the eight years before Taft.
[00:32.46]The two men were friends; Roosevelt was even a mentor to Taft.
[00:38.31]But the two men were very different.
[00:42.24]Roosevelt was energetic, both in his physical abilities and in his use of executive power.
[00:49.98]His vision for the country was progressive.
[00:53.09]In contrast, Taft was a more conservative, heavy man who fell asleep in meetings, and who did not make decisions quickly.
[01:04.41]In fact, Americans often remember Taft because of his size.
[01:09.54]His weight changed frequently, but as president Taft usually weighed about 135 kilograms.
[01:17.99]One popular story claims that Taft got stuck in a White House bathtub.
[01:25.10]This story is not true.
[01:27.47]However, it is true that Taft had a special bathtub made for him.
[01:32.72]Several men could sit comfortably in it.
[01:36.62]As president, Taft did continue some of Roosevelt’s reforms, but in a more orderly way.
[01:44.29]He also took some actions that contradicted Roosevelt’s wishes.
[01:49.79]In four years, the two men had gone from political allies to competitors for the White House.
[02:08.73]Taft was another president who was born in the state of Ohio.
[02:14.83]He grew up in the city of Cincinnati, along with five siblings.
[02:20.88]Taft’s father was a well-known lawyer, public official and diplomat.
[02:26.17]He was an advisor to President Ulysses Grant.
[02:29.83]His mother was an intelligent, independent woman who also worked for the public good.
[02:36.99]The Tafts had high expectations for their son.
[02:41.11]He became an excellent student, who went on to study at Yale and then the University of Cincinnati Law School.
[02:50.79]Taft sought a career path that he hoped would lead him one day to the U.S. Supreme Court.
[02:57.47]He worked as a lawyer, and then as a judge in Ohio.
[03:01.98]Along the way, he met Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt helped Taft advance his career as a judge.
[03:10.78]But one person was not happy about the career move: Taft’s wife.
[03:17.40]Taft had married an intelligent, independent woman named Helen Herron, known as Nellie.
[03:24.26]She had always wanted to be first lady, and she urged her husband to follow a path toward the White House.
[03:33.03]In time, Nellie Taft had her wish.
[03:37.80]In 1900 President William McKinley offered Taft a position in the Philippines.
[03:43.97]The islands had come under the control of the United States after the Spanish-American War.
[03:51.18]McKinley wanted Taft to help prepare the Philippines to be ruled by civilians, instead of by soldiers.
[03:59.61]Taft worried he would not like the job; however, he knew that it was a good chance to build a political career.
[04:07.96]Taft was right about that.
[04:10.71]But he was wrong about disliking the job.
[04:13.64]He enjoyed it so much that he turned down two offers to return to the U.S. and serve on the Supreme Court.
[04:22.58]In the Philippines, Taft successfully established courts, schools, a transportation network, and a health care system.
[04:31.87]Taft did have pejorative views about the people who lived there – he did not think they were yet capable of governing themselves.
[04:41.45]But he performed his job as governor general effectively.
[04:46.16]Taft might have even stayed in the Philippines if it were not for his friend Theodore Roosevelt.
[04:52.90]In 1901, Roosevelt became president. He asked Taft to become his secretary of war.
[05:01.15]Taft agreed, partly so he could continue to supervise the Philippines.
[05:07.42]But the job also put him in a position to become president himself.
[05:37.61]William Taft did not really want to be president.
[05:41.76]But Theodore Roosevelt and Nellie Taft wanted him to be.
[05:46.45]During the election of 1908, Taft permitted Roosevelt to do most of the campaigning for him.
[05:54.26]He spent a lot of time golfing.
[05:56.73]Taft was the first president to be strongly linked – so to speak – to the sport of golfing. (Another word for golf course is “links.”)
[06:06.74]Yet voters approved of Taft.
[06:10.47]They likely hoped he would continue the reforms of Roosevelt. He won the election easily.
[06:17.79]Once in the White House, however, Taft did several things that reversed Roosevelt’s positions.
[06:24.80]First, Taft signed a bill that did not reduce tariffs as much as many progressive activists wanted.
[06:34.36]Then, Taft removed one of Roosevelt’s friends from a goverment position.
[06:39.66]Taft believed he was correct in making the move, but Roosevelt and many other Republicans were furious.
[06:48.46]Some historians say they did not give Taft enough credit for the many reforms he did make.
[06:55.68]His government pursued a large number of anti-trust suits against big business.
[07:02.28]It also advanced two Constitutional amendments – one to establish a federal income tax, and another to permit voters to elect senators directly.
[07:14.61]As the end of Taft’s term in the White House came near, the Republican Party was divided.
[07:21.03]At their 1912 convention, a majority of delegates nominated Taft for president again.
[07:28.81]But a number left the meeting in anger.
[07:31.54]They created a new group, called the Progressive Party, and nominated as their candidate Theodore Roosevelt.
[07:40.83]Taft and Roosevelt, along with the Democratic Party candidate, fought a bitter campaign during 1912. Of the three, Taft came in last.
[07:53.67]Roosevelt came in second.
[07:56.06]The divided Republicans had given control of the White House to the Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson.
[08:22.57]Happily for him, Taft’s story does not end there.
[08:27.07]Taft taught at Yale University Law School for a while.
[08:31.24]Then, when a Republican took the White House again, President Warren Harding appointed Taft as chief justice of the Supreme Court.
[08:41.68]He is the only person to lead both the executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government.
[08:48.76]Taft was clear about which one he favored: He was much more comfortable as a justice than he was as president.
[08:59.02]One journalist at the time described Chief Justice Taft as “a smiling Buddha, placid, wise, gentle, sweet.”
[09:10.26]He even lost weight.
[09:17.63]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.