“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Enjoying the breathtaking views at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. “The best view comes after the hardest climb.” Photo provided by Holley Snaith.

My Background

I like to think of myself as a storyteller. As a historian who has spent hours cooped up in research rooms, enveloped in the rich documents and monumental photographs in front of me, I have immersed myself in the art of sharing the stories of pivotal figures in history who have inspired me to be better and aim higher.

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment I was bit by the “history bug,” but I do remember my tenth grade history teacher informing us that we would be required to read the autobiography of a well-known figure and then write that…

How Winston Churchill’s month-long trip to the United States in the winter of 1941 changed his relationship with Franklin Roosevelt

President Franklin Roosevelt delivers a speech to a crowd of 15,000 as he dedicates the National Christmas Tree. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who also spoke, stands to the right. Christmas Eve, 1941. Photo: National Archives

“In this century of storm and tragedy, I contemplate with high satisfaction the constant factor of the interwoven and upward progress of our peoples. Our comradeship and our brotherhood in war were unexampled. We stood together, and because of that fact the free world now stands.” ~ Winston Churchill, 1963

Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said that meeting President Franklin Roosevelt was akin to “opening your first bottle of champagne.” “Knowing him,” said Churchill, “was like drinking it.” This was a high compliment coming from Britain’s most beloved prime minister, who was known to have a fondness for Pol Roger.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with Marian Anderson in Japan in May 1953. Source: White House Historical Association

Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson, and the courage to do what is right

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

These words not only strike me as being powerful: they are also remarkably truthful. Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t sugarcoat the fact that doing what you feel to be right does not eliminate the possibility of being criticized for your actions.

Being the historian that I am, every time I think about this quote and the harsh reality of its truth, my mind naturally wanders to what Eleanor Roosevelt would have to say if she were here today to witness the millions of…

How living in the shadow of his strong, robust brother defined the character of a young, sickly Jack Kennedy

John F. Kennedy poses at a typewriter with his first published book “Why England Slept” (Wilfred Funk, 1940). Photo: History.com

“You must think of this little boy, sick so much of the time, reading history, reading the Knights of the Round Table, reading Marlborough. For Jack, history was full of heroes.”

— Jacqueline Kennedy

When John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, there were few exaltations or proclamations that he would one day be president, that had already occurred at the arrival of his brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., two years prior. Following in the shadow of his strong and virile older brother would haunt “Jack” for the first twenty-five years of his life. His…

Seventy-six years after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his timeless words continue to elicit hope during times of darkness

Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park, New York in 1928. This was seven years after polio took the use of his legs and the same year he was elected governor of New York. Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt, April 1945

It was a warm spring day in April of 2014. I was alone and preparing for the next day’s big event by setting up rows of chairs in front of a quaint one-story white house. That little white house is one of the most visited historic sites in the state of Georgia, and it is known simply as the Little White House.

Perhaps Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the then governor of…

How the world’s greatest sex symbol proved she was no pushover

Marilyn Monroe pictured at her Hollywood home in 1953. Source: Alfred Eisenstaedt — Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

“They tell you to cry one tear, and if you feel two and cry two, it’s no good. If you change “the” to “a” in your lines, they correct you. An actress isn’t a machine, but they treat you like one.” — Marilyn Monroe

At the start of 1953, Marilyn Monroe had been with Twentieth Century Fox for two years, and she was still idly waiting for a strong script to come her way. Finally, her year had come, but it did not pan out the way the ambitious star envisioned. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, released in July of that year

How a “good old boy” from Missouri went from the halls of the Senate to the Oval Office

Senator Harry Truman pictured with fellow members of the “Truman Committee”: Senators Homer Ferguson, Harold Burton, Thomas Connally, and Ralph Brewster. Source: Library of Congress

“I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.” ~ Harry Truman on Becoming President in 1945

Harry Truman was known around the halls of the Senate as being a persistent man. By 1940, he had held his Senate seat for five years, but he remained scarcely known in the town full of brash and ambitious men. When World War II broke-out in Europe, Truman saw its arrival as the perfect opportunity to change that.

In 1940, a year into the war, Congress authorized $10 billion in defense contracts in a short six months…

Lady Bird Johnson posing in her 1965 inaugural gown designed by John Moore. Yellow was reportedly Lady Bird’s favorite color because it symbolized light and optimism. Photo courtesy of The National Museum of American History.

“Somebody else can have Madison Avenue. I’ll take Bird.” ~ Lyndon Baines Johnson

It was rare for sitting presidents before Lyndon Johnson to openly show affection for their wives, but he was not timid in displaying love for the woman he depended on for everything: Lady Bird Johnson. He would unabashedly hold her hand in public and sometimes even kiss her in front of the cameras. While the marriage was far from perfect, it was apparent to all who observed the pair together that he would be lost without her. …

Pat Nixon became the first Republican first lady (and second first lady, next to Eleanor Roosevelt) to address a national convention. Here she is at the RNC in August 1972. Courtesy of the Nixon Library.

Pat Nixon is one of the most underappreciated, and misinterpreted, first ladies in American history. Her five years of accomplishments as first lady are overshadowed by her husband’s presidency and, of course, the Watergate scandal. In 2017, I worked for the Nixon Foundation and embarked upon months of research on Pat Nixon. In doing this, I came to admire this unique woman for her kindness, hard work ethic, strong character, and the love she had for her family. …

How the leadership of four U.S. presidents held the country together during times of crises.

Leadership, particularly presidential leadership, has been a topic of interest to me for years. I have asked myself: What makes a president a great leader? What kind of leader makes the best president? What did the presidents remembered for being great leaders have that others did not? What life events molded them? I began reading historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Leadership in Turbulent Times just as I was wrapping up a course in my graduate studies on leadership, so the timing could not have been more perfect.

In this book, Goodwin looks at four presidents, the presidents she has researched…

Holley Snaith

Holley is a published historian and writer striving to inspire others through her writing. www.holleysnaith.com.

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