Welcome to my new series about Presidential destinations. With presidential primaries filling the air waves, I though it might be fun to take a look at some of the Presidential Destinations I’ve enjoyed.
THE Primarily Presidential Destination
Of cours, the mother lode of presidential homes is The White House. I’ve never actually been inside the official residence of our country’s leader, but the wonders of television and movies have taken me inside so many times that I feel as if I I know my way around. Part of the reason I’ve never been inside The White House is that you can’t just walk up and buy a ticket. Visiting The White House is a big deal and you have to get an invitation through your Congressman – even if all you want to do is take a tour. If you follow the link above, you can start the process for your tour.
I may not have been to The White House, but I’ve been to the Oval Office several times. No, Scottie did not beam me in. Authentic replicas of the Oval Office are a feature of all the presidential libraries. Each president has the privilege of decorating the Oval Office and when they leave office, the decorations are part of their administration’s legacy. I’ll admit, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I was actually in one. Then you’re standing there surrounded by furnishings and fabrics that have been a part of history and it gives you goose bumps. It’s one of the things that’s turned me into a presidential library groupie.
Memories of LBJ
The first presidential library I visited was LBJ’s. Makes sense, me being a Texan and all.
For the record he was also the first president I saw in person. I was a little kid, living in Augusta, GA at the time and LBJ came to town to promote his Great Society program. The death of JFK still loomed large in my childhood memory. I learned about the assassination on the way home from school, when a wisecracking kid shouted, “Yea, Kennedy’s dead. Goldwater all the way.” My family spent the weekend in front of the TV, trying to wrap our minds around the tragedy in our home state of Texas, but to this day I can feel the chill that came over me when the kid yelled out his disrespect. When mother discovered LBJ would be in Augusta, she felt that attending the rally would help give me a better understanding of the American presidency. I was small enough to be frightened by the loud, boisterous crowd and aware enough of race to realize there were more black people there than I’d ever seen in one place before.
Remembering the LBJ Presidential Library
Many years would pass before I visited his library in Austin, TX on the campus of The University of Texas. After my first visit, I made several others, so it’s hard to remember the different impressions the library made on me each time, but I can tell you what captured my imagination the first time: a moon rock and a sword.
The moon rock was a small gray rock which would not have caught my attention if it were tossed on the ground, rather than being prominently displayed in a glass case at eye level, but it had come all the way from the moon. I was among the kids awed by the idea of rockets and space. I’d watched John Glenn climb into the US’s first manned space capsule. I’d heard the words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” as they were uttered. I was as captivated by the moon rock as a pilgrim viewing a piece of the True Cross. I couldn’t prove it was a moon rock, but the idea that it might be was enough.
The sword and scabbard which captured my eye came from some foreign dignitary. My memory is arguing about whether it was Japanese or Moroccan. Either way, it was gorgeous – diamonds, pearls on the scabbard and perhaps the largest emerald I ever saw at the top of the hilt. I tried to find a picture of it on the internet, to no avail. So you’ll just have to go to Austin and see it yourself. But you might want to wait until next year, because right now the library is getting a face-lift.
Have you been to a presidential library? Which one(s)? What did you think? Over the next few weeks, in honor of the American political process, Travel Talk will be devoted to my visits to presidential destinations. I hope you’ll come along.