Warren G. Harding - Life Legacy

Life Legacy

Further information: Harding Memorial

As a career politician, Harding exhibited an ability to grow, and had a desire to get along with political enemies rather than alienate them. As a prior journalist, Harding was the first President to realize the importance of an ever growing powerful media, and even ordered his cabinet to organize their own respective press staff. He knew that radio would eventually dominate American commerce and promoted two Radio Conferences to give government power to regulate the industry. Harding also sensed the importance of oil in terms of national security and prosperity, signing an executive order that gave the U.S. a giant oil reserve in Alaska. President Harding staunchly protected American business interests. He also signed America's first child welfare program designed to protect children's health and ensure that they would grow up without neglect from their parents. Harding was also the first president that pursued world security through arms reduction and regulation during the Washington peace conference.

Harding's generosity and loyalty to friends proved to be a liability as President. Multiple scandals evolved during his administration that damaged his reputation throughout the nation. His successes as President were over shadowed by the "Ohio Gang" criminal exploits, the detrimental image of his social drinking and his alleged extramarital affairs. His sudden death in 1923 only intensified the unanswered questions concerning his knowledge of, and potential involvement in, the scandals, and if he would have reformed his administration. In fact, his reputation was so controversial, it was not until 1931 that President Harding's marble memorial colonnade in Marion was dedicated by Herbert Hoover. According to Hoover the legacy of Harding was one of tragic betrayal.

Harding's legacy began to improve during the 1970s; however, the truth behind the many presidential scandals and his personal controversies may never be known. In order to protect her husband's damaged legacy, Mrs. Harding only left 1/7 of Harding's personal papers for posterity, having destroyed the rest. The remaining papers, except for Harding's speeches, are currently unpublished. Harding has been one of the most historically challenging American Presidents in terms of finding private letters and paper documents. Historian Hazel Rowley writes that because the Harding administration and the Republicans were seen associated with prosperity, prominent Democrats were reticent of running for president in 1924.

Due to his untimely demise, Warren G. Harding is among the relatively few American Presidents who have been honored on a U.S. postage stamp more than the usual two times. Harding has appeared on US postage for a total of five issues, more than that of most Presidents. Harding's election provided a short burst of popularity for the name Warren.

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