Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Baptism by Fire

Baptism by Fire

Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis

Mark K. Updegrove

Thomas Dunne Books



Americans have long been defined by how they face adversity. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in how the nation's chief executive has tackled myriad issues upon entering the White House. The ways that U.S. presidents handle the vast responsibilities of the Oval Office determine the fate of the nation---and, in many cases, the fate of the world.

In this fascinating narrative, presidential historian Mark Updegrove looks at eight U.S. presidents who inherited unprecedented crises immediately upon assuming the reigns of power. George Washington led a fragile and fledgling nation while defining the very role of the presidency. When Thomas Jefferson entered the White House, he faced a nation bitterly divided by a two-party schism far more severe than anything encountered today. John Tyler stepped into the office of the presidency during the constitutional crisis left by the first death of a sitting president. Abraham Lincoln inherited a divided nation on the brink of war. Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to quell America's fears during the depths of the Great Depression. His successor, Harry S. Truman, was sworn in as commander in chief at the close of World War II, and John F. Kennedy stepped into the increasingly heated atmosphere of the cold war. In the wake of Watergate, the first unelected president, Gerald R. Ford, aimed to end America's "long national nightmare."

As the forty-fourth president takes office, Updegrove presents a timely look at these chief executives and the challenges they faced. In examining the ways in which presidents have addressed crises, Baptism by Fire illustrates the importance of character in leadership—and in the resilience of America itself.


Praise for Baptism by Fire

“Once again Mark Updegrove has written an incisive slice of U.S. presidential history. Fire ratchets up harrowing memories of our leaders from George Washington to Gerald Ford. A wonderful read.” —Douglas Brinkley is Professor of History at Rice University

“Mark Updegrove's Baptism by Fire is a splendid companion to John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.” —Patricia O'Toole, author of When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House and The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends.

“At a moment of surpreme peril, Lincoln told us, 'The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.' As Mark Updegrove vividly demonstrates in this superbly written volume, Lincoln was hardly unique in meeting the test he set out. . . .I can't imagine a more timely or original way of seeing ourselves.” —Richard Norton Smith, Scholar in Residence, George Mason University

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Mark K. Updegrove

Mark K. Updegrove is the author of Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House, which won ForeWord Magazine's Silver "Book of the Year" Award for Political Science. He served as publisher of Newsweek, Los Angeles manager of Time, and president of Time Canada, and has written for American Heritage, The Nation, Time, and Worth. Currently, he is an advertising executive and lives outside Charleston, South Carolina.

Mark K. Updegrove

Mark K. Updegrove

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Thomas Dunne Books

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