[00:05.32]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:11.44]Today we are talking about Warren Harding.
[00:15.45]He was the 29th president of the United States.
[00:20.07]Harding was very different from the 28th president, Woodrow Wilson.
[00:25.54]Wilson supported change; Harding promised “a return to normalcy.”
[00:32.34]Wilson took steps to protect American workers; Harding often worked to protect business owners.
[00:41.94]Wilson was slow in supporting voting rights for women, and in accepting African-American people as equal to whites.
[00:52.42]Harding supported women’s suffrage and civil rights for African-Americans.
[00:57.89]Yet both men were popular during their years in office.
[01:03.47]Today, however, historians usually think of Wilson as one of America’s best presidents.
[01:11.99]But Harding is remembered as one of the worst.
[01:30.99]Warren Harding was the eighth president from the state of Ohio.
[01:36.55]His parents were both doctors.
[01:39.47]Harding spoke about having a happy childhood, growing up on a farm with his brothers and sisters.
[01:48.12]Some of his favorite early activities were performing in a band.
[01:55.85]Later, Harding – along with two friends – bought a newspaper.
[02:01.93]The paper became successful for several reasons.
[02:05.71]Harding was kind to his employees and shared the company’s profits with them.
[02:12.07]He also tried not to publish stories that criticized politics or politicians from any party.
[02:19.47]Finally, he married a woman who had an excellent head for business.
[02:26.31]Florence Kling Harding led the newspaper’s circulation department.
[02:32.41]She also helped to direct her husband’s political career.
[02:36.56]In time, Warren Harding became a state senator, a lieutenant governor of Ohio, and then a member of the U.S. Senate.
[02:47.02]He especially liked being a senator – and many of the other lawmakers liked him.
[02:54.08]One reason is because Harding rarely took a controversial position on any issue.
[03:00.93]Instead, he accepted most of the ideas of the Republican Party.
[03:07.91]He was also good-looking and had an excellent speaking voice.
[03:13.23]These qualities helped earn him the Republican presidential nomination in 1920.
[03:19.44]A few months later, he easily won the national election.
[03:49.45]President Harding took office shortly after World War I ended.
[03:55.11]He promised to make Americans feel calm again, and also improve the nation’s prosperity.
[04:03.22]Two of Harding’s goals were to support business and to limit immigration.
[04:09.45]He succeeded on both issues. His administration reduced taxes for big businesses and wealthy people.
[04:19.74]It also increased tariffs -- taxes on foreign imports.
[04:25.02]And the Harding administration put in place new rules on immigration.
[04:31.33]The rules made it easier for immigrants from northern Europe to enter the country,
[04:36.87]but harder for immigrants from Russia, eastern and central Europe.
[04:42.30]Harding also took steps to improve the effectiveness of the federal government.
[04:48.19]But his administration is remembered mostly for its problems.
[04:54.02]At the beginning of his term, Harding reportedly told friends that the job of being president was too much for him.
[05:04.36]He appeared to want to do well, and he worked hard.
[05:08.84]But he turned over most of the responsibility to his friends in the cabinet.
[05:14.57]A few were very able. But some were dishonest.
[05:19.75]They abused their positions to gain wealth for themselves and their families.
[05:26.33]One of the most famous examples of corruption during Harding’s administration is known as the Teapot Dome Scandal.
[05:35.79]The name “Teapot Dome” comes from a rock in the state of Wyoming.
[05:41.29]The rock looked like a teapot. Scientists correctly believed that oil could be found in the ground underneath it.
[05:50.50]At the time, the U.S. navy depended on oil to fuel its ships.
[05:56.52]So, the federal government claimed the land in case the navy needed to use the oil in an emergency.
[06:05.44]But a cabinet official who was a friend of Harding took control of the land.
[06:11.23]He gave a private company permission to search for oil on it in exchange for a large amount of money.
[06:19.13]Some lawmakers became suspicious. So they opened an investigation.
[06:26.11]In time, lawyers proved the act of corruption.
[06:30.32]Harding’s friend was the first person to be found guilty of a crime while serving as a cabinet official.
[06:37.98]But President Harding did not live to see his friend go to jail.
[06:43.81]The investigation was just beginning when Harding took a trip to the West Coast to campaign for his policies.
[06:53.30]Some say that Harding was also trying to escape the problems in his administration.
[06:59.75]He reportedly told one reporter that worrying about what his friends were doing kept him awake at nights.
[07:07.04]During the trip, Harding showed signs of not being in good health. Doctors thought he could have food poisoning or pneumonia.
[07:16.53]He was taken to a hotel in San Francisco, California.
[07:20.92]For a day, he appeared to be feeling better.
[07:24.68]He was sitting up in bed.
[07:26.36]And then suddenly, his body shook and collapsed. He died instantly.
[07:32.73]Reports at the time differed on the cause of Harding’s death.
[07:37.93]Some even said that his wife poisoned the president to protect him from being punished for the wrongdoing in his administration.
[07:47.74]But most historians think that he had long suffered from heart failure, and was struck by a heart attack. He was 57.
[08:15.62]Millions of Americans mourned over Warren Harding’s death.
[08:20.70]They stood beside railroad tracks as his body traveled from California back to Washington, DC.
[08:29.38]The following year, Florence Harding also died.
[08:33.93]She and her husband are buried together under a grand memorial in their hometown in Ohio.
[08:42.15]But in the years after his death, Harding’s public image worsened.
[08:47.13]More corruption scandals in his administration came to light.
[08:51.61]And some historians have criticized him for not having a clear idea about how he wanted to lead the country.
[09:00.93]In 1927, a woman published a book saying she had a long, but secret relationship with Harding, both before and during his presidency.
[09:13.32]She also said he was the father of her daughter.
[09:17.51]Genetic testing has confirmed her claim.
[09:21.09]More than 30 years after her book was published, a lawyer discovered love letters from Harding to a different woman.
[09:29.00]They confirmed that he had a long romantic affair with the wife of one of his friends.
[09:35.54]Harding had also been married at the time.
[09:39.41]These reports, as well as the corruption during his administration, damaged Harding’s public image.
[09:46.60]But he also seemed to know that he would not be remembered as one of the best occupants of the White House.
[09:54.40]Instead, he tried to be likable and modest.
[09:58.82]He called himself “a man of limited talents” who was “not fit for the office” of president.
[10:11.62]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.