Monday, November 17, 2014

The Presidential Election Season Is Coming

by Frank Boles

The 2014 mid-term elections are over, but in a cycle as old as the Republic itself, potential candidates for the 2016 presidential race are beginning to test the water. Back in 1964, CMU’s graduating class witnessed a particularly vibrant presidential election when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson. Because of the excitement that contest stirred, the Class of ’64 did something extraordinary: they gifted the Clarke with funds to begin a “presidential campaign biography collection.”

The idea was straightforward: to document the biographical information put out by and about the candidates who hoped to become president. The project proved amazingly successful. Today, the campaign biography collection encompasses campaigns from Andrew Jackson’s defeat of John Quincy Adams in 1828 through the historic election of 2012. Soon enough, the Clarke Historical Library will begin buying the books issued for the 2016 race -- the cheerful biographies “favored” by the candidates, the alleged “smears” published by their critics, and of course the books authored by the candidates themselves in which they portray their vision for America. All of these books help us understand the candidates the public voted for (or against). It makes it possible for future students and scholars to study the reason, and the emotion, behind the selection of the president. And it allows the library to mount an exhibit about the presidential election every four years, which helps the CMU community understand the current presidential contest through a meaningful historical filter. Overall, it is a truly valuable collection that we are proud to preserve, and regularly enlarge.

Although the collection continues to grow, the original financial gift from the Class of ’64 was long ago spent. This year, at the 50th reunion of the Class of ’64, we asked them to help us create an endowment to permanently support the project they so generously helped us begin a half-century ago. While the collection was created by the Class of ’64, and thus we hope they have a special interest in helping to forward it, interest in the presidency and those who would aspire to that office certainly extends far beyond that one Class.

Thus, we welcome support for the Endowment campaign not only from members of the Class of ’64 but from anyone interested in helping us continue the documentary effort they established. Our goal is to raise $10,000, an endowment of sufficient size to create a spendable fund that will pay for the biographical books and other related material generated every four years, when the country is called upon to select its leader, as well as to establish funding to “fill in” missing works in the collection.

I hope that if you have an interest in this project, and in the Clarke, you will consider a year-end gift to the Class of ’64 Presidential Campaign Biography Endowment. Please click on this link for details about taking advantage of this opportunity.