Global Presidents: Benjamin Harrison in Europe

Benjamin Harrison was a one-term President who had the distinction of being the President in the middle of Grover Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms as President. Harrison ran against Cleveland for President twice, winning in 1888 and losing in 1892. Both time Cleveland bested him in the popular vote, and Harrison is one of five presidents to have won the office without getting the most popular votes in the election. (The other four are John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford Hayes in 1876, George W. Bush in 2000, and Donald Trump in 2016).


After he left the White House in March of 1893, Harrison did not immediately return home to Indianapolis. He visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in June 1893 and after the Expo, Harrison returned to his home in Indianapolis. Harrison had been elected a companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States in 1882, and was elected as commander (president) of the Ohio Commandery on May 3, 1893. For a few months in 1894, Harrison lived in San Francisco, California, where he gave law lectures at Stanford University. In 1896, some of Harrison's friends in the Republican party tried to convince him to seek the presidency again, but he declined. He knew that he wouldn't have won the nomination, as he had alienated too many Republicans during his term in office by not being more supportive on doling out patronage properly. When William McKinley won the nomination, Harrison traveled around the nation making appearances and speeches in William McKinley's candidacy for president.

From July 1895 to March 1901 Harrison served on the Board of Trustees of Purdue University. Harrison Hall, a dormitory there, was named in his honor. He wrote a series of articles about the Federal government and the presidency which were republished in 1897 as a book titled This Country of Ours.

In 1896, sixty-two year old Benjamin Harrison got married for the second time. His first wife Caroline died in October of 1892 just before Harrison's election loss to the Cleveland. He shocked members of his family when, in 1896, he married, Mary Scott Lord Dimmick, a woman twenty-five years younger than him. She was a 37 year old widow was the niece and former secretary of his late wife. Harrison's two adult children, Russell, 41 years old at the time, and Mary (Mamie) McKee, 38, strongly disapproved of the marriage and did not attend the wedding. Benjamin and Mary had one child together, Elizabeth, who was born on February 21, 1897.

In 1899 Harrison traveled to Europe to attended the First Peace Conference at The Hague. The Hague Convention of 1899 was the first multilateral treaty that addressed the conduct of warfare. It adopted what was known as the Lieber Code, rules of warfare conduct that had been signed and issued by President Abraham Lincoln on April 24, 1863, for the Union Forces during the Civil War. The Lieber Code was the first official comprehensive codified law that set out regulations for behavior in times of martial law, for protection of civilians and civilian property, and for punishment of military transgression. It dealt with subjects such as treatment of deserters, prisoners of war, and hostages, as well as how to deal with pillaging, partisans, spies, truces and prisoner exchanges. These rules were considered to be an excellent summary of the first customary laws and customs of war in the 19th century. They were adopted by military establishments of other nations. Much of the regulations in the Hague Conventions were borrowed heavily from the Lieber Code.

The conference also included negotiations concerning disarmament, the laws of war and war crimes. A major goal of the conference was the creation of a binding international court for compulsory arbitration to settle international disputes, hoping that this might replace the institution of war. This effort failed. Most of the countries present, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, and Persia, favored a process for binding international arbitration, but the provision was vetoed by a small group of countries, led by Germany.

In 1897, Harrison took on the job of chief legal counsel for the Republic of Venezuela in their British Guiana boundary dispute with Great Britain. This was a longstanding dispute that had come to a head in 1895. Venezuela hired William Lindsay Scruggs as its lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Scruggs took up Venezuela's argument that British action violated the Monroe Doctrine. Scruggs used his influence to get the US government involved in the dispute. President Grover Cleveland took the position that the Monroe Doctrine not only forbid new European colonies in the western hemisphere, but that it also declared an American interest in any matter within the hemisphere. The key issue in the dispute was Britain's refusal to include the territory east of the Schomburgk Line in the proposed international arbitration. Ultimately Britain backed down and tacitly accepted the US right to intervene under the Monroe Doctrine. This US intervention led to Britain agreeing to accept arbitration of the entire disputed territory. An international trial was agreed upon, to be held in Paris.

Harrison filed an 800-page brief. He traveled to Paris in 1899 for the hearing before the Tribunal of Arbitration, where he spent more than 25 hours in court on Venezuela's behalf. His wife and daughter traveled with him. The tribunal judges included two British arbitrators, one American and one Russian. Harrison was on his feet arguing before the tribunal for over twenty-five hours over the course of five days. In the end, the court found for the British and upheld the British interpretation of where the disputed boundary was. Harrison was embittered by the result. He wrote, "Law is nothing to a British judge it seems when it is a matter of extending British dominion." Although he lost the case, Harrison was praised for his ability as counsel, and for his legal arguments.

Harrison returned home, and soon he experienced health problems. Harrison developed what was thought to be influenza (then referred to as grippe) in February of 1901. He was treated with steam vapor inhalation and oxygen, but his condition worsened. He died from pneumonia at his home in Indianapolis on Wednesday, March 13, 1901, at the age of 67.

Global Presidents: Jefferson in Paris

As a member of the Continental Congress representing his home state of Virginia, thirty-three year old Thomas Jefferson was chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After Jefferson left Congress in 1776, he returned to Virginia and served in the legislature. He was elected as his state's governor from 1779 to 1781. Jefferson was the subject of an inquiry into his conduct during his last year in office. During General Benedict Arnold's 1781 invasion of Virginia, Jefferson escaped Richmond just ahead of the British forces, and the city was burned to the ground. General Charles Cornwallis that spring dispatched a cavalry force led by Banastre Tarleton to capture Jefferson and members of the Assembly at Monticello, but the Virginia militia thwarted the plan and Jefferson escaped to Poplar Forest, his plantation to the west. When the General Assembly reconvened in June 1781, it conducted an inquiry into Jefferson's actions. That body eventually concluded that Jefferson had acted with honor—but he was not re-elected.

Jefferson's wife Martha had suffered from ill health, including diabetes. Her frequent childbirth had adversely affected her health and had further weakened her. A few months after the birth of her last child, she died on September 6, 1782, at the age of 33 with Jefferson at her bedside. Jefferson took his wife's death very hard and many of his friends were concerned about how his grief had depressed him. During the brief private interval in his life following his governorship, Jefferson wrote Notes on the State of Virginia. In 1784, he was called into public service again, when Congress asked him to travel to France, first as trade commissioner and then as Benjamin Franklin's successor as minister.

Jefferson was sent by the Congress of the Confederation to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams as ministers in Europe for negotiation of trade agreements with England, Spain, and France. Some believed that the assignment would distract the recently widowed Jefferson from the toll that his wife's death had taken on him, and that it would help to lift him from his depression. He left for France with his young daughter Patsy and two servants, the fourteen year-old Sally Hemings and her older brother James. They departed in July 1784, arriving in Paris the next month. When Jefferson arrived in Paris, French foreign minister Count de Vergennes said to him, "You replace Monsieur Franklin, I hear." Jefferson replied, "I succeed. No man can replace him." Franklin resigned as minister in March 1785 and left for home in July of that year.

Jefferson had Patsy educated at the Pentemont Abbey. In 1786, he met and fell in love with Maria Cosway, an accomplished—and married—Italian-English musician of 27. They saw each other frequently over a period of six weeks. It is said that when Martha Jefferson was dying, she had asked her husband to promise her that he would not remarry, as she did not wish to have her children raised by another mother. It is unclear how this promise may have affected Jefferson's decision not to continue his relationship with Marian Cosway. She later returned to Great Britain, but the two of them maintained a lifelong correspondence.

Jefferson sent for his youngest surviving child, nine-year-old Polly, in June 1787. While he was in Paris he had James Hemings, trained in French cuisine. According to Sally's son, Madison Hemings, the 16-year-old Sally and Jefferson began a sexual relationship in Paris, where she became pregnant. According to Madison's account, Hemings agreed to return to the United States only after Jefferson promised to free her children when they came of age.

While in France, Jefferson became a regular companion of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American Revolutionary War, and Jefferson used the Marquis's connections and influence to procure trade agreements between France and the United States. When the French Revolution began, Jefferson allowed his Paris residence, the Hôtel de Langeac, to be used for meetings by Lafayette and other republicans. Jefferson was in Paris during the storming of the Bastille and he consulted with Lafayette while the Marquis drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. While in Paris, Jefferson often found his mail opened by postmasters, so he invented his own enciphering device, the "Wheel Cipher" in order to send messages in code. He wrote important communications using this code for the rest of his career.

Jefferson left Paris in September 1789. He planned to return in the near future, but his plans changed when President George Washington appointed him the country's first Secretary of State. This made further travel impractical. Soon after returning from France, Jefferson accepted Washington's invitation to serve as Secretary of State. Pressing issues at this time were the national debt and the permanent location of the capital. Jefferson opposed a national debt, preferring that each state retire its own, in contrast to Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who desired consolidation of various states' debts by the federal government. Hamilton also had bold plans to establish the national credit and a national bank, but Jefferson strenuously opposed this and attempted to undermine his agenda. Jefferson was also an admirer of the French Revolution, despite the violence which resulted from it, while Hamilton was pro-British and anti-French. The feuding between the two men and the partisanship that resulted from their disagreements nearly led Washington to dismiss Jefferson from his cabinet. Jefferson later left the cabinet voluntarily. He and Washington never spoke again


Jefferson's time in France was the subject of a 1995 movie called Jefferson in Paris, which starred Nick Nolte as Jefferson, Greta Scacchi as Maria Cosway, Gwynneth Paltrow as Patsy Jefferson and Thandi Newton as Sally Hemings. In April of 2013, potus_geeks did a series on Presidents in Movies. The post about this movie can be found here, and a You Tube video of a scene from the movie appears below.


Global Presidents: Eisenhower Goes to Korea

In the 1952 presidential election, Republicans sought to end 20 years of the Democrats in the White House. The nation had stuck with Franklin Delano Roosevelt through the Great Depression and then through World War II. In 1948 voters elected Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman, to his own term in office. By the time the 1952 election approached, America was once again at war, though it was officially called a "policing mission", in Korea. Whether it was a full-blown war or just some kind of military intervention, it wasn't going very well. The Chinese Army had joined in the fight on the side of the communist North Koreans. Truman had fired his military commander, Douglas MacArthur, for insubordination and out of fear that the General might cause a nuclear war. But MacArthur's successor General Matthew Ridgeway did not have an easy fix for Korea.

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This time Americans were not so supportive of their wartime president and Truman could read the political tea leaves just as well as anyone. He decided not to run for re-election in 1952. In his place, the Democrats chose Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, a very cerebral and professorial man as their candidate. As his opponent, the Republicans had chosen the very popular General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, the architect of the D-Day invasion and a very formidable candidate.

Eisenhower campaigned by attacking "Korea, Communism, and Corruption", which were spin as failures of the outgoing Truman administration. Specifically, Eisenhower and the Republicans blamed Truman for the military's failure in Korea. Eisenhower was no fan of MacArthur either. He had been MacArthur's aide in 1932 when MacArthur sent the army in to chase the Bonus March protesters out of Washington and privately he wondered why MacArthur hadn't been fired sooner.

On October 24, in the dying days of the campaign, Truman challenged Eisenhower to come up with a better policy as to how to deal with the Korean problem. In response, the next day Eisenhower announced that if he were elected, he would personally go to Korea to get a firsthand view of the situation. In hindsight, he probably didn't need to go that far, and would still have won the election even if he had not promised to do so. But the promise boosted Eisenhower's popularity. On election day, November 4, 1952, Eisenhower easily defeated Stevenson, winning 442 electoral votes and 39 states, compared to 89 electoral votes and 9 states for Stevenson. Eisenhower received 34,075,529 votes (55.2%) and Stevenson received 27,375,090 votes (44.3%).

President-elect Eisenhower fulfilled his campaign pledge. Prior to going, he was not very specific about exactly what he hoped to accomplish there. On November 29, 1952 he left for a three days trip to Korea where he conferred with his old comrades General Mark Clark and General James Van Fleet, as well as South Korean Generals Chung Il-kwon and Baik Seon-yup. The President-elect visited with US troops, even dining on k-rations with the troops. He talked to division and regimental commanders, and he even ate C-rations at the front with G.I.’s from the 15th Infantry, his old regiment. He flew along the battle line, roughly the 38th Parallel, in an artillery observation plane (a small plane the size of a Piper Cub) where he did his own reconnaissance and got a first-hand look at the terrain. Eisenhower noticed that it was rocky, mountainous and very difficult to traverse for an infantry. It was also full of Chinese gun placements and heavily fortified. He later said that it reminded him of Tunisia during World War II, where an untested American Army had received its first defeat. He said, “It was obvious that any frontal attack would present great difficulties.” He added, “Small attacks on small hills would not win this war. We could not stand forever on a static front and continue to accept casualties without any visible result.”

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Eisenhower returned to the United States and was convinced that there was no other option but to make peace. Truce negotiations had been started 18 months earlier, but there had been no ceasefire. Casualties continued to mount. American losses (killed, wounded, and missing) had reached 75,000 in July 1951 when the talks began. They would eventually rise to 150,000, including an additional 12,000 dead, because of American insistence on fighting while the negotiations took place. Eisenhower say this as unconscionable. He said: “We cannot tolerate the continuation of the Korean conflict. The United States will have to break this deadlock.”

Eisenhower instructed General Clark to step up the exchange of prisoners with the North. He presented a "get tough" facade so as not to appear to be negotiating from a position of weakness, but his goal was to end the war as soon as possible. He suggested that he would "unleash" the Nationalist Chinese forces on Taiwan against communist China, something that Truman had refused to do. He hinted at the possibility of using whatever force was necessary (including the use of nuclear weapons) to bring the war to an end unless peace negotiations began to move forward. Eisenhower realized that he Chinese were just as exhausted by more than two years as the Americans were, and that they were likely also open to ending the conflict.

In early April 1953 the Communists signaled they were ready to negotiate an end to the war. Joseph Stalin had recently died and the new Soviet leadership apparently also wanted to see the situation resolved. On April 8, Eisenhower announced his decision to agree to an armistice that would leave a divided Korea. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Defense Secretary Charles Wilson were strongly opposed. But Eisenhower rejected their argument. He said “Now either we cut out all this fooling around and make a serious bid for peace. or we forget the whole thing.”

In July 1953, an armistice was reached with the Chinese and the Koreans. It left Korea divided along approximately the same boundary as in 1950. The armistice and boundary remain in effect today, with American soldiers still stationed there to enforce it. The armistice, concluded despite opposition from Secretary Dulles, South Korean President Syngman Rhee, and others inside Eisenhower's party.


Stephen Ambrose, one of Eisenhower's leading biographers, considers this armistice as the greatest achievement of his administration. Having witnessed the ravages of a great war, Eisenhower had the wisdom and the insight to realize that unlimited war in the nuclear age was unthinkable.

Following is a YouTube video of some news footage of Eisenhower's visit.


Global Presidents: Warren Harding in Vancouver

In the fall of 1922, the stress of the Presidency began to take a toll on Warren Harding's physical health. He had become aware of scandals within his administration that had not yet come to light in the public. Harding was suffering from coronary disease. By early 1923, Harding had trouble sleeping, was looked tired, and could barely get through nine holes of golf. Harding wanted to run for a second term. To try to improve his health he went on the wagon, giving up drinking alcohol. Harding, along with his personal physician Dr. Charles E. Sawyer, believed getting away from Washington would help relieve the stresses of being President. By July 1923, criticism of the Harding Administration was increasing. Prior to his leaving Washington, the President reported chest pains that radiated down his left arm.

In June of 1923 Harding boarded a naval transport ship, the USS Henderson, and voyaged to Alaska. Rumors of corruption in his administration were just beginning to circulate in Washington. While in Alaska, Harding was profoundly shocked by a long message he received detailing illegal activities previously unknown to him. Harding arrived in Alaska on the Henderson on July 7, 1923. Harding and his presidential party first visited a number of places in Alaska, including Metlakatla, Ketchikan (July 8), and Wrangell (July 9). They continued on to Juneau (July 10), Skagway, and Glacier Bay (July 11). The President then cruised to Seward (July 13). They then proceeded to travel by Presidential railway car and automobile. Harding visited Snow River on the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage (July 13), Chickaloon, Wasilla and Willow (July 14). He continued his Alaska journey through Montana Station, Curry (July 14) Cantwell, McKinley Park and Nenana (July 15). On July 15, 1923, Harding drove in the golden spike on the north side of the steel Mears Memorial Bridge that completed the Alaska Railroad. The trip continued to Fairbanks (July 15) where it was decided (July 16) that the President and his wife would return to Seward (July 17) via the railroad. They spent a restful day at Seward (July 18). From there they took the Henderson to Valdez (July 19), Cordova (July 20), and Sitka (July 22). While in Sitka, Harding visited and shook hands with Alaskan Native Tlingit elder chief Katlean outside in a crowd of people.

Warren Harding was the first sitting President to visit Canada. He did it in 1923 on what would become the last journey of his life. He died on August 2, 1923 while on a tour of the west coast that included several destinations in Alaska, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, where Harding died at the Palace Hotel.

In the days before commercial air travel, Harding had to travel through British Columbia by train to get from Alaska to Washington state. He visited the city of Vancouver on July 26, 1923, when he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. (William Howard Taft and Franklin Roosevelt had vacationed in Canada prior to becoming president, and William Henry Harrison had participated in the invasion of the country in the War of 1812. The well-respected historian David Pietrusza notes that Woodrow Wilson had also vacationed in Canada.)

According to news reports from back then, Harding was a very popular visitor who was loved by the locals. BC premier John Oliver and Vancouver’s mayor Charles Tisdall hosted a lunch in his honor at the Hotel Vancouver. An estimated 50,000 Vancouverites crowded into Stanley Park (Vancouver's version of Central Park, only bigger) to hear Harding speak. It was, as a sanitized Joe Biden might say, a big fricken' deal.

Harding played some golf while he was in Vancouver, at the Shaughnessey Golf Club (where today the rich and famous in Vancouver society continue to play). Harding had been unwell on the trip and after playing six holes of golf, he became so tired that, to quell any suspicions, he moved to the 17th hole, then finished the 18th. The photo below shows the Harding foursome: from left to right F.W. Peters, General Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, Chief Justice D.A. McDonald of the BC Court of Appeal, Harding and a fourth person identified as the Hon. Dr. King.


After the game Harding called for White House homeopath Sawyer, complaining of nausea and pain in the upper abdomen. Sawyer found the President had a pulse of 120 beats per minute and was breathing 40 times per minute. (Both of these readings were abnormally high for a man of Harding's age.) Intensive cardiac therapy including digitalis was started.

A week later Harding and his entourage were in San Francisco, and that is where Harding died, exactly one week after visiting Vancouver. The city of Vancouver was saddened by Harding's death. Harding had belonged to the Kiwanis Club, and the Kiwanis Club of Vancouver initiated a drive for a grand memorial to him in Stanley Park, at the site where he spoke. The monument was designed by Vancouver sculptor Charles Marega, also a Kiwanian, and unveiled in 1925.

One summer day a few years ago, I was in Vancouver and I decided that as the geekiest of the potus_geeks, it was my solemn duty to visit the Harding Monument. I am very familiar with Stanley Park. I used to run through the trails and on the seawall there a lot when I used to train for marathons, but in spite of my familiarity with the park, finding this monument was no small feat. I located it on a map of the park and walked around looking for it, but couldn't seem to find it. By fluke, I found the back of the monument, but when I tried to walk around to the front, I was thwarted by a high fence. It turned out that the monument was inside the Malkin Bowl (an outdoor theater enclosed in a fence.) I was able to find a break in the fence and probably trespassed, but I was able to get in and snap a picture of the monument. Nobody caught me, so I snapped my picture and left the same way I came in. That's my confession of breaking and entering.


More pictures of the monument appear behind the cut.

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Global Presidents: George W. Bush in Africa

One of the least known and most positive accomplishments during the Presidency of George W. Bush is his launching of an initiative to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa known as PEPFAR, a program that has saved millions of lives. Bush's desire to help the people of Africa was inspired by two visits he made to that continent during his presidency, one in 2003 in his first term, and a second visit in 2008 during his last year in office.

The government initiative that Bush began in early 2008 was called PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief). It was a governmental initiative designed to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and to help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa. The program's initial goal was to provide anti-retroviral treatment to 2 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited countries in order to prevent millions of new infections, and to support care for 10 million people by 2010. PEPFAR increased the number of Africans receiving anti-retroviral treatment from 50,000 in 2004 to over 1.2 million by early 2008. It is the largest health initiative ever initiated by one country to address a disease. The program has made anti-retrovirals widely available, saving millions of lives. According to a 2009 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the program had prevented about 1.1 million deaths in Africa and reduced the death rate due to AIDS in the countries involved by 10%.

In 1998, when George W. Bush considered running for president, his foreign policy adviser (and future Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice suggested that Africa should be a focus of his. In 2002 he commissioned a report, which ultimately was titled "The Next Wave of HIV/AIDS: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, India, and China". It was written by the National Intelligence Council. This repirt was significant because it discussed the mortality associated with the poorly controlled HIV pandemic across several decades and also forecast the impact of that excess mortality on U.S National Security interests. The U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (also known as the Global AIDS Act) was passed and it contained a series of goals, identifying measurable outcomes to be reached on the subject of controlling the spread of the disease and providing aid to its victims. The legislation also established the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to oversee all international AIDS funding and programming.

Bush first visited Africa as President from July 8-12 in 2003. His first stop was in Dakar, Senegal on July 8, 2003, where he met with President Abdoulaye Wade. From there it was on to Pretoria, South Africa for a meeting with President Thabo Mbeki. On July 10, 2003 Bush met with President Festus Mogae in Gaborne, Botswana, where he also toured the Mokolodi Nature Reserve. The following day he traveled to Kampala, in Uganda, for a meeting with with President Yoweri Museveni. Later that day he landed in Abuja, Nigeria, for a meeting with President Olusegun Obasanjo. He flew home the next day.

Bush returned to Africa in February, 2008. On February 16, 2008 he met with President Yayi Boni in Porto Novo, Benin. Later that day he arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for three days. There he met with President Jakaya Kikwete abd signed the Millenimum Challenge agreement, an agreement that provides for aid to African Nations, provided that they meet certain criteria consistent with democratic government, including the appropriate standard for civil rights, support for the rule of law, fiscal accountability, fighting corruption and a proper level of health care spending. On February 19, 2008, Bush traveled to Kigali, in Rwanda where he met with President Paul Kagame and dedicated the new U.S. Embassy. Later that day he traveled to Accra, Ghana, and the next day he meet with President John Kufuor. On February 21, 2008 he arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, the last stop on his trip, to meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Later that year, in July 2008, PEPFAR was renewed, and expanded to more than triple the initiative's funds, increasing funding to $48 billion through 2013, including $39 billion for HIV and the global Fund, $4 billion for TB, and $5 billion for malaria. In May 2009, the Obama Administration launched the Global Health Initiative (GHI) as an effort to develop a comprehensive U.S. government strategy for global health and it included PEPFAR as a central component.

When PEPFAR was signed into law, 15 countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and limited resources to combat the disease, were designated to receive the majority of the funding. The 15 "focus countries" were Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

When the Bush administration inaugurated the program in 2003, fewer than 50,000 HIV-infected people on the African continent were receiving the antiretroviral drugs needed to keep the virus in check and halt the progression toward full-blown AIDS. By the time Bush left office, the number had increased to nearly 2 million. Today, the United States is directly supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 4 million men, women and children worldwide, primarily in Africa.

Before PEPFAR, the prevailing theory was that the drug-treatment regimens that were saving lives in developed countries would not work in Africa because poor, uneducated people in these communities could not be counted on to take the right pill at the right time every day. When the drugs are taken haphazardly, the virus mutates and becomes resistant. Critics of PEPFAR's approach argued that trying to administer antiretroviral treatment in poor African countries might actually be worse than doing nothing at all. The Bush administration rejected these arguments. According to a survey by Doctors Without Borders, 11 African countries — including some of the hardest-hit by the epidemic — are providing antiretroviral drug treatment to well over half of their citizens infected with HIV. Treatment not only extends the patient’s life but also decreases the likelihood that he or she will pass the virus to an uninfected person. According to one official from Doctors Without Borders, "the end of the AIDS epidemic is not yet in sight, but it is no longer unimaginable."

Bush's biographer Peter Baker of the New York Times sums up the significance of this accomplishment as follows:

"Bush did more to stop AIDS and more to help Africa than any president before or since. He took on one of the world's biggest problems in a big, bold way and it changed the course of a continent. If it weren't for Iraq, it would be one of the main things history would remember about Bush, and it still should be part of any accounting of his presidency."

In April of this year, Bush, now a former president, and his wife Laura, returned to Africa. The Bushes visited Botswana and Namibia for three days, as part of their George W. Bush Institute‘s work on global women’s health and women’s leadership. They highlighted great health and education advances made on the continent with the help of U.S. aid, and much of the media coverage of the visit contrasted this with the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts on foreign aid. On this issue, the former president said in Botswana: “Now is not the time to abandon the efforts that have taken place up to this point. The American people ought to be proud of what has taken place here. We should believe that every life matters, and every soul is precious.”

During the three-day stay, Bush made a speech at the home of Ambassador Earl Miller in Botswana about the Bush Institute’s affiliate program, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, which fights breast and cervical cancers in the developing world. Since its founding in 2011, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon has screened over 20,000 women for cervical cancer, and given over 70,000 HPV vaccinations. The program is an extension of PEPFAR, and is a partnership with the Susan G. Komen foundation as well as UNAIDS and the Bush Institute.

Global Presidents: Franklin Pierce in Madeira

Despite the tragic start to his presidency (specifically the death of his only son Bennie in a train accident during his transition period), Franklin Pierce finished his first term in office, wanting a second. When balloting began on June 5, 1856 at the Democratic Convention in Cincinnati, Pierce expected to be renominated as his party's candidate. That was not going to happen. Pierce's support of the pro-slavery faction in Kansas and his support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act had made him unpopular among northern Democrats. He was generally seen as unelectable within his party. On the first ballot, he received only 122 votes, many of them from the South, behind James Buchanan (who received 135 votes). Stephen Douglas and Lewis Cass were also in the running. After fourteen ballots, none of the three main candidates were able to get two-thirds of the vote. Pierce had been hemorrhaging support, and seeing that he could not win, Pierce directed his supporters to vote for Douglas. After two more deadlocked ballots, Douglas withdrew his name, and Buchanan won the nomination.


Pierce endorsed Buchanan, even though the two were not close. Buchanan was elected, but the Democratic percentage of the popular vote in the North fell from 49.8 percent in 1852 to 41.4 in 1856. Buchanan won only five of sixteen free states (Pierce had won fourteen). In his final message to Congress, delivered in December 1856, Pierce attacked Republicans and abolitionists.

After leaving the White House, the Pierces remained in Washington for three, staying at the home of former Secretary of State William Marcy. Buchanan replaced all of Pierce's appointees with his own. The Pierces moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Pierce's wife Jane was quite ill, suffering from tuberculosis. After leaving Washington, the Pierce's traveled by train to Philadelphia on March 25th so that Jane could see a doctor that was recommended by James Campbell. Her health appeared to improve well enough that she was able to accompany her husband on horseback rides. On May 20th they took the train to New York, where they stayed at the home of former Whig Governor Hamilton Fish. In June they left for home. Jane was left at her sister's home in Andover, Massachusetts, while Pierce went on to New Hampshire. Jane joined her husband and the two of them lived in a hotel at Portsmouth for the summer.

Pierce decided that Jane needed to be somewhere warm for the winter months. In December of 1857 he managed to secure passage for the two on them on a US Navy vessel bound for the Portuguese island of Madeira. His friend Clarence March had an uncle who was the US Consul there and the uncle agreed to host the ex-president and his wife. The Pierces stayed in the spacious home of Howard March for the next six months. While they were there, Jane's health continued to improve. Within weeks, she was taking rides on one of the two horses that they had brought along with them. They also took French lessons. Franklin Pierce learned the language better than his wife. They did so for a tour of the content that they had planned.

In June of 1858, the Pierces left on a tour of Portugal, Spain, France and Switzerland. In the fall they traveled to Florence, Naples, and Capri in Italy. In February of 1859 they arrived in Rome, where Pierce had a reunion with his old friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. The two had not seen one another for nearly six years. Hawthorne had been living in Rome since the fall of 1858. Hawthorne and his wife Sophia had their problems. Their teenage daughter Uma was unwell, and the Pierce's gave support to their friends while she recovered from her illness.

Following Una's recovery, the Pierces resumed their travels, going to Venice, and then to Vienna and into Germany. Jane's health began to get worse and she saw several doctors. From here the Pierces made their way back home, traveling to Brussels, Paris and then to London. They sailed for the United States in August of 1859 and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in early September. By September 11, 1859 Jane was back in Andover.

Jane's continuing poor health called for a warmer climate and in January of 1860 the Pierce's traveled to Nassau in the Bahamas where they remained until the middle of May.

Pierce never lost sight of politics during his travels. His friends Jefferson Davis (who had served as Secretary of War in Pierce's cabinet) and James Campbell (who had been Postmaster-General in his cabinet) had urged Pierce to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for President in 1860, but Pierce declined to do so. When the war broke out in 1861, Pierce publicly opposed President Lincoln's order suspending the writ of habeas corpus. He said that even in a time of war, the country should not abandon its protection of civil liberties. This stand won him admirers with the emerging Northern Peace Democrats, but his political opponents saw the as further evidence of Pierce's southern bias. He was accused of conspiring with Confederates during the war, leading to a confrontation with Secretary of State William H. Seward. Pierce spoke out against the institution of the draft and the arrest of outspoken anti-administration Democrat Clement Vallandigham. He gave an address to New Hampshire Democrats in July 1863 that was highly critical of Lincoln. Pierce's reputation in the North was further damaged the following month when the Mississippi plantation of the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was seized by Union soldiers. Pierce's correspondence with Davis, all pre-war, was discovered, revealed his deep friendship with Davis.

In December of 1863, Jane Pierce died of tuberculosis in Andover, Massachusetts. She was buried at Old North Cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire. Pierce was further saddened by the death of his close friend Nathaniel Hawthorne in May 1864. He was with Hawthorne when the author died unexpectedly.

Some Democrats tried again to put Pierce's name up for consideration as the Democratic nominee for President in the 1864 presidential election, but Pierce was not interested in running. When news spread of Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, a mob gathered outside Pierce's home in Concord, demanding to know why he had not raised a flag as a public mourning gesture. Pierce met the crowd and expressed his sadness over Lincoln's death. He told them that his history of military and public service proved his patriotism, which was enough to quiet the crowd.


Pierce's drinking worsened in his later years. His health began to decline. He returned to Concord in September of 1869, suffering from severe cirrhosis of the liver. He died at 4:35 am on October 8, 1869. President Ulysses Grant, who later defended Pierce's service in the Mexican War in his memoirs, declared a day of national mourning. Pierce was interred next to his wife and two of his sons at Concord's Old North Cemetery.

Global Presidents: Jimmy Carter in Africa

When Jimmy Carter was President, he made twelve international trips to twenty-five countries during his term in office. Carter was the first president to make a state visit to Sub-Saharan Africa when he went to Nigeria in 1978. It was part of a week long visit that began in South America, with trips to Venezuala and Brazil, before crossing the Atlantic to go to Nigeria and Liberia.

Carter's trip began on March 28 when he went to Caracas, Venezuela for a meeting with President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Carter addressed the Venezuelan Congress and signed a maritime boundary agreement. The next day he went to Brasilia, Brazil. He met with President Ernesto Geisel and addressed Brazil's National Congress.

On March 31 Carter went to Lagos, Nigeria where he remained until April 3, 1978. He met with President Olusegun Obasanjo. On April 1st, Carter began the day by having breakfast his Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, Andrew Young, US Representative to the United Nations, US Ambassador to Nigeria Donald B. Easum, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant for National Security Affairs. Following the breakfast the Carters traveled by motorcade from the State House Marina to the Dodan Barracks. There the President and the First Lady were greeted by Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, B.A.T. Balewa, Chief of Protocol of Nigeria Mrs. F.Y. Emmanuel, and the First Lady's escort in Nigeria. The President, escorted by Lt. Gen. Obasanjo, went to the reviewing stand and then the two of them reviewed the Nigerian troops. They returned to the reviewing stand and the President addressed the crowd gathered for his visit.

Carter told the people of Nigeria that he shared with then a commitment to economic growth and to human development. He told them:

"We share with you a commitment to an Africa that is at peace, free from colonialism, free from racism, free from military interference by outside nations, and free from the inevitable conflicts that can come when the integrity of national boundaries are not respected. We share these things with you as well. These three common commitments shape our attitude toward your continent. You have been among the leaders of international efforts to bring the principles of majority rule and individual rights into reality in southern Africa. During the past year, we've worked closely with your Government and the other frontline states in the quest to achieve these goals in Namibia and in Zimbabwe."

Carter said that these efforts were now at a critical stage. He said that in Namibia, progress had been reached on proposals for an internationally acceptable agreement based on free elections. He said that these proposals provided the best hope for a fair and peaceful solution that to bring independence to Namibia.

Carter said that, in Rhodesia or Zimbabwe, Great Britain and the United States had put forward a plan based on three fundamental principles: first, fair and free elections; secondly, a transition to genuine majority rule and independence; and third, respect for the individual rights of all the citizens of an independent Zimbabwe. He said that this plan was widely supported within the international community and by the Presidents of the nations surrounding Zimbabwe.

Carter said that both those in the United States and the people of Nigeria were committed to the transition of these countries to democratic rule. He said that he also believed that South African society should be transformed progressively and peacefully, with assured respect for the rights of all. He said, "We've made it clear to South Africa that the nature of our relations will depend on whether there is progress towards full participation for all her people, in every respect of the social and economic life of the nation, and an end to discrimination, an end to apartheid, based on race or ethnic origin. We stand firm in that message as well."

Carter told his audience that he had come from a society which struggled to find racial harmony through racial justice. He said that this had taught him that progress could be reached if the determination to see wrongs righted was matched by an understanding that the prisoners of injustice include the privileged as well as the powerless.

Carter said that Americans welcomed the real progress in human rights that was being made in many countries in Africa. He said: "We are encouraged, too, by the movement towards democracy being made by many nations. Nigeria is an outstanding example. The free and fair elections that you held in the past year leave no doubt that your Government is determined to pursue its decision to establish civilian rule in 1979. This action will be an inspiration to all those in the world who love democracy and who love freedom. And we congratulate you on this."

Carter said that the basic elements for democracy and freedom were participation by individuals in the decisions that affect their lives, respect for civil liberties through the rule of law, and protection of the dignity of all men and women. He said, "Wherever these fundamental principles exist, a government can accommodate to necessary change without breaking, and its people can demand such change without being broken. These principles are necessary for democracy, and they sustain development as well. For in a democracy, the people themselves can best ensure that their government will promote their economic rights, as well as their political and civil liberties."

Carter told his audience that he believed that every person also has a right to education, to health care, to nutrition, to shelter, to food, and to employment. He said, "These are the foundations on which men and women can build better lives." He said that Americans were "ready to do its fair share in support of African development, both because it's in our own interest and also because it's right."

Carter commented on the relationship between the United States and Nigeria, noting that Nigeria was the United States' second largest supplier of imported crude oil and the U.S. was the largest market for Nigeria's petroleum. He said that it was important for Americans to share technology with Nigerians because it was mutually beneficial economically. He pledged to recommend to the Congress that the United States contribute $125 million to the second replenishment of the African Development Fund. He also said that he had authorized the Corps of Engineers to offer to participate in the comprehensive development of the Niger River System.

Carter said:

"Every government has the obligation to promote economic justice within its own nation, as well as among nations. American development assistance will go increasingly to those areas where it can make the greatest contribution to the economic rights of the poor. Progress towards economic development requires the pursuit of our third goal as well—again which we share with you—a peaceful Africa, free of military intervention, for economic progress is best pursued in times of peace. Africans themselves can best find peaceful answers to African disputes through the Organization of African Unity and, when needed, with the help of the United Nations."

Carter expressed concern that foreign troops were already planning for military action inside Ethiopia against the Eritreans. He called Nigeria "a great and influential nation, a regional and an international leader." He called on them to take the lead in shaping the destiny of their people.

Carter's visit concluded on April 3, 1978 in Monrovia, Liberia for a meeting with President William R. Tolbert, Jr. What Carter was doing in visiting Nigeria and Liberia was attempting to insinuate the influence of the United States in Africa in order to prevent the spread of communist influence among African nations.

Carter's interest in the region continues to this day. The Carter Center was invited to observe elections called for February 1999. It continues to be involved in administering health programs, and counseling in the area of food production.

Following is a YouTube video of a portion of Carter's visit to Lagos:


Remembering James K. Polk

On June 15, 1849 (172 years ago today), James Knox Polk, the 11th President of the United States, died at his home, Polk Place, in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 53. Despite being a one term President, he has consistently been ranked as one of the greatest presidents because of his ability to set an agenda and achieve all of it. Every year when I recall Polk's legacy, I always think of the words from the last verse of the song "James K. Polk" by the alternative group They Might Be Giants:

In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tariffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump

Whether or not Polk did indeed meet his every goal (and some would dispute the accuracy of that claim), there is something about Polk that fascinates those of us who are potus_geeks. In a post about Polk in a previous year I opened with the words "My name is Ken and I'm a Polkaholic." There is something addictive about learning about Polk that has caused me to read almost every book I could find about him, and it has motivated me to travel to the James K. Polk Ancestral Home, his de facto presidential museum located in Columbus, Tennessee not once, but twice. (Once I drove there and back from Pensacola, Florida, stopping in Mobile, Alabama to pick up a friend for the trip, all in the same day. If that's not rampant Polkaholism, I don't know what is.)

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In an article in the Daily Beast, Polk was called the "least known consequential president" of the United States. He was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on November 2, 1795. He moved to Tennessee, the state that represented as a Democrat, in the US House of Representatives. Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839. He was Governor of Tennessee from 1839–1841, but lost his bid for re-election in 1841 and again in 1843.

Most considered Polk to be a has-been at that point, but he was the Democratic Party's surprise candidate for president in 1844, after neither of the three front-runners could win a 2/3 majority of the delegates. Polk defeated Henry Clay of the Whig Party by promising to annex the state of Texas. Polk was a protege of Andrew Jackson and governed on the principles of Jacksonian Democracy.

Polk was known for a number of foreign policy successes. He threatened war with Britain over the issue of which nation owned the Oregon Country, and then compromised and split the ownership of the region with Britain. When Mexico rejected American annexation of Texas, Polk led the nation into the Mexican-American War, which gave the United States most of its present Southwest. Many believe it was an unjust war. Polk secured passage of the Walker tariff of 1846, which lowered rates which benefited his native South, and he established a treasury system that lasted until 1913.

During Polk's term, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Smithsonian Institution opened, the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument took place, and the first postage stamps in the United States were issued. He was a workaholic and a micro-manager. Polk kept his promise to serve only one term and did not run for reelection.


Polk's time in the White House took its toll on his health. He never took a holiday and his time in the White House exhausted him. Polk lost weight and had deep lines on his face and dark circles under his eyes. After his term ended, he traveled home to Tennessee, embarking on a goodwill tour of the south on his way home. He is believed to have contracted cholera in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the way home. James K. Polk died at his new home, Polk Place, in Nashville, Tennessee, at 3:15 pm on June 15, 1849, three months after leaving office. He was buried on the grounds of Polk Place. Polk's last words were directed to his wife Sarah, to whom he was very devoted. He is reported to have said "I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you." As Polk's biographer Walter Borneman wrote in his 2008 book entitled Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America: "Even if this utterance was embellished, there was nothing in Polk's life to suggest that the sentiment behind it was not true."

Polk had the shortest retirement of all Presidents at 103 days, and he was the youngest former president to die in retirement. He and his wife are buried in a tomb on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. I paid a visit there in October of 2014 when I was in Nashville, staying at a hotel a very short walk away. There are those who would like to see Polk's remains relocated to Columbia, Tennessee. Stay tuned for what will happen on that front.

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If you still haven't seen it, here is a video of the song James K. Polk by They Might Be Giants:


Global Presidents: Donald Trump Visits the Middle East

President Donald Trump broke with tradition in many ways. While most presidents have made their first foreign visit to Canada (George W. Bush is the exception), President Trump's first international sojourn took him to the middle east in order to visit two of America's traditional allies in the region.

From May 20 to 22 of this year, the President travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he met with King Salman and Muslim leaders at the Riyadh Summit. While there he signed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the largest in world history. He was also honored with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, his first foreign order. President Trump, along with First Lady Melania Trump, visited the National Museum of Saudi Arabia. Media reports of the visit noted that the President was very disciplined in his message. In his brief interaction with reporters, he stressed that he expected his deals with the Saudis would create jobs for American workers. Trump was welcomed on his visit by his hosts, as many billboards contained images of Trump and the king throughout the city. A towering visage of President Trump was beamed on to the exterior of a hotel. His arrival at the palace of the House of Saud was accompanied by bagpipe music. Late in the afternoon of May 21st, Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince spoke in front of cameras. The President called it a “tremendous day” and said that the deals his administration had reached with the Saudis would create “jobs, jobs, jobs.” He took no questions.

Late that evening, a sandstorm rolled into the city. Trump and his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, were entertained at a ceremony with dancing Saudi men wielding swords at an outdoor welcome ceremony before the start of an elaborate banquet at Murabba Palace. This was followed by a tour on a golf-cart of the museum at the edge of the palace grounds. The museum live-streamed a concert by country artist Toby Keith, open only to men. Keith had performed during Trump’s inauguration festivities.

From Riyadh, it was on to Jerusalem the next day. There he met with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Trump recalled his visit to the “Kotel HaMa’aravi,” the Western Wall where he recited Psalm 122 together with two rabbis. The next day Trump said of this visit: “Yesterday, I visited the Western Wall, and marveled at the monument to God’s presence and man’s perseverance — I was humbled to place my hand upon the wall and to pray in that holy space for wisdom from God.” Trump went on to praise "the unbreakable spirit” of the Jewish people. He said: “Down through the ages, the Jewish people have suffered persecution, oppression and even those who have sought their destruction. But, through it all, they have endured — and they have thrived.” He said that he was in “awe of the accomplishments of the Jewish people.”

The next day, the President visited the Yad Vashem and later that day, he gave a speech at the Israel Museum. He spoke about the summit of Islamic nations in Saudi Arabia and called that meeting a “new opportunity for people throughout the Middle East to overcome sectarian and religious divisions to extinguish the fires of extremism, and find common ground and shared responsibility in making the future of this region.” He went on to say: “My message to that summit was the same message I have for you: We must build a coalition of partners who share the aim of stamping out extremism and violence, and providing our children a peaceful and hopeful future.”

Trump said that he was willing to do his part to revive the peace process between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel. he told his audience: “Making peace will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise on both sides, and the belief that peace is possible.” He also repeated his pledge that, on his watch, Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons. He also pledged to oppose Iran's support of terrorists and militias. He told Israelis: “Iran’s leaders routinely call for the destruction of Israel. Not with Donald J. Trump.” His audience responded with a standing ovation.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said, of the relationship between the two nations, “That friendship is reflected in the overwhelming support of the American people, strong bipartisan support of the American Congress and the support of American presidents from Harry Truman to Donald Trump. Thank you, President Trump, for your steadfast friendship to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. It is deeply, deeply appreciated.” Trump responded by thanking Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, for an “unforgettable visit to this very special land.”

Trump next met with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on May 23rd. Following the meeting, Trump said that Abbas "assures me he is ready to work towards that goal in good faith and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same." Trump was standing next to Abbas at the Presidential Palace when he made this statement. On the night prior to the meeting, a terrorist attack in Manchester, England left 22 dead and 59 others injured. President Trump also offered his condolences to the families of the victims and those injured in the attack. He said "We stand in absolute solidarity with people of the United Kingdom. So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life." He commented that "it's so interesting" his meeting with Abbas took place "on this very horrible morning of death to innocent young people." After meeting with Abbas, Trump visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where he laid a wreath and delivered brief remarks.

After leaving the Middle East, President Trump met went to Rome for two days. He met with President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. On May 24th he had an audience with Pope Francis at Vatican City. Later in the day he traveled to Brussels where he met with King Philippe of Belgium, Prime Minister Charles Michel. He also attended the 28th NATO summit where he also met with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. On May 25th he went to Taormina, Italy to attend the 43rd G7 summit. There he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

The President's next scheduled international visit was to Poland and Germany in early July of 2017.

Happy Birthday President Donald Trump

Today former President Donald John Trump celebrates his 75th birthday. President Trump was born on June 14, 1946 in Queen's New York. His seventy-one years on this planet have been eventful and fast-paced, and that is unlikely to change for the 45th President. Before entering politics, Trump was a businessman and television personality. He is controversial and colorful, with an appeal to those who dislike the notion of career politicians as usual, those who dislike political correctness and those who are looking for someone to shake things up in Washington. Conversely, he is intensely disliked by those of the left of the political spectrum and by those who perceive him to be too impulsive. His presidency increased a trend of polarization that has been present since at least the latter half of the Clinton Presidency.


Donald Trump was born and raised in Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City. He earned an economics degree from the Wharton School. Trump's father Fred was born in 1905 in the Bronx, and started working with his mother in real estate when he was 15, shortly after his father's death. Their company, Elizabeth Trump and Son, was mainly active in the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. Fred Trump eventually built and sold thousands of houses and apartments. The company later became The Trump Organization when Donald Trump took over its leadership in 1971. Trump ran the company for 45 years until 2016. During his real estate career, Trump built, renovated, and managed a significant number of office towers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses.

Recognizing the value of diversity in business interests, Trump also conducted several side ventures. He has has licensed the use of his name for the branding of various products and properties, including Trump Entertainment Resorts. He is also the founder of Trump University. His fame and name recognition increased significantly when he produced and hosted a reality television series on NBC from 2004 to 2015 called "The Apprentice". It was on that series that Trump became famous for his signature phrase "You're fired!" In their 2017 annual ranking of billionaires, Forbes Magazine estimated Trump's net worth to be $3.5 billion, making him the 544th richest person in the world, and 201st in the United States. These estimates have been disputed with sources such as Bloomberg News estimating his net worth to be lower ($3 billion in 2016) and others including Trump himself estimating it to be much higher.

Thus far, Trump has the distinction of being the only President to have appeared in a televised wrestling match. Trump is a World Wrestling Entertainment fan and a friend of WWE chairman Vince McMahon and in 1988 and 1989 Trump hosted WrestleMania IV and V at his Boardwalk Hall. He appeared in WrestleMania VII, and was interviewed ringside at WrestleMania XX. Trump also appeared at WrestleMania XXIII in a match called "The Battle of the Billionaires". He was in the corner of wrestler Bobby Lashley, while McMahon was in the corner of Lashley's opponent Umaga, with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee. The terms of the match were that either Trump or McMahon would have their head shaved if their competitor lost. Lashley won the match, and so McMahon was shaved bald.

According to Trump biographer and controversial supporter Roger Stone, Trump was influenced by Richard Nixon, who predicted that Trump might someday become President. (The other famous predictor of a Trump presidency was the character Lisa Simpson on the Fox TV show "The Simpsons"). Trump first publicly expressed interest in running for political office in 1987, when he spent almost $100,000 to place full-page ads in several newspapers. The ads read "America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves and should present Western Europe and Japan with a bill for America's efforts to safeguard the passage of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf." According to a Gallup Poll at the time, Trump was the tenth most admired person in America. He briefly ran for the Reform Party's presidential nomination in 2000 and won two primaries, but withdrew his candidacy early on.

Trump made his first speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February 2011. His appearance at CPAC was organized by GOProud, an LGBT conservative organization. GOProud pushed for a write-in campaign for Trump at CPAC's presidential straw poll. In June of 2015, Trump launched his campaign for the 2016 presidential election and quickly emerged as the front-runner among seventeen candidates in the Republican primaries. His campaign was not taken seriously at first, but one by one his opponents dropped out as Trump steamrolled through the primaries. His remaining opponents all suspended their campaigns by the end of May 2016, and in July he was formally nominated at the Republican National Convention. Indiana Governor Mike Pence was chosen as his running mate. His "shoot from the hip" speaking style generated a lot of free media coverage and news of his campaign led and dominated most of the news coverage of the election campaign. He was able to overcome a late "October surprise" when offensive comments of a sexual nature that he had made years earlier to NBC entertainment personality Billy Bush were broadcast in the campaign. This issue was not damaging enough to deter voters in states comprising an electoral college majority to vote for him. He was even able to wrestle away a number of "blue states" which had previously been considered safe Democratic states and part of the "blue wall" that previous Republican presidential candidates had been unable to win.

Trump won the general election on November 8, 2016, in a surprise victory against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. He was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2017. At that time he became both the oldest and the wealthiest person ever to win the presidency. He is also first elected president without prior military or government service, and the fifth to have won the election while losing the popular vote.


Trump's political positions have been called populist, protectionist, and nationalist. During his first few months in office, Trump issued almost 40 executive orders, the most controversial of which were executive orders 13769 and 13780 dealing with denying admission to the US of people from several foreign countries. These orders were blocked by federal courts. His nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 7, 2017, and he drew criticism for his firing of controversial FBI Director James Comey. He was unique in his use of the social media app Twitter as a means of getting his message out. While he was criticized for the bluntness of this method and of some of the content of his tweets (and later banned from it and other social media), it was certainly extremely effective as a means of getting noticed. Whatever else one may wish to say about President Donald Trump, two things are clear: (1) He was elected as President of the United States by the voters in accordance with the rules set out in the Constitution, and (2) Very few people have a neutral opinion of him.