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Mailbox Gail Hennessey

The official U.S. time - snapshot

To Tell the Truth
Florence Harding
Gail Skroback Hennessey
* With permission from Mark Goodson Productions
Host:Today's guest is Florence Harding. Only one of the three on the panel is the REAL Florence Harding. The other two are impostors. Your job is to listen carefully to the information presented and decide which of the three guests is the REAL Florence Harding. Let's begin by meeting our guests.

Florence Harding 1:
Thanks for inviting me here today. My name is Florence or Flossie Harding.

Florence Harding 2:
It is a pleasure to be here today. I am Florence Harding.

Florence Harding 3:
Good day to all of you! You can call me "The Duchess", which was my husband's nickname for me.

Let's begin by reading this short summary on Florence Harding:
I, Florence Harding, was born in 1860. I am called the first "modern" First Lady, because I was an active participant in my husband, President Warren Harding's presidency. For that reason, my critics called me "President maker" or "President ruler". I guess that's because some think that I wanted my husband to be president more than he did. Maybe, they are correct. I once said. "I have only one real hobby, my husband." I also said that "I know what's best for the President. I put him in the White House." My husband once said of me, "Mrs. Harding wants to be the drum major in every band that passes".
I was the first First Lady to be able to do something very important as an American citizen- vote in a presidential election,my husband's. I think you can imagine WHO I voted for in that election?
I often voiced my opinions, helping to write and edit the President's speeches. In fact, during the inauguration ceremony, people commented that they saw me mouth the words of the speech!
I held my own press conferences, something no other First Lady had ever done. I was also the first First Lady to have Secret Service protection. I was also the first First Lady to fly in an airplane, and, the pilot was a woman. I was the first First Lady to be filmed in newsreels without Warren, the president, by my side.
A fortune teller had predicted that Warren would win the Presidential election but that he wouldn't live for the entire term. She also said I would die soon after my husband. She was correct on both predictions.Warren died in office and I died in 1924, less than two years after my husband's death.
Florence Harding

Panelist 1: You were called Flossie and loved to climb trees, ride a horse, ice skate and roller skate. You said your dad was the "richest man in town" and you lived in a mansion. Any memories of your childhood you'd like to share with us, Mrs. Harding?

Florence Harding 1:
Dad was very strict and during my time, using a cherry switch as punishment, was common. And, if we didn't come home by curfew, he'd actually lock the doors to our home and we'd have to fend for ourselves until morning when the doors were reopened.

Florence Harding 2:
I was the oldest child. My dad wanted a boy so I guess you could say he raised me as a child, as if I were one. On the positive side, I grew up thinking of myself as equal to any boy with self reliance and a strong will about things I thought important.

Florence Harding 3:
I was very good at playing the piano. My father wanted me to become a concert pianist. He would have me practice for hours each day. There were some days, I was at the piano for up to eight hours!

Panelists 2:
What kind of student were you, Mrs. Harding?

Florence Harding 1:
I went to public school and was a good student. In addition to math, English,history and science, I learned logic, philosophy, surveying,Greek, German and Latin.

Florence Harding 2:
I attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music after high school but my father made me leave after the first year and come back home. We had an argument and he stopped paying for my tuition to school!

Florence Harding 3:
As a little girl, Dad brought me to work where he shared with me how the business worked. My dad, who owned a hardware store, gave me training in business. I helped customers in the store, kept credit and bookkeeping accounts for my father. As a teenager, he would let me ride my horse and go and collect rent on properties he owned. Dad believed that women should learn things necessary so they could earn a living on their own.

Panelist 3: You and President Harding entertained celebrities of the time at the White House such as Al Jolson and Lillian Gish. The famous scientist, Madame Marie Curie, also came to the White House for a visit.
Tell us something else about your and President Harding's time in the White House.

Florence Harding 1:
First Lady Edith Wilson had raised flocks of sheep on the White House lawn. I didn't like all the wool that piled up or the many droppings on the lawn. Why, you had to constantly watch where you were walking! This just wouldn't do so I had the sheep removed and planted lots of beautiful flowers and opened the White House(which Edith Wilson had "closed") to the public. My hand would get sore from shaking all the hands of visitors to the White House. Some weeks, I estimate that I shook thousands of people's hands!

Florence Harding 2:
Sadly, my husband's presidency was remembered for some scandals that happened including what was called the Tea Pot Dome. In this particular scandal, the Secretary of the Interior Albert B Fall leased three naval oil reserves(of which Tea Pot Dome, Wyoming, was one) to oil companies that gave him money. We went on a transcontinental trip, called the "Voyage of Understanding"in 1923 to dispel many of the rumors of scandals. Along the way, Warren got ill and died. Doctors said he had a heart attack and stroke. Would you believe some people actually accused me of poisoning my husband? Yes, this is true! After Warren died, I angered many people when I destroyed many of my husband's papers....especially those that might harm his presidential legacy.

Florence Harding 3:
I was a popular very first lady."Flo from Ohio"and "The First Lady of the Land"were songs written in my honor. A violet-blue(my favorite color) delphinium flower called the "Harding Blue" was popular. During the time I was in the White House, King Tut's tomb was found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, by Howard Carter. I, as many others, dressed in the Egyptian styles, popular at this time.

Panelist 4 : Today, young people wouldn't find it unusual, but as First lady, you actually owned a radio and knew how to operate a movie camera.
You liked playing the game mah-jongg and tried a new desert treat, Eskimo Pies. Any other memories of being First Lady you'd like to share?

Florence Harding 1:
I liked sometimes giving guided tours of the White House and remember when a group of Girl Scouts came to the White House for a visit, I greeted them wearing a Girl Scout uniform, too!

Florence Harding 2:
I was the first First Lady to have a Facebook account and was so popular, that I had over 3 million followers. I also liked to "tweet"but found it so difficult to keep to the maximum word count.

Florence Harding 3:
I remember when a red, white and blue colored hot-air balloon landed on the White House lawn. I ran out to see it and asked the pilot if I could get a ride, as I had never been in a hot-air balloon before. Floating over the Capital Building, seeing the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial from above was a wonderful experience. When we returned to the White House, I texted all my friends about my hot-air ballooning experience!

Panelist 5:
You supported animal rights, refused invitations to go to rodeos and took down all the big game animal heads in the state dining room left by Theodore Roosevelt. You would only wear fur that had come from animals that had died naturally and would never wear feathers. You once wrote, "Cruelty begets cruelty. Hardness towards animals is certain to breed hardness towards our fellow man". You were also active in the peace movement and you were an advocate of women's rights. You supported a statue honoring women's suffragettes to be placed in the U.S. Capital. What is another issue that you supported as First Lady?

Florence Harding 1:
I led a national boycott on sugar when prices were too high for most Americans. I was also an advocate for our veterans. I visited "my boys" at Walter Reed Hospital's several times a week. If I was driving in Washington, DC, and saw a veteran on the side of the road, I'd offer him a ride. I also had garden parties for veterans.

Florence Harding 2:
I was in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens and once chained myself to the White House fence to bring attention to this cause. I thought any aliens that came such a long distance to visit us earthlings,must have had much technology to offer us and deserved to be treated better.

Florence Harding 3:
I favored "Drill, Baby, Drill". I thought we should drill for oil anywhere in the United States to get off our dependency on foreign oil until there was a terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Seeing all those oil coated pelicans made me cry crocodile tears.

It is now time for the panelists and members of our audience to decide who is the REAL Florence Harding.Please vote for number 1, number 2 or number 3. Alright, the votes have been cast...Will the REAL Florence Harding, please stand up?

Additional Information:
As students read the play, consider pausing between one or more of the
panelists' questions to review the information students have heard. Invite
opinions about which guest may be the real Florence Harding encouraging students to share their reasoning along with their responses. Remind the class that only the real guest must always tell the truth.
Time for the REAL Florence Harding To Please Stand Up!
Once all the votes have been cast, establish that Florence Harding___1__
is the real guest . Then review the play, making sure that students are aware of the correct facts from each section of the play:

All responses to Panelists #1, #2 and #3are correct
The Vietnam Memorial had not be built during the time of Florence Harding being in the White House, nor was texting invented in her time.
The Worst Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not occur during the time of Florence Harding nor was the term "Drill, Baby, Drill" used.

Discussion Questions:
1. What is something about Florence Harding you found most interesting?
2. When did you suspect the other two Florence Hardings were impostors? Why?
3. Do you think that Florence Harding should have burned many of the President's papers? Why, why not?
4. Research the current First Lady and find interesting facts about things she current supports or is the "first"to have done.

Additional Resources:
Website on Florence Harding

* Always check websites before having students use them.