Presidents are Mama’s boys

“Well a mother, a real mother, is the most wonderful person in the world. She’s the angel voice that bids you goodnight.”

– Wendy to the lost boys of Neverland.


Most presidents are mama’s boys.

Many of them are actually named after their mothers.

We all know that John Fitzgerald Kennedy is named after his mother, Rose Fitzgerald.  But Ronald Wilson Reagan is also named after his mother, Nelle Wilson.

Lyndon Baines Johnson is named after his mother, Rebecca Baines.  Richard Milhous Nixon is named after his mother Hannah Milhous.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt is named after his mother Sarah Delano.  In fact, FDR’s mother used to tell him, “You are a Delano, not a Roosevelt.”

When FDR had his famous fireside chats with the nation on national radio, his mother was right there beside him.  And on every Mother’s Day, she, herself, addressed the nation.

This phenomenon goes all the way back into our history.  Woodrow Wilson was named after his mothers, Janet Woodrow and Rutherford Birchard Hayes was named after his mother, Sophia Birchard.

Now it isn’t a perfect trend or else John Forbes Kerry would have won the 2004 presidential election.  He is named after his mother, Rosemary Forbes.   And then Marvin Pierce Bush, would have been the Bush brother to win the White House over George or Jeb.  He is named after his mother, Barbara Pierce.  But when I wrote the book, The Raising of a President, it appeared as such a stark statistical anomaly that I had to find an explanation.  I sent the data to several psychologists around the world.

Here was the identical response.  When that mother took that baby to her breast she felt a special connection to the child that bore her name.

Huh?  That’s it?  She felt something?

It reminded me of the German scientist who had studied plants in the 1880’s and insisted that if we talk nice to plants they will respond.  I’ve often thought.  If talking nice to a shefflera Tree will help it grow an extra inch each year, just imagine the damage or the good we do to each other by what we say, especially to our children?

Sigmund Freud wrote that “the man who perceives himself to be the favorite of his mother is empowered for life.”

Abraham Lincoln supposedly told William Herndon, “All I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”

Even as an adult President William McKinley insisted that his mother say a prayer with him before going to bed.  At great expense, he had a wire laid from Ohio to Washington, D.C. so the practice could continue even when he was in the White House.

Never underestimate the power of a mother.   Apparently, how she feels, or how you think she feels, can impact the rest of your life.

No wonder William Wallace wrote, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”



Published by Doug Wead

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book, Game of Thorns, is about the Trump-Clinton 2016 election. He served as an adviser to two American presidents and was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.

5 thoughts on “Presidents are Mama’s boys

  1. Hey, Doug Wead.
    I have a question. As you are a presidential-historian, can you find any history regarding Obama? Seriously; prior to 2004, did anyone (save Axlerod and a few others) know anything of him?
    Who went to school with him?
    Who attended his wedding?

    I realize any records requested of him appear to (now, forever?) be sealed or non-existent, but honestly. Who is this president of ours?
    The more I look, the less I find, the more strange it gets.

  2. The protocols of genealogy can shed some light as to the reason so many Presidents bear their mother’s maiden names as their middle names. For centuries in the English tradition the pattern in naming of children especially sons was very important for family identification. The first name was considered the child’s own name and did not have to come from any heritage. The middle name was given based on the following protocols: 1st born son is named for his father’s father; 2nd born son for the mother’s father (i.e. the mother’s maiden name); 3rd born son for the father; 4th born son or child for the mother’s mother; 5th born child for the mother’s father, clan or heritage name; 6th born child for the father’s mother. The seventh child is the first to get both a first and middle name that is totally their own and not named for anyone else. By the time an eighth child is born the brothers and sisters of the parents are often brought into the pattern.

    If the above pattern were followed faithfully those with their mother’s maiden names would be second born. Any way you look at it many of our famous Presidents carried their mother’s maiden names no matter their birth order. Does that give the son more confidence with more chance at success?

    1. It is amazing. I wonder if it is because the first born break under the pressure of expectations and the parents ambition for them? Many older siblings of presidents die young, as do namesakes of presidential fathers. For example, all expectations were on Lawrence Washington, who knew that young George would do anything? All expectations were on Joe Kennedy, not Jack. Even the exceptions prove the rule. In the Eisenhower family and the Bush Family, the expectations were a younger or middle child, Milton Eisenhower and Jeb Bush. But the overlooked elder, Dwight and George W. Bush surprised everyone.

      I wonder if excessive expectations is the culprit, as it is for overpaid sports stars.

  3. Doug,

    Have you ever heard about family constellations by Bert Hellinger? It is a psychological discipline that views people as part of their family system. Take a look, I think it will give a deep insight on this phenomenom that you are describing.


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