President Barack Obama dismissed attacks on him and his administration for taking too much credit for killing Osama bin Laden, knocking one group's founding member for being a birther conspiracy theorist.

"I don't take these folks too seriously," Obama told The Virginian-Pilot. "One of their members is a birther who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary. You've got another who was a tea party candidate in a recent election. This kind of stuff springs up before election time."

This appears to be the first time that the president has been asked to address this line of attack, which echoes the swift-boat assault against Sen. John Kerry during his presidential campaign in 2004.

The paper had asked him about Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, a self-proclaimed non-political group that has criticized the White House for leaking information that gives it too much credit for the bin Laden raid. The group claims to be non-political but has extensive ties to the Republican Party. It also has numerous members who downplayed national security leaks when they came from the Bush administration.

Obama, however, was referring to another entity. Special Operations Speaks is a group founded by former Navy SEAL member Larry Bailey with the goal of portraying the president as anti-military. It got off to an auspicious start last week, when Bailey told Foreign Policy Magazine that he was utterly convinced that Obama wasn't actually born in America.

"I have to admit that I'm a birther," said Bailey. "If there were a jury of 12 good men and women and the evidence were placed before them, there would be absolutely no question Barack Obama was not born where he said he was and is not who he says he is."

UPDATE: The Associated Press has identified the birther referenced by the president in the interview as Special Ops OPSEC member Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (Ret.), who appears in one of the group's films publicly questioning Obama's birth in Hawaii.

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  • Andrew Jackson

    The 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was an old-style Democrat, <a href="" target="_hplink">the first president</a> not to hail from either Massachusetts or Virginia. Although he grew up a poor boy from <a href="" target="_hplink">the Waxhaws region straddling the Carolinas</a>, he taught himself law and became a prominent attorney. Jackson received national attention when he, as Major General of the American forces, successfully warded off British forces at the Battle of New Orleans, the final major battle in the War of 1812. As president, he famously took on Wall Street and some of the nation's biggest banks on behalf of the working class. Known for his blazing hot temper, Jackson had participated in numerous duels defending his honor, one of which left a bullet lodged in his side; more than one opponent, including the one who shot him, perished as a result. But Jackson had a dark side: He accumulated enough wealth to purchase a mansion and 200 slaves; <a href="" target="_hplink">the site would become known as The Hermitage</a>. In 1830 President Jackson and the United States Congress passed the <a href="" target="_hplink">Indian Removal</a> Act, which decreed that all Native American tribes, many of which had already adopted much of the Western European culture by this time, were to be moved voluntarily and then forcibly West of the Mississippi River (they were given the option to adopt the white man's culture or retain their native roots and resettle). This legislation resulted in the infamous <a href="" target="_hplink">Trail of Tears</a>, in which at least 4,000 of 15,000 Cherokees died from exposure, starvation and disease while forcibly marched West to settle in what is now Oklahoma. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Lyndon Johnson

    Our nation's 36th President, <a href="" target="_hplink">Lyndon B. Johnson</a> (1908-1973) grew up a poor farm boy in rural Texas in 1908. He put himself through college at Texas State University-San Marcos, a teachers college, and eventually ran for the House of Representatives and won in 1937. Johnson, who later in his career, advocated for social justice and equality, began as an ally of southern segregationists. As Senate majority leader, he ushered through, in 1957, the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. After the assassination of JFK in 1963, Johnson put forward his plan for a "Great Society," in which a man's social equity matched his work ethic, both in terms of civil rights and government aid to the working poor. In 1965, under the Johnson administration, Medicare, Medicaid and the <a href="" target="_hplink">Older Americans Act</a> were all signed into law, his lasting legacies, along with the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. His presidency ended under the dark cloud of the Vietnam War and the lie that was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the Congressional response to the claimed second attack on an American naval vessel by the Vietnamese, which turned out to be false. He would not seek reelection in 1968, and the back of the liberal agenda was ultimately broken on the wheel of Vietnam. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • John Kennedy

    At 43, <a href="" target="_hplink">John Fitzgerald Kennedy</a> (1917-1963) was our nation's youngest president, elected in 1960. He was also our youngest president to die, killed while waving to a crowd from his motorcade in Dallas,Texas on November 22, 1963. Kennedy participated in the nation's first televised presidential debates against Republican candidate Richard Nixon. Kennedy was the first Catholic president, and continued the "containment" foreign policy to fight against the spread of Communism, which ultimately led him into the disastrous war in Vietnam. He sent Cuban defectors armed with American weapons into Fidel Castro's Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, which turned out to be a blunder. The Cuban Missile Crisis between the Soviet Union and the U.S., that almost led us into nuclear war, was resolved peacably thanks to Kennedy overruling many of his more hawkish advisers. He supported the <a href="" target="_hplink">Civil Rights movement</a>, which resulted in the Civil Rights Act that was later signed into law by his successor Lyndon B. Johnson. Kennedy had a charm and wit about him that allowed him to forever hold a place in the hearts of Americans. Although he only served for a short while, he enjoys the highest approval rating of all our modern presidents, according to a <a href="" target="_hplink">2010 Gallup Poll</a>. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Richard Nixon

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Richard Nixon</a> (1913-1994) is most widely known as the only president to resign in disgrace, following the Watergate scandal and his illegal bombing of Cambodia. Nixon grew up in Whittier, California, attended Whittier College, and eventually graduated from Duke University Law School in 1937. He ran against California Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis in 1946 after returning from the Navy. He rose to prominence as an anti-communist when he gave credence to the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, whom many had written off, which charged Alger Hiss with revealing government secrets. He famously found Chambers' microfilm in a pumpkin patch while he was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1948. Nixon, as president, opened up the trade doors to China, meeting the Chairman Mao in Beijing, and ending over a quarter century of isolation. He is also responsible for the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, although his reasons for doing so remain debatable. He was controversially pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, and re-emerged as a statesman in later life. In his <a href="" target="_hplink">post-presidential years</a>, he traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, and even the Soviet Union to strengthen America's international relationships. He still remains one of America's most unpopular modern presidents. One of his greatest accidental legislative legacies -- campaign finance reform passed in the wake of the corruption of Watergate -- was only recently overturned by the Supreme Court. The ultimate political animal and cautionary tale, Nixon felt himself bound by no laws, famously saying that if the president did it, it was legal by definition. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Abe Lincoln

    Born in the Kentucky backwoods in 1809, <a href="" target="_hplink">Abraham Lincoln</a> (1809-1865) abolished slavery. Elected in 1860, Lincoln, as president, set out to preserve the Union at all costs. Growing up in the wilderness, Lincoln learned as a young man to overcome many of life's obstacles, including the death of his mother in 1818. As author of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address, his oratory skills have become legend. In 1861, <a href="" target="_hplink">during the construction of the Capitol Dome</a>, he is famously quoted as saying, "If the people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign that we intend this Union shall go on." Radical Republicans, however, slammed Lincoln during the Civil War for not moving quickly enough to free the slaves, and for civil liberties abuses such as his unlawful <a href="" target="_hplink">suspension of habeas corpus,</a> the foundation of our legal system. He was killed at Ford's Theatre in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday, shot in the back of the head. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Harriet Tubman

    Abolitionist and former slave, <a href="" target="_hplink">Harriet Tubman</a> (1820-1913) was one of the "conductors" of the Underground Railroad, a series of safe havens along the way outside of the slave-permitting South. She was born a slave in Maryland in 1820. In 1849 when she heard that she and some other slaves were to be sold to another plantation, she resolved to run away. She would eventually return, first for family, and then for others, and lead them on their path to freedom, following the North Star by night. Tubman rescued approximately 300 slaves altogether and remains, according to Frederick Douglass, the "Moses... who has willingly encountered perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people." <em>Image via AP</em>

  • J. Edgar Hoover

    <a href="" target="_hplink">J. Edgar Hoover</a> (1895-1972) was head of the FBI from 1924-1972. He was appointed by Calvin Coolidge in response to troubles with bootlegging brought about by prohibition. Of a strict moral code, Hoover, who lived with his mother until he was 43, chose to run the FBI in his image, where there would be no drinking and no relations with women. That didn't include, of course, his famous penchant for cross-dressing. During the Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave him free reign to take on the likes of "Machine Gun" Kelly and John Dillinger, notorious bootlegging gangsters who ruled the streets. He and his team were known for their own brand of anti-communist radicalism, labeling even left-leaning individuals, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, as well as John and Robert Kennedy, as possible threats. He remained with the bureau until his death in 1972. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Ronald Reagan

    As a sportscaster, radio personality, and eventual Hollywood darling, <a href="" target="_hplink">Ronald Reagan</a> (1911-2004) was an insurgent Republican candidate in 1980. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild during the time of the Red Scare of the late 40s and early 50s, the governmental and cultural witch hunt of suspected Communists which was headed by then Senator Joe McCarthy. He testified regularly and espoused his anti-communist convictions, actually turning from liberal to conservative during this time. He served two terms as California's governor and eventually won the Republican nomination and the Presidency (he had 489 electoral votes to Carter's 49). While in office, he brought the conservative agenda to the forefront from his "Morning in America" speech to his Reagan Revolution, which was largely in response to the "excesses of the 70s." He is known for his addiction to <a href="" target="_hplink">jelly beans</a>. Reagan's popularity lives on. According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, 19% of Americans, a plurality, say that he was the greatest president of all time. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • James Carville

    Born October 25, 1944, <a href="" target="_hplink">James Carville</a> is a Democratic strategist and political pundit. He grew up as the eldest of 8 children in Carville, Louisiana, named for his paternal grandfather who had been postmaster of the town. Nicknamed the "Ragin' Cajun," Carville is known for his spirited remarks and straight-talking candor. He achieved national fame after managing the campaign of a young Arkansas governor by the name of William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and steering it towards victory over the incumbent George H.W. Bush. "It's the economy stupid" was the mantra of the campaign, which also outlined the top three paths to victory: change, the economy, and healthcare. By focusing the campaign on these three buzzwords they were able to defeat Bush, who had been enjoying a 91% presidential approval rating during the Gulf War. To this day, Bush blames his defeat on third party candidate Ross Perot. Carville has appeared on numerous news and radio shows, including Rush Limbaugh's, with his wife Mary Matalin, a well-known conservative political consultant. "We have profound, deep, ideological differences," <a href="" target="_hplink">Carville</a> divulged. Limbaugh "has always been very good to my wife, which is the most important thing to me." Carville and his wife Mary were married in October 1993 in New Orleans and have two daughters. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Cesar Chavez

    Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) was a<a href="" target="_hplink">Mexican-American labor leader</a> who used non-violent tactics in order to improve the pay and working conditions of farmworkers in the United States. A community organizer who grew up as a migrant farm worker, Chavez helped organize the first strike against grape growers in California in 1965. Three years later, Chavez led a widely publicized national boycott against California grape growers, which brought the plight of the migrant farm worker to the national political scene. As the labor struggle wore on in California, Chavez's United Farm Workers union was able to win a number of victories when farmers joined the bargaining unit. The rallying cry of the United Farm Workers -- "Sí se puede" or "Yes we can" -- has become a hallmark of the immigrant rights' movement in the United States today, <a href="" target="_hplink"> resurfacing in recent marches and in President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. To this day, Chavez remains one of the iconic figures in American labor history. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Susan B. Anthony

    Despite never living to see her dream realized, Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was one of America's most influential figures of the women's suffrage movement. Anthony worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. She was a powerful and driven woman, giving an average of <a href="" target="_hplink">75- 100 speeches a year</a>, living a life totally devoted to politics, and never had a husband nor children. Her sister was her closest companion through life, as they lived together for 80 years. Susan B. Anthony was <a href="" target="_hplink">arrested for voting</a> in the 1872 presidential election. Her trial gave her the publicity she wanted and not much else, as she never paid the 100 dollar fine she was charged with and the embarrassed U.S. government never bothered to pester her about it later. Anthony and her sister also fervently supported the abolitionist movement, and she was good friends with orator and movement leader Frederick Douglass. Susan worked all the way until her death, as she was still the honorary president of National Woman Suffrage Association at the <a href="" target="_hplink">time of her death</a>. She succeed in getting women admitted to Rochester college in 1900, after her retirement. Women were not given the right to vote until 14 years after Anthony's death in 1906. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Joseph Kennedy

    Joseph Kennedy (1888-1969) was a businessman, government official and patriarch of the Boston-based Irish Catholic family that became one of the nation's great political dynasties. Kennedy, the father of future president John F. Kennedy, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, and longtime Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, <a href="" target="_hplink"> began his career</a> as an investor and rapidly acquired a hefty fortune. He then became the first chairman of the newly-founded Securities and Exchange Commission under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who argued that the best person to enforce the rules was one who had known how break them all. He served as an ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1938 to 1940. His own political career came to an end after he espoused isolationist views ahead of the American entry into World War II, so Kennedy dedicated his energy toward securing fruitful careers for his sons. However, Joseph suffered a stroke in 1961 that left him unable to speak. After seeing his son ascend to the presidency, Joseph witnessed John's assassination and Robert's in 1968 before passing away the following year. <em>Image via Alamy</em>

  • Franklin Roosevelt

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), elected to four consecutive terms in office, was the longest serving U.S. president in history. Lionized by liberals and reviled by conservatives during his presidency and ever since, President Roosevelt's New Deal marked a paradigm shift for the federal government. Roosevelt's policies left an indelible mark on American life. His "fireside" chats gave confidence and comfort to a nation struggling during the Great Depression. He ended prohibition and with the Wagner Act ushered in a new era for labor rights. Institutions like Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continue to dramatically shape American society. While his policy for the internment of Japanese during the World War II was undoubtedly an ugly stain on his record, FDR successfully guided the United States through the biggest war the world had ever seen. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Teddy Roosevelt

    Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (1858-1919) stands out in the long list of American presidents for his forceful personality, independent streak, machismo, and his challenge of entrenched corporate power that had taken hold of American life at the turn of the 20th century. Roosevelt was the original Rough Rider (sorry, DMX) and earned himself a reputation as a man's man by resigning as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and personally leading a platoon to victory in the Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. Upon return, he was elected Governor of New York and later became vice president for President William McKinley. Thrust unexpectedly into power after the assassination of McKinley by an anarchist, Roosevelt then embarked on a path that shook up American politics. He became known as a "trust-buster" and pursued new regulations over growing corporate monopolies. An avid outdoorsman and passionate conservationist, Roosevelt pushed through legislation that created and safeguarded U.S. national parks for future generations to cherish. Roosevelt had no qualms about dominating over smaller countries, especially in Latin America, a foreign policy popularly summed up by the aphorism, "Speak softly and carry a big sick..." As president, Roosevelt successfully mediated the Russo-Japanese War, a feat that led him to become the first president to win a Nobel Peace prize. After declining to run a second term and essentially handing his corpulent vice-president Howard Taft the presidency, Roosevelt later changed his mind and challenged the Republican incumbent in 1912 as a member of the newly created Progressive party, aka the Bull Moose Party. After losing, Roosevelt traveled to South America, where he chartered a river deep in the Amazon. Historians have suggested that malaria and other maladies he contracted during that trip ended up killing him a few years later. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Mark Hanna

    Mark Hanna (1837-1904) was the original Karl Rove, and deserves as much credit as anyone for transforming the Republican Party from the Party of Lincoln to the party of business it became in the latter half of the 19th Century. Hanna, an Ohio industrialist, groomed William McKinley from an early stage in his career, orchestrating his rise to governor and then the White House. He was the first campaign manager to professionalize fundraising and campaigning, outspending his populist opponent, William Jennings Bryan, in 1896 by 20-1, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to</a> Encyclopedia Britannica. McKinley awarded Hanna with a seat in the Senate. Senators were not directly elected yet, and the seats were more or less for sale in the 1890s. Rove routinely refers to Hanna favorably, and to the 1896 campaign as a major realignment in American politics, one he hoped to replicate in creating a permanent Republican majority. <em>Image via WikiMedia: Connormah</em>

  • William Jennings Bryan

    William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), known as "The Great Commoner," was a Democratic congressman from Lincoln, Nebraska and a champion of working Americans and anti-imperialism. Despite being a captivating orator, Bryan was <a href="" target="_hplink">nominated three times</a> as the Democratic presidential candidate for president and lost each time, largely as a result of his inability to translate enthusiasm among the rural into a coalition that also included the urban working class. He is perhaps best remembered for his "cross of gold" speech in which he implored the country to end the gold standard, an inflationary measure that he argued would especially help debt-ridden farmers and workers. Subsequent massive gold discoveries had the same monetary policy effect, sparking an economic boom, proving Bryan right in principle. Bryan was appointed to become President Woodrow Wilson's secretary of state in 1913, but resigned that position in 1915 in support of U.S. neutrality in World War I. A religious man, Bryan also had a conservative streak. Later in life, he became a prohibitionist -- as did many progressives -- and a fierce opponent of Darwin's theory of evolution. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Karl Rove

    An early adviser of George W. Bush, Karl Rove (1950 to present) provided the winning strategy for the Texas Republican through two gubernatorial victories and two presidential campaigns. The string of electoral successes led Bush himself to deem Rove <a href="" target="_hplink">"the Architect."</a> Under the Bush administration, Rove headed an under-the-radar group that weighed how to sell the War in Iraq to the American public. Rove later became entangled in the Valerie Plame affair, which involved accusations that he leaked the identity of a CIA employee in retaliation to a critical op-ed written by the worker's husband. Nearly three years after the leak, Rove was cleared of any wrongdoing. In 2010, Rove began advising American Crossroads, a 527 organization that raised tens of millions of dollars to boost Republican candidates during the same year's GOP takeover of Congress. American Crossroads and its allied Crossroads GPS <a href="" target="_hplink">plan to spend $300 million</a> to help elect Republicans in 2012. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Rosa Parks

    Rosa Parks (1913-2005) refused to move, demanding the dignity of her seat on the bus, and launched a movement that would transform race relations in America. She was fined for it. Revisionist takes on her famous refusal in Montgomery, Alabama have noted that she was already involved with the NAACP before deciding to dig in, as if that somehow taints her action. The resulting bus boycott and legal challenge, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is considered by historians of the area to be the beginning of the modern Civil Rights movement, which resulted in the desegregation of much more than buses. Parks would later move to detroit and <a href="" target="_hplink">work for Congressman John Conyers</a> -- whose son now represents the same area. When Parks died in 2005, she lay for two days in hallowed space in the U.S. Capitol, the first woman to do so. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Gloria Steinem

    Gloria Steinem (1934 to present) got her first big break in 1963, when she <a href="" target="_hplink">worked as a Playboy Bunny</a> at the New York Playboy Club while researching an article for <em>Show</em> magazine. The muckraking story catapulted Steinem into the national spotlight, where she remains a leading feminist voice to this day. In the 1970s, she essentially served as the women's liberation movement's closest friend in media, writing a column for <em>New York</em> magazine and establishing <em>Ms.</em> magazine. Her first brush with politics came after she received a story assignment on George McGovern's presidential campaign. She had previously spoken out in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, catching the ear of other prominent feminists with a heartfelt testimony before the Senate on gender equality. Steinem would go on to play an influential role in trumpeting women's causes during the next four decades of elections. In the late 1960s, she made famous the term <a href="" target="_hplink">"reproductive freedom,"</a> arguing that every woman has a right to an abortion and laying the rhetorical foundation for the pro-choice movement. She currently sits on the board of the Women's Media Center, an organization she co-founded with fellow feminists Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Margaret Sanger

    Inspired by her mother's many miscarriages and the back-alley abortions she saw as a nurse in the slums of Manhattan, Margaret Sanger (1879 - 1966) <a href="" target="_hplink">pioneered</a> the modern birth control movement. She opened the first birth control clinic in the country in 1916, before women had earned the right to vote. She faced opposition from all sides for her work, even spending time in prison for her work on a feminist journal that an all-male jury identified as "obscene and immoral materials." Sanger controversially <a href="" target="_hplink">supported</a> birth control as a form of eugenics, siding with proponents who aimed to use contraception to control the population or keep the "undeniably feeble-minded" from procreating. It was a popular position at the time, embraced even by Teddy Roosevelt and the Supreme Court. By 1921, Sanger had founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Her advocacy for the cause led to the development of the first oral contraceptive, as well as a landmark Supreme Court case that made birth control legal for married couples in the 1960s. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Nancy Pelosi

    Though she followed her father into Congress, Nancy Pelosi (1940 -- ) quickly <a href="" target="_hplink">paved her own path</a> to become arguably the most powerful liberal in the history of the United States. What separated Pelosi from other progressives was her willingness and ability to raise money. Her first decade in politics was spent dedicated to fundraising, giving her a base of support not tied to corporate America or the Democratic establishment. Her supporters gave "idealistic money," while the establishment chased what she called "pragmatic money." The California Democrat rose through the ranks, eventually winning election as the first female Minority Leader in the House of Representatives in 2002. Four years later she made history again, becoming the first female Speaker of the House. A vocal critic of the Bush administration and a fierce supporter of Barack Obama's campaign for president, Pelosi has found a place at the forefront of efforts both to obstruct conservative policies and to push through progressive ones. She remains a controversial figure in contemporary politics, inspiring attack <a href="" target="_hplink">ads</a> and outlandish <a href="" target="_hplink">remarks</a> from her political foes. Her insistence on pushing to complete health care reform in early 2010, even after the victory of Scott Brown, may live as her lasting achievement. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Frederick Douglass

    Born and raised a slave, Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) overcame seemingly insurmountable hurdles to become the most prominent black voice in American politics during the 19th century. Without the luxuries of many white intellectuals of his day, the largely self-educated Douglass became an accomplished writer and orator on behalf of racial and gender equality. During the Civil War, Douglass met with President Abraham Lincoln on several occasions to urge him to speed up emancipation and subsequently assisted in efforts to recruit black troops for the Union war effort. Over his storied career, Douglass, a prominent Republican, <a href="" target="_hplink">went on to serve</a> as marshall (1877-81) and recorder of deeds (1881-86) for the District of Columbia. He later served as minister to Haiti (1889-91). <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Dick Cheney

    A career politician, Dick Cheney (1941 -- )<a href="" target="_hplink">rose</a> from congressional intern to become the 46th vice president of the United States. Known for his behind-the-scenes style and tireless work ethic, Cheney helped President George W. Bush plan the war on terror after the 2001 terrorist attacks. He first reached the White House during the Nixon and Ford administrations, serving as chief of staff for the latter. He also served as secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush and gained valuable insight during the Gulf War, overseeing Operation Desert Storm in 1991. That prior experience led him to advise the younger Bush to create the Office of Homeland Security, and Cheney remained a steadfast supporter of the war throughout his tenure in office. Cheney's political career has not been without <a href="" target="_hplink">controversy</a>; his health problems frequently made headlines, as did his involvement with the Valerie Plame scandal, a controversy surrounding the leaked identity of a covert CIA officer. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Malcolm X

    Born Malcolm Little (1925-1965), the young Malcolm adopted his famous surname during a political and religious awakening in prison -- the single letter 'X' was chosen to protest the treatment of his African ancestors in the United States. Malcolm X gained prominence as a spokesperson and minister in the Nation of Islam, and became known for his biting critiques of racism and black oppression in the United States. In contrast to the explicitly pacifist and assimilationist leaders of the burgeoning civil rights movement like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X initially preached an uncompromising form of black separatism. But his political views were in constant evolution and he eventually left the Nation of Islam after learning about extensive corruption involving the group's leader, Elijah Mohammed. After travelling on the hajj to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm returned to the U.S. with a more egalitarian vision and disavowed his past views on black supremacy. Upon returning, Malcolm said he had met <a href="" target="_hplink"> "blonde-haired, blue-eyed men I could call my brothers ." He was assassinated in 1965 by members of the Nation of Islam, according to a <a href="" target="_hplink">new biography by Manning Marable.</a> <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Martin Luther King Jr.

    (1929-1968) Perhaps the most recognized figure of the American Civil Rights movement, Dr. King was born the son of a Reverend in Atlanta, Ga, the heart of the segregated South. King attained a degree in Divinity and took a position as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama in 1954. In 1955 King helped organize and lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a peaceful demonstration and show of resolve which would ultimately lead to a US District Court ruling ending the city's segregation laws on public buses. In 1957 King helped found and subsequently led the <a href="" target="_hplink">Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)</a>, an organization aimed at combating racial segregation and the Jim Crow laws in South and across the nation. Through the early 1960's King spoke out publicly against racial injustice while organizing marches and rallies, the most famous of which being the 1963 <a href="url" target="_hplink">text</a> href="" target="_hplink">March on Washington</a> at which King delivered his landmark I Have a Dream speech. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and continued to speak and organize against both racial and economic injustice, until his assassination at a Memphis motel in 1968. King's Civil Rights achievements, especially his adherence to and effective use of nonviolent civil resistance, have been memorialized in the years following his death, with his birthday being marked as a national holiday in 1983 and a <a href="" target="_hplink">memorial</a> to his life and work now standing on the National Mall. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Huey Long

    As Louisiana governor, Huey Long (1893 to 1935) fought for radical populist policies that aimed to balance out a national economy wrecked by the Great Depression. He most famously established the Share Our Wealth program in the mid-1930s. The initiative's slogan, <a href="" target="_hplink">"Every Man a King (But No One Wears A Crown),"</a> would come to define Long's efforts to redistribute wealth amid the Depression-era outbreak of poverty and homelessness. Long also used his governorship to push sweeping statewide reforms, earning him the title of <a href="" target="_hplink">"Kingfish"</a> as he grew local infrastructure and education in unprecedented ways. He backed state-level legislation that established a free textbook program and night classes for adult literacy. He confronted conservative critics by often showing up announced on the state House and Senate floors, pressing them about their opposition to his bills. Long was assassinated in 1935, cutting short his aspiration to challenge President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's reelection bid. His legacy lived on in Louisiana, where he split the state Democratic Party into two factions -- <a href="" target="_hplink">"pro-Long" and "anti-Long"</a> -- that endured long after his death. His most lasting impact, however, was indirect. Without Long challenging him from the left, it's unlikely that Roosevelt would have attacked the Great Depression as aggressively, or sought such wide reaching reforms. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Huey Newton

    Huey Newton (1942-1989) was one of the founding members of the Black Panthers and a leading figure in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s. After growing up in Oakland, Calif., Newton helped found the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in 1966. As outlined in the group's <a href="" target="_hplink">Ten-Point Program , the Panthers' radical vision of political and social change called for black self-determination and an end to capitalism. "Black Power is giving power to people who have not had power to determine their destiny," Newton <a href="" target="_hplink"> said . After he was arrested in 1967 for allegedly killing an Oakland Police Officer at a traffic stop, Newton's court case and subsequent incarceration became a cause celèbre for the Black Power movement and other sixties radicals. The slogan "Free Huey" became a popular rallying cry, with the case eventually being dismissed after two retrials resulting in hung juries. After the Panthers collapsed due to internal strife and legal problems in the 1970s, Newton returned to school, earning a PhD. He was shot in the street and killed in 1989. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Shirley Chisholm

    Shirley Chisholm's (1924- 2005) campaign slogan "Unbought and Unbossed" rings true of her political career as the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress and to run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. She survived three assassination attempts during her campaign for the presidency in 1972, and when her opponent George Wallace was shot, she went to <a href="" target="_hplink">visit him in the hospital.</a> She did not win the nomination, but she received 151 of the delegates' votes. Chisholm started her political career in 1964, when she won a spot on the New York State Assembly. Four years later, she donned her famous campaign slogan and won herself a seat in the House, which she held for seven terms. She fought for women, minorities, and extending the minimum wage to domestic workers during her time as a congresswoman. Chisholm <a href="" target="_hplink">grew up</a> and was educated in Brooklyn, NY, receiving her M.A. at Columbia University. According to the <a href="" target="_hplink">New York Times</a>, when Chisholm was asked what she wanted her legacy to be, she said "I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That's how I'd like to be remembered." <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton (1947 -- ) first found herself in the <a href="" target="_hplink">national spotlight</a> as first lady to President Bill Clinton, but she has since established herself as a national figure in her own right. As first lady, she championed health care reform and women's rights, often stirring up controversy for her passion and outspokenness on political issues. Clinton, who stood by her husband after the scandalous revelation of his infidelity with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, afterward won election to the United States Senate in New York, serving for eight years. In 2008, she made history as the first woman to run for president, earning just 200 delegates shy of the 2,118 delegates needed to win the primary before she conceded to then-Senator Barack Obama. When he won the general election, he appointed Clinton to be Secretary of State, a position that has greatly enhanced her once-polarizing public image. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Thurgood Marshall

    "Separate but equal" was a phrase that Thurgood Marshall (1908-1983) finally put an end to in the world of education in 1954 in his most famous case as an attorney, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He was the first African American to be on the U.S. Supreme Court. As a lawyer, Marshall worked ceaselessly for civil rights, winning 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Court. He has represented and won more cases before the Court than any other American. Some of his victories include ending segregation of housing, transportation, and voting. Marshall was <a href="" target="_hplink">appointed the chief counsel</a>for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and during his time at NAACP he helped the United Nations and the United Kingdom draft constitutions for Ghana and Tanzania. When Marshall was a Supreme Court justice, he <a href="" target="_hplink">promoted affirmative action</a>, which he saw as a remedy for the damage of segregation on black Americans. Today, America commemorates Marshall's work for the country with buildings, libraries, and even an airport named after him. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Thomas Jefferson

    As the main writer of the Declaration of Independence, the first Secretary of State, and the third President of the United States, founding father Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) profoundly shaped the embryonic United States, so much so that an entire wing of early American thought is often referred to as "Jeffersonian." Jefferson, the most prominent counter voice to Alexander Hamilton, was a passionate advocate for federalism, individual rights, limited executive power, and freedom. But Jefferson, of course, was also a slaveholder, despite recognizing slavery as an "evil." While President, amongst other accomplishments, Jefferson expanded the borders of the nation with the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Prior to becoming President, Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia and Minister to France, amongst other prestigious positions during his five-decade service to the United States. <em>Image via Alamy</em>

  • J.P. Morgan

    John Pierpont "J.P." Morgan (1837-1913) was a corporate titan who profoundly shaped an industrializing United States. He was, in many respects, the nation's first central banker. Born to a wealthy banking family, Morgan had financial prowess in his blood. In 1871, Morgan founded a company that would later become his namesake, a banking juggernaut that continues to be one of most powerful companies on Wall Street. Derided by progressives as a "Robber Baron" for his oligarchic power over American life, J. P. Morgan consolidated large industries like steel and the railroads and held significant political clout. During the "Panic of 1907," Morgan single-handedly rescued the stock market from a meltdown by pledging large sums of his own money and assembling financiers to <a href="" target="_hplink">channel</a> funds from strong financial institutions to foundering ones. He was considered one of the leading businessmen in the United States when he died. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Andrew Carnegie

    Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) is all of American politics and business packed into one person. A rags-to-riches tale, Carnegie emigrated from Scotland, became a factory worker, and ultimately, as head of what would become U.S. Steel, one of the most powerful barons of his day. He ruthlessly and <a href="" target="_hplink">lethally suppressed</a> any labor unrest, paying starvation wages to his workers and running competitors out of business by exploiting his market dominance. Carnegie expressed deep regret over the deaths that resulted from his locket in Homestead. "The pain I suffer increases daily. The Works are not worth one drop of human blood. I wish they had sunk," <a href="" target="_hplink">he wrote shortly after.</a> In his later years, he dedicated himself to philanthropy so successful that multiple institutions still bear his name. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Dorothy Height

    Best known for her forty year tenure as President of the <a href="" target="_hplink">National Council of Negro Women</a>, Dorothy Height was a key figure in the struggle for African American women's rights and for Civil Rights more broadly during the 20th Century. After being denied the right to matriculate at Barnard College in 1929 due to her race, Height achieved her undergraduate degree from New York University, before pursuing post-graduate work at the New York School of Social Work. Height served as National President of <a href="" target="_hplink">Delta Sigma Theta Sorority</a> from 1946 to 1957, and remained involved with the organization for the rest of her life. An advisor on Civil Rights issues to Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, Height served in multiple government roles including on the President's Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, the President's Committee on the Status of Women, and as a consultant on African Affairs to the Secretary of State. Height was also an integral part of the formation of the advocacy organization <a href="" target="_hplink">African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom</a>. Among many honors for her achievement in the fields of civil and women's rights, Height was invited as an honored guest to President Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration.

  • Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones

    Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837- 1930) was a schoolteacher and dressmaker turned union organizer. This woman's path to greatness was started by a string of disasters. She was living comfortably in Memphis with her husband, George E. Jones, member and organizer of the National Union of Iron Moulders, and her four children when a wave of yellow fever hit the city. Both her husband and children, who were all under the age of five, did not survive the sickness. Mary moved to Chicago to recover and opened a new dress shop. Only four years later though, her hard work was burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. Jones then turned to labor movement and the Knights of Labor. She traveled to different strike sights and gave energetic speeches. She became known as <a href="" target="_hplink">"Mother"</a> because of the way she treated the workers and her white-haired, black-dressed maternal appearance. Jones devoted herself wholly to the labor movement, to the point where she <a href="" target="_hplink">never picked another place</a> to live after her home and shop burned down in 1871. In 1903, Jones organized the "Children's Crusade" in which a caravan of child laborers traveled with her from Pennsylvania to President Roosevelt's house in New York. The President refused to meet with the striking children, but the public payed attention. She was arrested and imprisoned twice for her work on strikes, but she always found a way back. Jones fought for the working rights of miners, women, steelworkers, silk-weavers, and railroad workers over the course of her life, although she did not support women's suffrage movements because she believed it distracted women from more important economic issues. She is most known for her quote "pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." <em>Image via Flickr: IMLS DCC</em>

  • William Randolph Hearst

    William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) was an <a href="" target="_hplink">icon</a> of American journalism who operated the largest newspaper chain in the country. Hearst began his career when he took over the San Francisco Examiner from his father in 1887, luring in high-profile writers like Stephen Crane, Mark Twain and Jack London. In 1895, he bought the New York Journal, which soon became caught up in a circulation war with rival Joseph Pulitzer's New York Journal. The two newspapers became known for their sensationalist reporting and hyperbolic headlines, giving birth to the term "yellow journalism." In addition to the New York Journal, Hearst was also the owner of newspapers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle. The "yellow journalism" that characterized Hearst's papers supported aggressive U.S. foreign policy, which helped to <a href="" target="_hplink"> rally public opinion behind the Spanish-American War. The newspaper mogul's later years spent at his California ranch are said to have inspired Orson Welles' classic 1941 film Citizen Kane. His media empire, the Hearst Corporation, still exists today. <em>Image via AP</em> <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> This post originally stated Hearst ran the San Francisco Chronicle. It has been updated to reflect he took over the San Francisco Examiner.</em>

  • Emma Goldman

    Demonized by some and lionized by others, Emma Goldman emerged as a leading figure in both the anarchist and feminist movements of the early 20th Century. Born in the Russian Empire, Goldman immigrated to the United States in 1885, ultimately settling in New York City. Goldman was imprisoned several times during her life, for acts ranging from the then-illegal distribution of information on birth control, to a plan hatched with with her lover and fellow anarchist <a href="" target="_hplink">Alexander Berkman</a> to assassinate industrialist <a href="" target="_hplink">Henry Clay Frick</a>. Goldman was a tireless activist for women's rights, though she ultimately found herself diverging in goals and ideology from first-wave feminists focused mainly on women's suffrage. In her writing and activism, Goldman viewed the systems of government-held power and economic class as inherently male-dominated and thus anti-feminist. Goldman was deported Russia during the "Red Scare" of the early 1920's, and spent time living in England, France, and Spain, before her death in 1940 in Toronto Canada. <a href="" target="_hplink">Goldman's life and philosophy</a> were again popularized in the early 1970's by a new generation or anarchist activists and feminist scholars. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Eugene Debs

    A five-time presidential candidate with the Socialist Party of America, Eugene Debs (1855-1926) was one of the nation's most prominent and feared labor organizers. In 1893, Debs helped <a href="" target="_hplink"> organize the American Railway Union, which played an instrumental role in the Pullman strike -- the <a href="" target="_hplink">largest industrial strike</a> to date in U.S. history . While in jail for his role in the strike, he came into contact with socialist literature from Europe and became a leader in the Socialist Party upon his release. As the party's presidential nominee in 1912, Debs received six percent of the vote. He was also an outspoken critic of World War I, and was arrested for giving an anti-war speech under the Espionage Act. While in prison, Debs ran for president again in 1920, garnering over one million votes. He was pardoned by President Harding the following year, and died five years later. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Dolores Huerta

    A labor leader and well-known role model in the Latin community, Dolores Huerta is best known for her role as co-founder of the National Farmworker's Association (now the <a href="" target="_hplink">United Farm Workers</a>). Huerta began her labor activism career in 1955 co-founder of the Stockton, Ca chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO). In 1962 she co-founded what would later become the UFW union with labor organizer <a href="" target="_hplink">Cesar Chavez</a>. In 1965 Huerta organized boycott activities with the UFW in support of the <a href="" target="_hplink">Delano grape strike</a>, resulting in a key early victory for unionized farm labor. Huerta lobbied politically for such labor and civil rights legislation as the 1962 repeal of the Bracero Program and the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Huerta currently serves as president of the <a href="" target="_hplink">Dolores Huerta Foundation</a> focusing on leadership development and civic engagement, and in 2012 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. Huerta remains an active speaker and supporter of progressive political initiatives in the areas of labor relations and women's rights. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Jimmy Hoffa

    Jimmy Hoffa (1913-1975?) was a legendary labor leader with the Teamsters known for his <a href="" target="_hplink"> charisma , successful organizing tactics, as well as overseeing the union's culture of corruption. Born in 1913 to a <a href="" target="_hplink"> working-class family in Indiana , Hoffa quickly rose up the ranks of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, becoming its president in 1957. As the union's leader, he oversaw a surge in membership and helped negotiate a contract with trucking companies that covered nearly all truck drivers in North America. Hoffa also famously had ties to organized crime, which he used to intimidate rival unions and strengthen his own. After a relentless crusade by Robert Kennedy, Hoffa was convicted in 1964 of jury tampering and misusing union pension funds, and was sent to prison, where he stayed until 1971. The fiery unionist is also known for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. After leaving for a lunch meeting in suburban Detroit, Hoffa disappeared, and the whereabouts of his body remain unknown to this day. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Sandra Day O'Connor

    As the first female justice on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor (1930 to present) dealt with a wide array of expectations beyond the normal pressures of being one of the country's top judicial officials. She was accused of lacking a cohesive constitutional vision and viewing cases too narrowly, with conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer charging her with displaying <a href="" target="_hplink">"political positioning embedded in a social agenda."</a> Yet her voting record reflects what many legal scholars believe is a sound strategy for any judge in any courtroom: A case-by-case approach that often rose above the petty politics of the day. The most striking example of this judicial reputation came when O'Connor -- long considered a moderate conservative -- cast the swing vote to uphold abortion rights. The landmark decision was in direct opposition to Republican calls to reverse the lower court's ruling. Despite her legacy stained with the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore, in 2009, President Barack Obama honored O'Connor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian accolade a president can hand out. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Charles & David Koch

    Charles and David Koch: The Koch brothers are behind some of the country's most influential public policy institutions, many of which advocate for business-friendly economic solutions. The sons of oil magnate Fred Koch, Charles (1935 to present) and David (1940 to present) are at the helm of several family foundations that give generously to conservative causes and candidates. Fierce opponents of legislation to address climate change, the oil barons have emerged as some of the most prolific donors behind legislation aiming to debilitate Big Labor, <a href="" target="_hplink">giving more than $17 million</a> to anti-union groups. The brothers also flexed their anti-union muscle by <a href="" target="_hplink">contributing the second largest donation</a> to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Their involvement in that race -- and Walker's unsuccessful recall attempt two years later -- cemented a new age of political fundraising on the state level. The longtime libertarians have drawn repeated criticism for throwing unmatchable sums of money behind hot-button political issues, earning the collective label <a href="" target="_hplink">"Kochtopus"</a> in liberal circles. Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group the brothers founded in 2004, was pivotal in Republicans' 2010 takeover of the House of Representatives and is expected to play an even more outsized role in the 2012 presidential election. (David Koch pictured) <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Bill Clinton

    The first Democratic <a href="" target="_hplink">president</a> since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win reelection, Bill Clinton (1946 -- ) is widely lauded for his successful stewardship of the economy and the prosperity the country enjoyed during his tenure as Commander-in-Chief. A Rhodes scholar, Clinton worked his way up through Arkansas politics before running for president in 1992. He gained notoriety in 1998 for the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky that led to his impeachment. Tried in the Senate but found not guilty, the president apologized for his actions and continued to enjoy remarkable popularity among the public. Legislatively, Clinton was similarly successful. Though his efforts to reform health care failed, Clinton is best remembered legislatively for NAFTA, Wall Street deregulation and welfare reform, all of which were opposed by liberals and have subsequently been blamed for rising inequality, financial turmoil and the hollowing out of the middle class. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Earl Warren

    As chief justice of the "Warren Court," Earl Warren (1891 to 1974) led the Supreme Court to some of its most liberal decisions in history, radically changing criminal procedure and issuing rulings favorable for the civil rights movement. After serving three terms as California governor -- one of only two Golden State leaders to do so -- Warren took up President Eisenhower's offer to appoint him to the first open seat on the high court. That vacancy turned out to be left behind by Chief Justice Fred Vinson, who unexpectedly died in 1953. Once on the court, Warren used his political acumen to make up for what many viewed as a thin judicial resume and intellectual lag behind the other justices. "His opinions were not always clearly written, and his legal logic was often muddled," <a href="" target="_hplink">wrote constitutional historian Melvin I. Urofsky</a>. Yet Warren's leadership ability guided the court's liberal bloc toward landmark rulings such as <em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>, which ended segregation in public schools. In <em>Gideon v. Wainwright</em> and <em>Miranda v. Arizona</em>, the Warren Court ruled that all criminal defendants must be read their rights and have a lawyer available to them if they cannot afford one. And in <em>Engel v. Vitale</em>, Warren applied the Bill of Rights on the state level by banning mandatory student prayer. After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Warren was appointed head of a commission tasked with investigating the commander-in-chief's killing. Warren was reluctant to join the government committee, and for good reason: The Warren Commission's findings briefly curbed the controversy surrounding Kennedy's assassination, yet the issue quickly rebounded and resounds to this day. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • John Roberts

    John Roberts (1955-present) came to the Supreme Court and quickly began setting a torch to longstanding precedent, shortly after swearing, under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that he deeply respects judicial precedent. His most consequential about face came when he overturned a century of campaign finance law with his carefully orchestrated <em>Citizens United</em> decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on elections. The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin <a href="" target="_hplink">reported</a> that Roberts played expert internal politics in order to use a narrow case to make a wide political ruling. Roberts is a lifelong Republican who served under President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. He was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, then appointed chief justice by the same man. He was educated at an Indiana private school, then attended Harvard and Harvard Law School. He has since become a darling of liberals for breaking with the GOP wing of the court to uphold the bulk of President Obama's health care reform law. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Harvey Milk

    Harvey Milk (1930-1978) was one of the first openly gay politicians in the United States. He was elected to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1977. A passionate defender of LGBT rights, Milk was lovingly dubbed the "The Mayor of Castro Street," referring to his activism on behalf of the vibrant LGBT community in the heart of San Francisco. Milk's promising political career was cut short when he was assassinated by a disgruntled fellow city supervisor just 11 months after his election. The 2008 Oscar-winning movie "Milk" immortalized his dramatic and inspiring story. In 2009, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Robert La Follette

    Robert Marion La Follette, Sr. (1855-1925) is best known as "Fighting Bob" for his tenacious lifelong battle to wrest power away from the Gilded Age's elite -- and often corrupt -- interests and back into the hands of the people. The progressive Republican politician was, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to historian R. David Myers</a>, "arguably the most important and recognized leader of the opposition to the growing dominance of corporations over the Government." La Follette served Wisconsin as a U.S. congressman, governor, U.S. senator and presidential candidate. La Follette biographer Nancy C. Unger wrote that among the <a href="" target="_hplink">victories</a> to which the legendary Wisconsinite contributed were the direct election of senators, public disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures, women's suffrage, more equitable taxation, higher wages and fewer hours for American workers and the creation of the Department of Labor. In 1959, when the U.S. Senate chose the <a href="" target="_hplink">five greatest members</a> in the chamber's history, La Follette was on that list. But as an opponent of U.S. involvement in World War I, La Follette was, at one time, nearly expelled from the Senate. Today, however, he is one of just nine senators whose paintings hang in the Senate Reception Room. <em>Image via WikiMedia: Jatkins</em>

  • Eleanor Roosevelt

    Niece to President Theodore Roosevelt, wife and fifth cousin once removed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was one of the most connected First Ladies in history. Eleanor had a naturally shy disposition, but she was forced to overcome her fears early and make public appearances for her husband after his legs were permanently hobbled from polio. Once she became First Lady, she continued to be active in the public world, holding weekly press conferences, writing a newspaper column called "My Day," and appearing at labor conferences. Though she had enemies on the right, affection for Eleanor won out in the public because she stuck true to <a href=" " target="_hplink">her philosophy</a> of "no matter how plain a woman may be if truth & loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her." She gained much of this adoration when she took a brutal and physically dangerous trip to the South Pacific Islands in WWII to visit the servicemen. Eleanor Roosevelt viewed equality of all people as a core value. When she attended the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in 1938, she moved her chair to sit in <a href="" target="_hplink">between</a> the "whites only" and "colors only" sections. After FDR died in office, Eleanor became a <a href="" target="_hplink">delegate</a> to the United Nations General Assembly. She worked for human rights until her death in 1962. <em>Image via Getty</em>

  • Barry Goldwater

    Barry Goldwater (1909 to 1998) represented Arizona in the Senate from 1953 to 1965 before running for president in 1964. He was easily defeated by Democrat Lyndon Johnson, but his footprint on the conservative movement remains firmly embedded to this day. Goldwater returned to the Senate in 1968 and stayed there until 1980, his political career virtually unscathed by his failed presidential bid. His historic involvement in energizing the Republican Party's right wing earned him the title of <a href="" target="_hplink">text"Mr. Conservative"</a> as he pushed back against New Deal policies that widened the scope of the federal government. Goldwater's charismatic brand of conservatism laid the foundation for the 1980 election of one of the most popular Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) <a href="" target="_hplink">famously told <em>The Washington Post</em></a> in 1994 that Goldwater "transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan." As the religious right took hold of the Republican Party in the 1980s, Goldwater became more of a libertarian icon, advocating for political views -- such as a woman's right to choose to have an abortion -- that would be considered unorthodox in the contemporary GOP. Nowadays, a <a href="" target="_hplink">"Goldwater Republican"</a> is one who wants to limit the size of the federal government -- and the size of their tax bill -- but does not hold social issues in high priority. <em>Image via AP</em>

  • Frances Perkins

    Francis Perkins (1882-1965) was the tough but loving godmother of Social Security and much of the New Deal. At the time it was created, the program was deeply controversial, and Perkins was vilified by the right. But she persevered and wound up serving twelve full years as FDR's Labor Secretary. "I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen," <a href="" target="_hplink">she famously said. </a> Perkins began as a progressive reformer in New York, which under Al Smith and FDR paved the way for many of the advances came later, when Roosevelt made it to the White House in 1933, bringing Perkins and other senior aides with him. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. summed her up: "Brisk and articulate, with vivid dark eyes, a broad forehead and a pointed chin, usually wearing a felt tricorn hat, she remained a Brahmin reformer, proud of her New England background . . . and intent on beating sense into the heads of those foolish people who resisted progress. She had pungency of character, a dry wit, an inner gaiety, an instinct for practicality, a profound vein of religious feeling, and a compulsion to instruct." Her statue now stands guard in front of the Department of Labor's Frances Perkins Building. <em>Image via Getty</em>