Richard Lederer at First Thursdays


By Mai Lon Gittelsohn

With wit and humor, writer-speaker Richard Lederer deftly steered between etymology and politics with his “Fascinating Facts About Our Presidents” at the Del Mar Foundation’s First Thursdays event on Oct. 2. Lederer offered a treasury of facts about our American presidents: their feats, fates, families, foibles, and firsts.

Lederer said that President Theodore Roosevelt had many firsts. For example, Roosevelt invited the Booker T. Washingtons to dine at the White House, becoming the first African American family to do so. The invitation offended some in the South. As a conciliatory gesture, Roosevelt went south to “mend fences” going hunting with his hosts. A bear was tied to a tree and Roosevelt was told to shoot it. He refused feeling that would be unsportsmanlike, saying, “If I did that I couldn’t speak to my boys.” The cartoonist Berryman memorialized the event and made the bear smaller and cuter, inspiring the creation of the “teddy bear.”

Other anecdotes like this can be found in Lederer’s new book “Presidential Trivia.”