Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen

My name is Anthony Bergen and I write all of the posts and answer all of the questions that you see on Dead Presidents.  I get a lot of questions in my inbox that ask me who I am, so this is my biography.  I tend to think that biographies written in the third-person sound sort of pretentious, so I’m not writing this one that way. 

I love history.  To me, history is more than just boldface names and famous dates.  History is people and personalities, triumphs and tragedies, thoughts and actions, beginnings and ends.  People sometimes wonder what history has to do with what happens today.  It has everything to do with today.  Everything is history.

I’m not exactly sure what got me fascinated about the Presidents.  I remember getting a book about JFK’s assassination when I was in second grade (a book I still have, by the way), which interested me in this person who was President of the United States and then, suddenly, was not.  I don’t know if my fascination with the Presidents came before that book, but I do know that it skyrocketed after I received it.  I was always a strong reader as a kid, so my library visits would always result in taking home a book on some President.  I also enjoyed watching whenever President Reagan was on TV.  There was just something majestic about the President, something that made me either want to be President or be friends with the President.  I kept reading and collecting Presidential books and even as a youngster, I would make lists of the Presidents and their birth dates or death dates or home states or age at inauguration.  I was most interested in their personalities and loved the little, random facts about them — I still love those facts the most, by the way.

As I grew older, my memories become more clear.  I remember seeing Michael Dukakis give a speech during the 1988 election here in Sacramento.  I was excited to see Bill Clinton’s motorcade zoom by my dad and I as we were stopped in traffic by Secret Service during Clinton’s visit.  I was mesmerized by the size and scope of the motorcade and so stoked when I saw President Clinton’s big white hair in the back of his limousine.  Later in his term, I was stunned to see Air Force One flying out of McClellan Air Force Base and over my house during another Clinton visit to Sacramento.

When I graduated from high school, I had to work and make money, so I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college.  I know that will probably surprise some people and I hope it doesn’t tarnish your thoughts on my Presidential knowledge, but college just wasn’t in the cards for me.  I’ve never attended a history class.  However, the one thing in my life that I do collect is books.  My personal library is quite large and I have about 600 books on Presidents, the Presidency, or American History directly involving the Presidents.  I’ve read about 95% of them.  I can’t get enough of Presidential history.  I have dozens of books about Lyndon Johnson alone and I learn something new in each of them.  It is the miracle of history — new facts are always found, new twists are always taken, old stories are retold differently — history never dies.  That’s why my goal on here is to keep these stories interesting and alive and introduce them to more-and-more people, if possible.  I guess that I self-educated myself in Presidential history, but I don’t think it’s out of the question to consider myself a Presidential Historian.  I take pride in my constant studies about not only the individual Presidents, but the actual office of the Presidency, it’s history and it’s evolution.  I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I feel more than qualified to write and answers questions about the Presidency.

I study the Presidents and the Presidency every single day.  I study the individuals and their lives — who they were, what they were like, how they looked, and where they came from.  I also study the institution of the Presidency — its powers and limitations, its evolution and role in shaping the United States and the world beyond.

What it comes down to for me every time, though, is people.  I am captivated by the people who held the office, how they responded to challenges and what the legacy was that they left behind.  The Presidency, to me, is the most unique position in the world.  The President is, simultaneously, the most admired and most reviled person in the country.  The President is, by default, the most trusted person in the country.  The President is, without fail, the most judged person in the country.  Everything they do influences us; everything we do is influenced by them.  The most amazing thing about it is that we have the opportunity to choose that person.  We might not always like or agree with the person we get, but that’s our President — he belongs to all of us.  That’s what fascinates me about his office and his position.  That’s why I write about the Presidents.

On a personal level, I am 34 years old and was born in Sacramento, California, where I spent all of my life before moving to Austin, Texas in July 2010.  I lived in Austin for a year and spent nearly three years living in quiet, rural Missouri, outside of St. Louis, before moving back home to Northern California in Spring 2014.  Ironically, my birthday is Inauguration Day — January 20th.  As for work, I’ve spent most of my career working in non-profits, especially programs which provide services to needy families and children.  I try to stay politically neutral on Dead Presidents (sometimes I do a good job of it; sometimes I am blatantly biased), but I spent 18 months working in an influential position in the Barack Obama campaign in Northern California.  I’ve worked on numerous other political campaigns — mostly local races or ballot initiatives, and I love nothing more than getting out into the community, doing some grassroots organizing, and registering voters.  Again, I hope my political beliefs don’t bleed over into my work on Dead Presidents, but I am a Democrat — a very liberal Democrat — but I’m not blind to the failures on every side of the political spectrum.

Besides Dead Presidents, I have a Facebook and a Twitter, but I am terrible when it comes to updating both.  I am a regular contributor to AND Magazine, and have also contributed to the New Hampshire Historical Society’s Pierce Bicentennial Celebration, the Lincoln Bicentennial, and have been a longtime writer/contributor to “The KiddChris Show" which is currently heard in Cincinnati, Ohio, but was previously heard in Sacramento, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon, and Atlanta, Georgia.  As Literary Editor at AND Magazine, I frequently review non-fiction books and am a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 

Personally, I am a big fan of stand-up comedy (Louis CK, George Carlin, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal, David Cross, Jim Jeffries, Bill Burr, Richard Pryor), enjoy a wide variety of music that is heavily dominated by hip-hop (especially 90’s rap), try to always be in the middle of a book (check out the “Essential Books” pages linked on my blog’s homepage for recommendations), and enjoy basketball (Sacramento Kings), football (Oakland Raiders), and soccer.

So, that’s me in a nutshell, but I want everyone to know how grateful I am for your support on Dead Presidents.  Your questions are always fun to answer and I genuinely wish that there were enough hours in the day to allow me to answer everything in my inbox.  I do read every question or message that I get and do my best to respond to e-mails.  I’ve been storing all this history about the Presidents for years and never had an outlet or an audience for it, so I’m very pleased to have such loyal readers who are just as interested in this type of history as I am.  In closing, thank you for reading and participating, and I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I do.
In December 2012, I published a book called Tributes and Trash Talk: What Our Presidents Said About Each Other and you can buy it for your Kindle, iPhone, or iPad from Amazon.  It’s also available to NOOK users via Barnes & Noble.
Other than Dead Presidents, here are a few other places that you might be able to find me online:
AND Magazine