KINDERHOOK, N.Y. - Martin Van Buren-- the eighth president of the United States- who probably introduced "OK" into American English and reinvigorated two-party politics in the United States was honored Friday, Dec. 5 by the New York National Guard on the 232nd anniversary of his birth.
Army Brig. Gen. Raymond Shield, the New York National Guard's Director of Joint Staff, joined Representative Chri Gibson, National Park Service officials from the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site and local elected leaders, in placing a wreath from President Barack Obama at Van Buren's grace in the historic Kinderhook Reformed Cemetery.
"It's great to see today's turn- out on this cold December morning to remember and honor President Martin Van Buren," Sheilds told the crowd of more than 100, which included three busloads of forth grade students from nearby Ichabod Crane Elementary School.
Military representatives traditionally place a wreath sent by the current occupant of the White House on the graves of part presidents on their Birthday. The New York National Guard marks the graves of three New York presidents: Van Buren, Chester Arthur who is buried outside Albany, and Millard Fillmore who is laid to rest in Buffalo.
Shields was joined by New York National Guard Command Sgt. Major Louis Wilson, a New York Army National Guard Chaplain and 14 Soldiers in the color guard and honor cordon.
Gibson, a retired Army colonel who was born in Kinderhook and lives near the Van Buren gravesite, pointed out that Van Buren was a president who looked out for small town people.
"He stood up for us. He stood up for rural people, Gibson said in his remarks. "He never forgot who he worked for."
When Van Buren died in 1862 after a life time of accomplishments, his will noted that he was a resident of Kinderhook, before noting that he had been president of the United States, said Justin Monetti, the site manager for Martin Van Buren National Historic Site.
Van Buren, who died in 1862, was born on Dec. 5 1782, and was the first United States President who was not originally considered a British subject.
Van Buren also grew up speaking Dutch, which made him the first president who did not speak English as his first language.
Van Buren served as president from 1837 to 1841 He ran twice more for the office but was defeated.
Prior to running for president he had a long career in New York state politics where he served as a state Senator, a U.S. Senator, attorney general and governor. He served a secretary of state and vice president for President Andrew Jackson.
He was most well-known at first, though, for putting together a political machine known as the Albany Regency which dominated politics in New York from 1822 to 1838.
Van Buren pushed for the creation of national political parties which would include members from all regions of the country rather than regional groupings which he feared would lead to the dissolution of the country.
In 1824 all four candidates running for president claimed to be members of the Democratic-Republican Party. In 1828 Andrew Jackson, at Van Buren's urging, ran as a member of the Democratic Party. The modern Democratic Party traces its history back to this decision.
One of Van Buren's nicknames-along with the - the Magician and the Red Fox of Kinderhook (he had red hair and came from Kinderhook) was Old Kinderhook, a name he got from his Hudson Valley hometown.
One story for the origin of the word OK in American English to indicate approval or that something is good is the Van Buren would initial "OK" for Old Kinderhook on documents he approved. When he ran for a second term as president in 1840 his supporters formed "OK Clubs" which is also thought to have popularized the term.
Unfortunately for Van Buren his single term in office coincided with the Panic of 1837, a financial collapse which resulted in a seven-year long recession.
Although Van Buren stayed involved in politics after his defeat in the election of 1840-he ran for president once more as the candidate of the anti-slavery Free Soil Party in 1848 and tried to be nominated as the Democratic candidate in 1844-he eventually retired to his home outside Kinderhook and became a full-time farmer.
He died at his estate called Lindenwald-now a National Historic Site-in July 1862.
Homepage of the New York National Guard