DisclaimerCharacters belong to Aaron Sorkin. No copyright infringement is intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental save for the actual historical information I have researched. `Kay, maybe `researched' is too nice a word. I have several books, but I only looked (glanced?) at two of them. I've been to the Hermitage, but I think I was in eighth grade at the time... About the only thing I remember was that you would have figured a `plantation' house would be much larger. That, and I remember the gravesite. And I remember my best friend and I talking about what it would have been like to walk down the huge staircase in those big dresses of the period. :)
Author's NotesTo the Sirens, who still love me even when I write stories that aren't about our beloved Sam. Thanks, ladies. You guys are the best!
SpoilersThe Cheese Day episodesCrackpots and Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail.
Feedbackalways greatly appreciated. However, with my e-mail system acting funny, would you kindly direct it this way: polyscimajor@f... president.com (Snicker all you want)
Archiveif you feel so inclined. Just tell me where you put it!
Old HickoryAndrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House, had a two-ton block of cheese.
Leo McGarry, fifteen years old, was struggling with history. He didn't know why, but he just couldn't keep the dates straight. The information went in one ear and right out the other during class lectures. None of the historical figures had the intrigue of comic book characters. None of them did. He just didn't care for the subject.
"Mr. McGarry, when was the War of 1812 fought?" asked the teacher, Mrs. Shepard.
Leo glanced around at his buddy sitting two rows up and one seat up. "S'at a trick question?" asked Leo.
"Simple question, don't you think?"
Leo frowned. "I dunno. 1812?"
"Right," smiled Mrs. Shepard.
Leo chuckled and his friend shot him a thumbs up.
"Who's buried in Grant's tomb?" continued the teacher.
Looking again to his friend, Leo was greeted with a shrug.
"No, I don't think Billy knows," she said. "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?"
Leo was quiet.
"If you had to make a guess, Leo, who would you guess is buried in Grant's tomb?"
"See, history is easy," she said.
Leo scoffed and looked back at the comic he was hiding in his history textbook.
"Billy," she said, "where was the Boston tea party held?"
It was Billy's turn to look at Leo for the answer. "Boston," mouthed Leo.
Billy looked up at Mrs. Shepard nervously. "New York?" he asked.
"It was held in Boston," said Mrs. Shepard.
"Shoulda asked Leo that one," grumbled Billy.
"Well, I asked you. And you asked Leo for help and you didn't even take it," she said.
"How was I supposed ta know he was right this time?" asked Billy.
Mrs. Shepard shrugged. "Because we have one week until Christmas break, it's time for our projects. This year I've decided that we're going to study the individual presidents."
"Aw," grumbled Billy. "But we followed the whole election dis year."
"So that means that President-elect Kennedy isn't an option for your reports," smiled Mrs. Shepard. "But you have thirty-three other presidents to choose from. We'll draw numbers to see who can pick first."
Leo didn't bother to look at his number when Mrs. Shepard came by with the hat. He just put it on the corner of his desk and went back to reading his comic book until, that is, Mrs. Shepard deftly removed it from his history text.
"You can have it back later," she said.
Leo had drawn number six. He wasn't sure he could even name six presidents. Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, Eisenhower... That was four. He'd never make it. With his luck, the five people in front of him would name all the presidents he knew.
"Which president do you want?" asked Mrs. Shepard, looking up at Leo when it was his turn.
He fidgeted, standing at her desk. "Washington."
"David's doing George Washington."
"Already taken, too."
"Ya sure we can't do Kennedy?"
"Oh," he said quietly, glancing around.
"Can I make a suggestion?"
"President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president."
"Never heard of him."
Mrs. Shepard smiled. "Then you've got so much to learn, it will all be new to you."
"Was he from Boston?" asked Leo.
"Chicago?" he asked.
"No, think further south."
Leo thought for a moment. "Florida?"
"We'll be going to the library in a moment. You'll figure it out soon enough."
Leo sat in his room at his desk. Three books on President Andrew Jackson were stacked up next to the lamp while he eagerly devoured the one open in front of him. His comic books forgotten, he was delving into the life of a man he didn't think could exist in real life. He was rough and tumble, orphaned at a young age. Despite his poor history, Jackson grew to own a plantation in Tennessee, become a gentleman of wealth and power. Okay, so maybe the term gentleman was pushing it. He was the first President of the United States to be a Democrat. The party was essentially born during his era, or at least reorganized into the Democratic Party.
For a while, Leo thought that maybe the American people were just taken in by the wiles of a cunning guy. (That, or they liked his nickname.) He let the people run wild in the White House as opposed to the gated, secure building it became. He wasn't like the other Presidents. He was an enigma.
"No way he coulda won re-election," he said quietly. Reading further into the book, his jaw dropped open. "How can a guy from nowhere with no money rule America for eight years!" he asked aloud in wonder.
Josephine McGarry appeared at the door. "What'd ya say?" she asked.
"I ain't talkin' to you, Jo."
Josie threw Leo's baseball at him. "You left that in the living room," she said.
"Scram," he said, trying to read further.
"Homework. Scram," he repeated.
"Josie," he sighed, looking at her.
"I wanna know," she pouted, crossing her arms.
"When you get ta be fifteen, you can read all about it," he said. "Now, out with you."
Stalking off, Leo quickly returned to his books. He missed the calls for dinner, going from one book to another without so much as a break.
"Leo, it's time for bed," said his mother, appearing at his door at ten o'clock.
"Not now, Ma," he said, barely acknowledging that there was someone in his room.
"Put the comics away," she said, crossing to him. "It's one thing if you spend your free time readin' `em, but when you read `em all through dinner" She crossed towards him and was shocked to see that he was reading an actual book, one without pictures. "What're you doing?"
"Did you know that there was a president who wasn't like Kennedy?" he asked, looking up at her. "He didn't have any money or nothing when he was a kid, and he was orphaned. He worked for it and he became the president twice! Not that I'll ever be president, Ma, but it doesn't mean that I couldn't be either!"
She smiled at her son and kissed the top of his head. "You work hard, Leo. You'll get there."
"I missed dinner?" he asked, that piece of information registering for the first time.
"There's some leftovers for you," she said. "Try not to wake your sisters."
On Friday before Christmas break, Leo handed in his written report to Mrs. Shepard and read from note cards to give the oral presentation about President Jackson. "Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House, had a two-ton block of cheese. It was there for any and everybody who was hungry."
"Do you have to do the cheese speech this morning?" Margaret asked as she handed Leo a copy of the assignments she had made for the Senior Staff.
He looked up at her as she hovered at the corner of his desk. "Yeah."
"They're all tired of it."
"It's an important lesson, Margaret. One that they don't seem to understand."
"What lesson is that?" she asked.
"Listen to the speech again when we go into the Roosevelt Room and tell me if you've figured it out."
"`Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House, had a big block of cheese. The block of cheese was hugeover two tons. It was there for any and all who might be hungry. Jackson wanted the White House to belong to the people, so from time to time, he opened his doors to those who wished an audience. It is in the spirit of Andrew Jackson that I' well, you`from time to time, ask Senior Staff to have face-to-face meetings with those people representing organizations who have a difficult time getting our attention. I know that the more jaded among you see this as something rather beneath you, but I assure you that listening to the voices of passionate Americans is beneath no one, and surely not the people's servants,'" Margaret recited from memory.
"And you're not moved by that speech? I've worked hard on that speech, perfecting it over the years."
"We all want what's best for the American people, Leo, we just don't want to talk to crazy ones."
"Crazy Americans are citizens, too. In fact, I have at least one that works for me," he said, standing up as he glanced at the list of organizations that would be talking with various staffers during the day.
"Wouldn't that look bad for the President?" she asked. "Having a crazy person working here?"
"I don't know, Margaret. It hasn't stopped you from showing up to work everyday, has it?"
Leo watched the look of confusion cross her features, then one of realization.
"Very funny," Margaret said with a hint of sarcasm.
Leo grinned lopsidedly.
"Jackson was just a president."
"Jackson was just a man, Margaret," he corrected firmly but gently. "A guy who worked his way up from nothing."
She studied him for a moment then smiled faintly, understanding. "They're waiting for you in the Roosevelt Room."
He nodded as they left his office and headed across the hall. "Y'know, maybe next time I should actually bring a big block of cheese, or have the Mess send some up. Y'think that would help them get it?"