Bianca, YA/AV Librarian, Roswell Public Library, New Mexico
The United States is a great country and regardless of your political standings and opinions we all hopefully agree that the President of the United States deserves to have personal protection while in office. The Secret Service was created in 1865 to combat widespread currency counterfeiting after the Civil War and added protecting the president to their job description in 1902. Two presidents were assassinated in office – James Garfield in 1881 and William McKinley in 1901 – before personal protection was provided. The Secret Service, like most organizations, has evolved over the years adding protection to the president-elect (1908), vice president (1951), former presidents (1962); widow and minor children of a former president (1968); major presidential and vice-presidential candidates (1968), and visiting heads of a foreign state or government (1971). Since the Secret Service has been protecting the President of the United States, there have been no assassinations – only failed attempts and plots that were broken up before they could be acted upon.
Dan Emmett’s non-fiction book, “I Am a Secret Service Agent” was easy to read, very informative, and humorous. Dan writes about how he made his life-changing decision when he was eight years old as he watched the news on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One particular image on television made him want to be ‘worthy of trust and confidence’: a secret service agent. Throughout school, this was always his goal – getting good grades, learning about (and using) all types of weapons, and working out. The preparation and testing to be part of the Secret Service organization is very rigorous and if just one test is failed, the candidate is dropped from the program. Dan started out investigating financial crimes against the government and kept doing the best he could and was eventually made part of the personal protection detail and served during three presidents’ terms.
He tells stories of running through the streets of Washington with President Clinton - who wanted to exercise among the people; of being ready to shoot a motorcycle driver getting too close to the motorcade; of traveling the world (typically not in good circumstances); of driving the presidential limousine; and of giving up personal time with family to be on duty at a moment’s notice. Dan achieved the honor of being the best of the best and earned his right to protect the president over many other candidates. It’s a tough job!
Another long-time secret service agent, Clint Hill, wrote about his experiences in the book, “Five Presidents”. He tells of his day-to-day interactions with the president and his family and of the crowds of people he was trained to keep away from the president. It’s a very thorough work and includes many details of the lives of the most important people in the US. Mr. Hill served for 17 years from 1958-1975, during many major changes in our history.