Category Archives: Presidents

“Dark Horse” Analysis: President #14

In 2013 Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse” tore up the Billboard charts reaching a peak of #1. You’ve probably heard this song on the top 40 radio, but what you might not have realized is that the song has many references to US presidents.  Some people claim that the song is about something Satanic, others say it’s an anti-drug song, and a small minority claim it’s just about a horse, but the evidence is clear.   Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse” is actually about the fourteenth United States president, Franklin Pierce.  

Everybody who has learned anything about US history knows that a dark horse is a candidate for an office who is not the frontrunner.  Urban Dictionary’s #1 definition for this term reflects this common knowledge, and Perry being a California gurl is likely to recognize this fact.  The presidents recognized as dark horses by Wikipedia include Polk, Pierce, Lincoln, Hayes, Garfield, Harding, Carter, and Obama (Dark Horse. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 27, 2015, from  With this we have already narrowed down the song’s meaning to being about one of 8 United States presidents.

Next, we can turn to the chorus.  The climax of the song comes with the following lyrics:

Are you ready for, ready for
A perfect storm, perfect storm
Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine
There’s no going back (Perry, Katy. “Dark Horse.”  Prism.  2013.  Spotify)  

The perfect storm is clearly talking about the conditions during the pre-Civil War era that would end up leading to all-out war.  During Polk’s term, the country had remained true to the Missouri Compromise, banning slavery north of the 36°30′ parallel excepting the state of Missouri.  It wasn’t until the following term of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore that lawmakers started to demand further compromises on the issue of slavery.  Thus, we can eliminate James K. Polk as a possibility.

The second part of the statement refers to the United States’ position that they would assert control over all of the states and not recognize secession as a valid legal act.  During Buchanan’s term, several of the states seceded, so it would not make sense to say that those states were “mine” from the perspective of Lincoln.  Thus we are left with Pierce through the process of elimination.

In the rap section of the song, Juicy J proclaims,  “That fairy tale ending with a knight in shining armor. She can be my sleeping beauty, I’m gon’ put her in a coma” (Perry, 2013).  This reflects Pierce’s attempts to put the issue of slavery to rest by promoting Stephen Douglas’ idea of popular sovereignty through the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  As we all know, the Kansas-Nebraska act ended in disaster as fighting raged between free-soil and slavery supporters, just like putting Sleeping Beauty in a coma ends in a disaster when the knight in shining armor saves the day (Disney, Walt (producer), & Geronimi, Clyde (director). 1959.  Sleeping Beauty [motion picture].  USA: Walt Disney Productions).  J through comparing Pierce to the soporific Maleficent, also suggests that he does not share Perry’s appreciation of the second half of the first half of American presidents.  Given J’s feelings about Pierce, I wouldn’t even want to hear what he would have to say about President Buchanan.

Perry calls to attention the southern sympathies that caused Pierce, who was from New Hampshire, to be regarded as a doughface, with these lyrics:

Mark my words
This love will make you levitate
Like a bird
Like a bird without a cage
But down to earth
If you choose to walk away, don’t walk away (Perry, 2013)

At face value, this verse reflects Pierce’s intent to reduce the legal burdens on slavery through a little presidential love, in an attempt to keep the South from seceding.  Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan all took this political strategy, perhaps because they believed that it would win them elections; however, it wasn’t without moral burden.  In her simile about a bird and a cage though, Perry calls to attention the irony of reducing burdens on slaveholders; in doing so, these presidents enabled them to cause greater burden to the people they regarded as their property.  It’s clear from this verse that although Perry appreciates Pierce enough to write a song dedicated to him, she doesn’t sympathize with his views regarding slavery.

It’s good to see pop superstars use their celebrity to promote the understanding of US history, no matter how subtle the references are.  Next time we will examine the Katy Perry song “Firework” and analyze its connection to the War of 1812.

Presidents – Taylor made for you

Student post

Hey! What’s up, guys? We decided to a blog post which explains the personality and personal experiences of some of the presidents. This helps with getting to know the presidents at a deeper level and can often be helpful for identifying them when given vague clues. Hope this helps 🙂

George Washington – His father died when he was 11 and this deeply affected the development of the Washington’s personality. He believed that one’s physical appearance should reflect their inner merit; he was tall and commanding which led him to develop grace and public humility. Washington also approved of self-mastery and patriotic virtue thus he often quoted Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato.Washington was also strongly motivated to take part in politics; however, he strategically hid this ambition. He also refused a salary for his public service, only accepting reimbursement for expenses from Congress.

John Adams – He was loving and compassionate, but did not understand how to deal with people, which made him appear aloof and arrogant to others. Adams coupled wealth and ownership of property with the right to govern America, which led him to join the Federalist Party. He was not skilled at oratory, but was a skilled diplomat. He was bitter throughout his political career because his vice presidency seemed insignificant and his presidency was plagued by controversy, but reclaimed the favor of the public post-presidency.

Thomas Jefferson – Jefferson had a commanding stature which showed strength and health. It is said that Jefferson was one to stick to his words; he never abandoned his principles, plans, or friends. For example, Jefferson never felt compelled to conform to the modern fashion trends. He dressed simply, neatly, and comfortably. He was also always in control of his temper. Jefferson is also known for his inventiveness and curiosity. He was a holder of several patents and devised models of the swivel chair, dumbwaiter, and pedometer. He also studied many languages. Jefferson also refrained from discussing his personal life. He was a skilled writer and inventor but not a outstanding orator.

James Madison – Madison was soft-spoken and shy; he struggled to be heard in large groups of people, but demonstrated his intelligence and persuasive abilities among small numbers of close friends. Madison was extremely short and was sickly in his childhood, which, coupled with his shyness, made him appear to be a weak leader. He was also indecisive, hesitating to proceed without thorough deliberation. He relied on his wife, Dolley, to make him appear favorable to the public. Madison opposed the formation of political factions, arguing for the separation of power into the three branches of government and the division of power between state and national governments. He favored a large and diverse democracy, believing that it would prevent the formation of factions.

James Monroe – James Monroe had generally good health and a large frame. He kept a net physical appearance but did not keep up with the latest fashion. Monroe is known for his warm personality which became one of his greatest assets as a politician. He was able to disarm and stun people with his kindness and courtesy. Monroe also did not take well to criticism and would often see an offense where one was not intended. However, rather than lashing out out at his critics, he would bottle up his feelings.

We gotta run. It’s our turn for the laundry. We must get the Washington.

Pres practice – Presidents 35-44

The other day we were doing Presidents in practice and I wrote a few questions for the occasion.  People at practice found these were pretty tough; I followed a general trend of making 6’s so that you have to know a president in depth to answer, 4’s you have to know the major events, and 2’s obvious if you know the basics.

6 point clues:

Q1: During my presidency we passed the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  This act allowed states to not recognize gay marriages performed in other states.  I was criticized for this being an attempt to gain more votes for my upcoming election.

Q2: As president I pursued a foreign policy of detente with the Soviet Union, meaning a relaxing of tensions.  One of our methods of achieving my policy was by building a relationship with China’s new communist government.

Q3: I was sent on a diplomatic mission after my presidency to North Korea to meet Kim Il-Sung.  Being a strong advocate of peace, I exceeded my orders and proposed a treaty, much to the chagrin of the current president.

Q4: You could say I followed Thomas Jefferson’s doctrine of limited government.  In my first inaugural address I stated, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

Q5: My influential father was one of the most important leaders of my campaign.  He did a lot of work behind the scenes fundraising, strategizing, and securing support for my bid.  Because he had a controversial public reputation, his activeness in my campaign had to be downplayed.

Q6: I had a very dominant personality while president.  I would invite other heads of state to go skinny dipping with me so I could assert myself as the alpha male.  This attitude had helped me be successful while I was a whip in the Senate.

Q7: My goal was not originally to become president, it was to become Speaker of the House.  After World War II, I started towards accomplishing that goal by defeating the local party machinery to claim my seat in the house.

4 point clues:

Q1: During my first and second elections, I faced a strong third party candidate, Ross Perot.  He argued against the North American Free Trade Agreement and for budget deficit reduction.  At times during my presidency, the budget was balanced.

Q2: I had a meteoric rise to fame culminating with my election as Vice President.  I was best known for my involvement in the House Committee of Un-American Activities.

Q3: Lacking experience in Washington D.C., during my presidency i had difficulty getting legislation passed because of differences with my political party’s congressional leadership.  People say I’ve accomplished more after my presidency than during it.

Q4: I used to be a Democrat in my younger years, supporting FDR’s New Deal.  I once said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party.  The party left me.”

Q5: During my first year of office, a plan of my predecessor to overthrow the Cuban government was executed.  I would not allow American troops to be used in the effort.  The plan ended in complete failure.

Q6: During my presidency, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred.  It is unclear who fired first and there were no US causalities, but the incident was used to escalate US involvement in the region.

Q7: As the South Vietnamese government collapsed during my presidency, we conducted a large scale airlift in Saigon to save American still in the area and South Vietnamese refugees.

2 point clues:

Q1: There’s a strong possibility that I will become the first male presidential spouse in 2017.

Q2: I not only lost my first election to become president, but subsequently lost a race to become governor of California, my home state.

Q3: During the last year of my presidency, I was faced with the challenge of securing release of the 52 US citizens held hostage in Iran.  They were released the day of my successor’s inauguration.

Q4: As a younger man, I was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild.  Despite that experience, I had no sympathy for the striking air traffic controllers during my presidency; I fired over 10,000 of them.

Q5: I gave the vision of Americans landing on the moon which would be realized 6 years after my death.

Q6: As I signed the first major civil rights bill since the 1800s, I predicted the Solid South would soon turn from blue to red.

Q7: I was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, but decided to go to law school instead to pursue a more lucrative career.