Reference Question - President doing research for child in school


Trying to verify a story.

Synopsis: President of United States with school age child is asked for help doing school report on a country. President calls Secretary of State (maybe another position but think it was SOS) and says "I need to know about country X." Secretary of State does not know why question is being asked. Secretary gathers staff and they work all night compiling detailed dossier on the country.

In the morning the Secretary of State has the thick detailed report on the President's desk. The president realizes that he should have clarified what the assignment was about and explains research was for school report for his child.


1) Did this happen?
2) If so, what President?
3) What country was being researched?
4) Citation to verifiable source?


This has become my mission for the afternoon (within reason because I still have work and all of that good stuff). I've narrowed down a list of potential presidents based on a couple of factors. First, I'm assuming this was pre-Internet or before the Internet was as ubiquitous as it is now, since children now would likely just look for this information online. Second, I've gone through a list of Presidential children to see who had school-aged children during their presidency.

Here's what I'm left with:
1. George Washington
2. Thomas Jefferson
3. James Monroe
4. Abraham Lincoln
5. Ulysses Grant
6. Rutherford Hayes
7. Chester Arthur
8. Grover Cleveland
9. Theodore Roosevelt
10. William Taft
11. Jimmy Carter

My initial guess was Jimmy Carter, so I was glad to see that he was still a contender! ;-) I've put out a call to a couple of history professors at my institution to see if either of them know or have an idea of where I could look for this. I'm so curious about this now!!

I believe I heard this story on NPR and my recollection was that it happened post WWII. I don't think it was pre 1900 but would not be shocked if I was wrong on either of these points.

There was a snippet when Bravo was running a marathon of The West Wing episodes that said Amy Carter did a report in school, for which she received a C, that had involved lots of research from White House staff. Since this was a thirty-second spot on a cable television channel I am unable to verify whether this happened, and cannot recall which country the report was about.

Discussion at about whether Amy Carter had a school paper written by the Department of Labor

Information literacy -- website has the words Southern Thang in the URL, pretty much guaranteed that everything on this site is true.

Version of Amy Carter story --

I am leaning very heavy towards urban legend on this one. Open to other options if someone finds a good source.

Sounds to me like an urban legend, but maybe someone on Project Wombat can help.

Source: "Amy Carter's Great Paper Chase." Washington Post. February 8, 1981

Looks like it was a question about the Industrial Revolution, not a country, and with the Department of Labor, as indicated by a previous commenter. An excerpt from the story, which is available in LexisNexis Academic:

"While doing her homework one Friday, Amy had a question about the Industrial Revolution. She took the question to her mother. Rosalynn Carter didn't understand the question, either, and told one of her aides to call the Labor Department for the answer. The homework was due on Monday. On Sunday afternoon a truck arrived at the White House loaded with computer printout material. Thinking the question was for a serious presidential inquiry, someone at the Labor Department had kept a computer team working overtime all weekend. A horrified Rosalynn Carter was told the research "had probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime. And Amy got a "C" on the paper."

There's also this, which is freely available via Google:

There was a followup story by the AP two days later which disputed some of the facts. In particular, that the Labor Department had no record of this spending. So I'd be hesitant to conclude that it happened exactly as initially reported.

-Andrew Walsh

what would a typical Wikipedia article cost if the research were done in 1981? the Industrial Revolution entry is at least 40 pages... calculate server access time, keypunch input, printing, ...

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