Did you know: There are 365 steps on the front of the U.S. Capitol Building — one for every day of the year!
Who designed our nation’s Capitol building? A contest that paid $500 was held by the U.S. government when it was looking for architects and laymen to design a new home for Congress. Unfortunately, none of the designs was up to snuff. But a late entry by an amateur, William Thornton, had potential. After a team of designers heavily tweaked it, the U.S. Capitol was built — mostly by the labor of free and enslaved African Americans. George Washington laid the cornerstone, and the building was completed in 1826. (more…)
William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was a stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator. His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended. (more…)
Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) was an American actress, comedian, model, film-studio executive, and producer. She was best known as the star of the self-produced sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and Life with Lucy. (more…)
Barack Hussein Obama II (August 4, 1961) is an American politician who served as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. He is the first African American to have served as president, as well as the first born outside the contiguous United States. He previously served in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois from 2005 to 2008, and in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004.
Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, two years after the territory was admitted to the Union as the 50th state. He grew up mostly in Hawaii, but also spent one year of his childhood in Washington State and four years in Indonesia. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago.
In 1988 Obama enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he became a civil rights attorney and professor, teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. Obama represented the 13th District for three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, when he ran for the U.S. Senate.
Obama received national attention in 2004, with his unexpected March primary win, his well-received July Democratic National Convention keynote address, and his landslide November election to the Senate. In 2008, Obama was nominated for president, a year after his campaign began, and after a close primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. He was elected over Republican John McCain, and was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
During his first two years in office, Obama signed more landmark legislation than any Democratic president since LBJ’s Great Society. Main reforms were the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as “Obamacare”), the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 served as economic stimulus amidst the Great Recession, but the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in 2011. After a lengthy debate over the national debt limit, Obama signed the Budget Control and the American Taxpayer Relief Acts.
In foreign policy, Obama increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, reduced nuclear weapons with the U.S.-Russian New START treaty, and ended military involvement in the Iraq War. He ordered military involvement in Libya in opposition to Muammar Gaddafi, and the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
After winning re-election over Mitt Romney, Obama was sworn in for a second term in 2013. During his second term, Obama promoted greater inclusiveness for LGBT Americans, with his administration filing briefs that urged the Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges).
Obama also advocated gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning climate change and immigration. In foreign policy, Obama ordered military intervention in Iraq in response to gains made by ISIL after the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, continued the process of ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, promoted discussions that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change, initiated the sanctions against Russia following the invasion in Ukraine, brokered a nuclear deal with Iran, and normalized U.S. relations with Cuba.
Obama left office in January 2017 with a 60% approval rating. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. His presidential library will be built in Chicago.
Joanne “Jo” Rowling (born July 31, 1965), is a British novelist, screenwriter and film producer best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series.
- Under the pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, her books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies.
- They have become the best-selling book series in history, and been the basis for a series of films over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts, and maintained creative control by serving as a producer on the final installment.
- She is the United Kingdom’s best-selling living author, with sales in excess of £238M.
Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.
- The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband and relative poverty until she finished the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in 1997.
- There were six sequels, the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in 2007.
- Since then, Rowling has written four books for adult readers: The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction novels The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013), The Silkworm (2014) and Career of Evil (2015).
Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years.
- The 2016 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £600 million, ranking her as the joint 197th richest person in the UK.
- Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans.
- In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors.
- She has supported charities including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Lumos (formerly the Children’s High Level Group).
Amelia Mary Earhart (July 24, 1897 – disappeared July 2, 1937) was an American aviation pioneer and author. The first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, she received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment. She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. (more…)
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18 , 1918 – December 5, 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. (more…)
Happy Birthday to essayist, poet, philosopher, and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau, born today in 1817
Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian.
A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience” (originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government”), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. (more…)
Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White (July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) was an American writer. He was a contributor to The New Yorker magazine and a co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style, which is commonly known as “Strunk & White.” He also wrote books for children, including Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). Charlotte’s Web was voted the top children’s novel in a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, an accomplishment repeated from earlier surveys. (more…)
Marie Skłodowska Curie (November 7, 1867 – July 4, 1934), born Maria Salome Skłodowska, was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris. (more…)
John Calvin Coolidge Jr. (July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) made the first president political speech on the radio today. The 30th President of the United States (1923–29) was a Republican lawyer from Vermont who worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, and eventually becoming governor of that state. His response to the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight and gave him a reputation as a man of decisive action. Soon after, he was elected as the 29th vice president in 1920 and succeeded to the presidency upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in 1923. (more…)
John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American patriot who served as the second President of the United States (1797–1801) and the first Vice President (1789–97). He was a lawyer, diplomat, statesman, political theorist, and, as a Founding Father, a leader of the movement for American independence from Great Britain. He was also a dedicated diarist and correspondent, particularly with his wife and closest advisor Abigail. (more…)