“Secret Handshake to The White House”

Late last night, I came across Derek J. Groff’s 2009 dissertation, The Fraternity Factor: Secret Handshake to The White House. Let’s go to the abstract:

At least 60% of America’s 44 presidents were members of secret societies during their ascent to power, a statistic suggesting a phenomenon greater than chance. This study examines that phenomenon, focusing specifically on three groups: Freemasons, Greek-Letter Fraternities, and Yale’s Skull & Bones. It also seeks to identify and analyze the cardinal virtues of secret societies in general, as well as the values of the three groups, in particular. . . . The conclusion suggests that secret societies not only imbue their members with unique values relevant to politics, but that such values have influenced presidential policy, foreign and domestic.

There are histories of everything from presidential physicians to presidential press conferences, so it’s hard to fault the topic. But I can sure fault the trend—and not just as someone who, every April, gets woken up by the crazy Skull & Bones ceremonies that go down in the alley next to my apartment.

Speaking of life experience: the dissertation also promises “the researcher’s own insights as a former Greek-Letter Fraternity president.” If you have access to ProQuest’s Dissertations and Theses database, you can download those insights here.

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
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