The Importance of Being Washington

In the rotunda of the Capitol Building there is a painting by John Trumbull entitled "General George Washington Resigning His Commission." It marks a significant historical event, as the general who commanded the army whose victory created a nation declined the opportunity to become the monarch of that nation. Washington certainly was popular enough to do so, and he had the support of his army, if he had been possessed of kingly aspirations. But he did not. Washington wisely resigned his commission at the end of the war and turned the governing of the nation over to civilian authority.


In the summer of 1779, the tide in the Revolutionary War was turning in favor of the Continental Army, led by General George Washington. At Washington's direction, General John Sullivan carried out a campaign that destroyed at least 40 Iroquois villages in central and upstate New York. The Iroquois were British allies who had been raiding American settlements, and "the Sullivan Expedition" robbed the British of a valuable ally in the war.

In July 1780, 5,000 veteran French troops led by the Comte de Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island to aid the Continental Army. French naval forces landed, led by Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse. Washington had initially planned to take the fight to the British in New York, but Rochambeau advised that the army of General Cornwallis in Virginia was a better target and de Grasse followed Rochambeau's advice and sailed to the Virginia Coast. Washington agreed that Rochambeau's proposed strategy was a better one and after leaving the false impression that he was taking his forces to fight General Clinton in New York, he also headed south to Virginia instead.

These combined forces, under Washington's leadership, delivered the final blow to the British in 1781, after a French naval victory allowed these forces to trap the British army in Virginia. The British surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, marked the end of major fighting in continental North America. Cornwallis failed to appear at the official surrender ceremony, sending General Charles Oharrow as his proxy. This was intended as a sign of disrespect, as Cornwallis would not recognize Washington as a peer commander. Refusing to accept the surrender from a delegate, Washington had General Benjamin Lincoln accept the surrender.

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After Yorktown, the British still had 26,000 troops occupying New York City, Charleston and Savannah, together with a powerful fleet. The French army and navy soon departed, and the Americans were left to fend for themselves, with an empty treasury and unpaid soldiers. Washington was able to dispel unrest by suppressing a threatened uprising in the army known as "the Newburgh Conspiracy" in March 1783. The Newburgh Conspiracy was a planned military coup led by officers in the Continental Army. The conspiracy may have been instigated by members in the Congress of the Confederation, who circulated an anonymous letter in the army camp at Newburgh, New York, on March 10, 1783. Soldiers were unhappy that they had not been paid for some time and that pensions that had been promised remained unfunded. The letter suggested that they should take unspecified action against Congress to resolve the issue. The letter is believed to have been written by Major John Armstrong, aide to General Horatio Gates, the latter being a competitor of Washington's for command of the army.

Washington was able to put a halt to any serious talk of rebellion when he made an emotional address to his officers asking them to support the supremacy of Congress. Not long afterward, Congress approved a compromise agreement that it had previously rejected, funding some of the pay arrears, and granting soldiers five years of full pay instead of a lifetime pension of half pay.

The initial peace treaty articles with the British were ratified in April, 1783. A recently formed Congressional committee, chaired by Alexander Hamilton, was considering plans for a peacetime army. On May 2, 1783, Washington submitted his opinion to the Committee. Hamilton's proposal was defeated in Congress in two votes held in May and October of 1783, with an amended proposal also being rejected in April 1784.

Under the Treaty of Paris, signed in September of 1783, Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Following this, Washington disbanded his army and, on November 2, gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers. On November 25, the British evacuated New York City. Many speculated that with the British gone, Washington might appoint himself as a military dictator of the new nation, a new King. Instead, on December 23, Washington formally resigned his commission as Commander-in-chief of the army. He said:

"I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping."

Historians have since recognized the significance and the magnanimity of Washington's resignation. It marked the first time that the nation had transitioned from wartime to peacetime, and it was unique in that the military did not exert more control over the newly formed government. Instead, Washington put his faith in democracy. King George III called Washington "the greatest character of the age" because of this.

Washington retired to his home at Mount Vernon, but his retirement was short-lived. He was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, where he was unanimously elected president of the Convention. He did participate in the debates very much, but his gravitas helped to maintained order and to keep the delegates focused on their task at hand. The delegates created the office of the presidency, and had Washington in mind for the position. Following the Convention, many were convinced many to vote for ratification of the new Constitution because it had Washington's support. The Constitution was ultimately ratified by all thirteen states.

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The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously as the first president in 1789. To this day he remains the only president to have received 100 percent of the electoral votes. John Adams was elected Vice President. At his inauguration, Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States of America on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year, a large sum in 1789. Washington declined the salary, considering such remuneration to be contrary to what should be expected from a public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he was convinced to accept the payment, in order to avoid setting a precedent in which the presidency would be seen as open only to independently wealthy individuals.

Washington was aware that everything he did set a precedent. He was attentive to the formalities of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were republican and did not resemble the practices in European royal courts. He preferred the title "Mr. President" to the more majestic names proposed by the Senate.

Washington was an able administrator. He excelled at delegation and as a judge of talent and character. He established many of the practices and procedures that became part of the office of President, such as messages to Congress and a cabinet form of government. He also gave the example of tolerance of opposition voices and of a smooth transition of power to his successor. After reluctantly serving a second term, Washington refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president. When this tradition was broken by the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to a third term in 1940, Congress and the states responded by codifying the traditional two term limit for a president established by Washington as the Twenty-second Amendment.
Keep Calm

Book Review: The Next Age of Uncertainty by Stephen Poloz

In 1977, famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote The Age of Uncertainty (which was also made into a BBC series) in which he predicted a coming period of economic instability, inefficiency and social inequity, and called for government policies and interventions to remedy these problems. Stephen Poloz, the ninth Governor of the Bank of Canada (Canada's central bank) foresees a new similar era in our future, hence the title of his 2022 work The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adopt to a Riskier Future. The book's title hints at the author's remedy for managing in the coming uncertain world, though as Poloz makes clear, this is easier said than done, given current political realities.

Poloz explores the history of previous economic downturns and their relationship to past industrial revolutions, using this as a guide to explore what is coming. He notes the presence of five conditions (that he terms "tectonic forces") that will shape the world's economic future: (1) an aging population; (2) technological advancements (especially in artificial intelligence and biotechnology); (3) growing income disparity and inequality; (4) rising debt; and (5) climate change. Each of these portend significant change in the way the world does business. There will be winners and losers. Poloz examines how each of these will affect our future and what they will mean for trends in employment, inflation, housing, and political and social relations, making for very interesting speculation from a credible educated guesser.

There are a number of themes running through the book. The author notes that economics is far from an exact science, and we should be suspicious of those economists who purport to see the future with any degree of certainty. History is always throwing us curveballs that we don't see coming. Recent examples of this are the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the Covid-19 pandemic (a subject that Poloz devotes an entire chapter to.) Most of these are impossible to properly prepare for, hence the need for political policy makers to develop a strong focus on risk management. Battles never play out the way the generals plan them, and so it is with economic policy.

Poloz proffers both pessimism and optimism in his look into the future, the former in reflecting on how many of the policies necessary to meet the coming challenges will call for political courage, something that is in diminishing supply in this age of social media's herd mentality. Cause for optimism arises from the lessons that history has taught us, which in turn have resulted in strong central banks that strive to keep inflation under control through their interest rate policies, though these have been hamstrung in recent times due to rapidly rising government debt. Poloz points out the folly of MMT (modern monetary theory), a new school of economic though that pretends that governments can buy their way out of trouble by printing more money. But Poloz is also optimistic because of the past history of meeting economic challenges bravely and with creativity. As he puts it: "History demonstrates that humanity has a right to be optimistic about the future, for there is no challenge that cannot be overcome with hard work and ingenuity."

The author injects his own life experiences at the start of each chapter as his method of telling the reader that we're all in this together. Sometimes his brilliance outpaces a reader's ability to keep up, as portions of his explanation of economic past cause and effect and anticipated outcomes require a second reading to fully grasp what he is saying. He does not promise easy answers to the challenges that our collective economic future will offer, but he does propose a general direction to head in regard to each of the "tectonic forces." This book reminds us that we should expect and be prepared for changes in our economic future. Risk management should be our mantra.

The Assassination of James Garfield

On July 2, 1881 (141 years ago today) President James Abram Garfield was shot twice by assassin Charles Guiteau. Garfield would die from his wounds just over two and a half months later on September 19th. His presidency would last just 200 days.


On the morning of July 2, 1881, Garfield was on his way to speak at his alma mater, Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was accompanied by Secretary of State James G. Blaine, Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, and his two sons, James and Harry. Garfield was walking through the Sixth Street Station of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad in Washington at 9:30 a.m., when he was shot twice from behind, once across the arm and once in the back. His assassin, was Charles J. Guiteau, a rejected and disillusioned Federal office seeker.

The delusional Guiteau believed himself entitled to some exalted position in Garfield's administration, even though he was not qualified for such an appointment. Secretary Blaine had denied Guiteau the job of United States consul in Paris, which Guiteau was seeking. Blaine had banned Guiteau from the White House because of his aggressive behavior. Guiteau believed that a short speech he had began to present to a small group of people during the presidential election campaign was the cause of Garfield's election to the presidency and that it justified his appointment. When he did not get the the appointment, Guiteau felt aggrieved. He said that God told him that he could save the party and the nation if President Garfield was "removed."

Guiteau stalked Garfield for weeks, armed with his .44 caliber Webley Bulldog revolver. He had an earlier opportunity to do the deed, but declined to do so because Lucretia Garfield was present at the time and Guiteau did not want to harm her.


As Guiteau was being arrested after the shooting, he repeatedly said, "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!" This very briefly led to unfounded suspicions that Vice-President Chester Alan Arthur or one of his supporters had put Guiteau up to the crime. Guiteau also believed he would be acquitted of any crime.

After he was shot, Garfield said "My God, what is this?" One bullet grazed Garfield's arm. The second bullet was thought later to have possibly lodged near his liver but could not be found. (When an autopsy was later done, the bullet was found behind his pancreas.) Alexander Graham Bell specifically devised a metal detector to try and find the bullet, but the device's signal was distorted by metal bed springs.

Garfield became increasingly ill over a period of several weeks due to infection, which caused his heart to weaken. He remained bedridden in the White House with fever and extreme pain. As the heat of summer became more severe, a Navy engineer installed what was probably the world's first air conditioner in Garfield's bedroom. An air blower was installed over a chest containing 6 tons of ice and connected to the room's heat vent.

On September 6 the ailing President was moved to Long Branch, New Jersey on the Jersey Shore in the vain hope that the fresh air and quiet there might aid his recovery. In a matter of hours, local residents laid a special rail track for Garfield's train.

On Monday, September 19, 1881, at 10:20 p.m. President Garfield suffered a massive heart attack and a ruptured splenic artery aneurysm, following blood poisoning and bronchial pneumonia. Garfield's chief doctor, Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss (yes, his first name was actually Doctor), had unsuccessfully attempted to revive the fading President with restorative medication. Mrs. Garfield leaned over her dying husband, kissed his brow and exclaimed, "Oh! Why am I made to suffer this cruel wrong?" Garfield was pronounced dead at 10:35 p.m. by Dr. Bliss in the Elberon section of Long Branch, New Jersey. Garfield's final words were "My work is done."

According to some historians and medical experts Garfield might have survived his wounds had the doctors attending him used some of today's medical techniques, including the sterilization of medical equipment. Several of his doctors inserted their unsterilized fingers into the wound to probe for the bullet, a common practice in the 1880s. American doctors had not fully accepted the sterilization technique implemented by Joseph Lister during the 1860s. Garfield's autopsy revealed that the bullet missed his spinal cord and did not strike any major organs or blood vessels.

Guiteau was formally indicted on October 14, 1881, for the murder of the President. Although Guiteau's counsel argued the insanity defense, the jury found him guilty on January 5, 1882, and he was sentenced to death. Guiteau was executed on June 30, 1882.

An excellent work on Garfield's assassination is Candice Millard's 2011 book entitled Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, reviewed earlier in this community here. It is an outstanding book. In 2017 PBS released an excellent documentary about the Garfield assassination called Murder of a President.


Canada Day: PotusGeeks Edition

It's Canada Day today. On July 1, 1867 (155 years ago today) the Dominion of Canada came into being as four British colonies formed a Confederation and gained nationhood status. Since that time, Canada and the United States have shared the world's longest undefended border. For over sixty years it was a tradition for a new president to make his first state visit to Canada since Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Quebec City on July 31, 1936. That tradition was broken in 2001 by George W. Bush, whose first state visit was to Mexico, but his second was to Canada. Barack Obama followed the tradition, but Donald Trump chose not to follow it, traveling to Saudi Arabia instead. President Donald Trump made his first visit to Canada when he attended the G-7 Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec in June of 2018. President Joe Biden made a "virtual visit" to Canada on February 23, 2021 due to Covid constraints.

Canadian Confederation came about largely from a fear that the four Canadian colonies would be invaded by the United States. Great Britain's military budget was stretched pretty thin, in 1867 and the time was right for giving Canadians peaceful independence. At the time, Secretary of State William Seward desperately wanted to expand the nation north. The story of how all of this led to Canadian nationhood is ably explained in author John Boyko's wonderful and informative 2013 work entitled Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged a Nation (reviewed here).

The relationship of the two nations began with a rocky start. Like Seward, President Ulysses Grant also had dreams of making Canada part of the United States. When the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, visited Washington, D.C. in 1871, Grant did not want to meet with Macdonald and didn't even send any official to greet the Prime Minister on his arrival. The two men met twice, and Grant was cold towards Macdonald on both occasions.

Canada would be 66 years old before a US President visited Canada in an official capacity, although William Howard Taft loved to vacation in Quebec and Woodrow Wilson vacationed in Ontario. Warren Harding made the first presidential visit to Canada on a Vancouver stopover from Alaska in 1923. (It was later in that same trip that Harding died in San Francisco.) Harding played a round of golf in Vancouver and made a very cordial speech, some of the words of which are memorialized in a monument in Vancouver's Stanley Park. (One of my favorite journal entries in this community is about a trip I made to Stanley Park to look for the monument, which I entitled Finding Warren Harding or Forgive Me My Trespasses.) Vancouver has another notorious connection to the Presidency. The Vancouver Cigar Company continues to advertise itself as being the place where Bill Clinton bought the infamous cigar mentioned in the Starr Report in the section detailing Clinton's shenanigans with Monica Lewinsky.


The first consequential visit made by a President to Canada was when Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Quebec City in 1936. “I have never heard a Canadian refer to an American as a ‘foreigner,’” Roosevelt said in Quebec City. “He is just an ‘American.’ And in that same way, in the United States, Canadians are not ‘foreigners,’ they are ‘Canadians.’” The partnership of Franklin D.Roosevelt and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was an interesting one, as both men dominated their respective governments for much of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Each was the longest-serving leader of their respective nation, Roosevelt for 12 years and King for 22 years. Roosevelt's cordiality towards Canada was especially charitable, given than FDR would have more reason than most to hold a resentment against the nation. It was at his vacation home of Campobello Island, part of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, where FDR was struck with polio and lost the ability to walk.

Things have not always been so friendly, especially when the leaders came from opposite ends of the political spectrum. For example, in 2002 when Françoise Ducros, a top aid to then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, called President George W. Bush "a moron," while Bush's staff called Chretien "dino", short for dinosaur. Even earlier than this there were times when relations were less than cordial. In a 1961 speech to the Canadian Parliament, President John F. Kennedy characterized the relationship between the U.S. and Canada by saying: "Geography has made us neighbors, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, necessity has made us allies." But privately Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said of President John F. Kennedy: "He's a hothead. He's a fool – too young, too brash, too inexperienced and a boastful son of a bitch!"

In 1965 at the height of the Vietnam War, Prime Minister Lester Pearson (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in making Canada a leader in peace-keeping) visited President Lyndon Johnson at the White House. Pearson had just made a scathing speech the previous night, in which he was critical of US involvement in the Vietnam War. He appeared at the White House the next day to confront a livid Johnson. According to journalist Lawrence Martin, LBJ grabbed Pearson by the shirt collar, lifted the diminutive prime minister off of the floor and shouted, "You pissed on my rug!"

In 1969 Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau told the National Press Club in Ottawa that living next to the U.S. "is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt." Two years later, in 1971 it was revealed that President Richard Nixon called Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau "an asshole" in his private tapes. Trudeau replied, "I've been called worse things by better people." Later that year, after Trudeau had left a session with Nixon in the Oval Office, and Nixon said to H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff: "That Trudeau, he's a clever son of a bitch." Trudeau so infuriated Nixon during the visit that Nixon called him "a pompous egghead" and told Haldeman: "You've got to put it to these people for kicking the U.S. around after what we did for that lousy son of a bitch. Give it to somebody around here." This was when Nixon ordered Haldeman to plant a negative story about Trudeau with columnist Jack Anderson.

But there have also been many instances of friendly and respectful relations. For example, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan had a very strong relationship, likely because of their common conservative point of view. At one function on St. Patrick's day in 1985 when Reagan was visiting Canada, the two men joined together to sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." Mulroney would later speak at Reagan's funeral with fond remembrances. In September of 2000 George H. Bush and his wife Barbara attended the wedding of Caroline Mulroney, daughter of the former Prime Minister.

In 2001, following the September 11th tragedy, thousands of airline travelers were diverted to Canadian airports and given assistance. President George W. Bush, in a speech to Congress, thanked countries all over the world for standing with the United States in its fight against terror after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. He did not mention Canada. Some perceived this as a snub, but an aide to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said: "If it is anything, it is an indication that our support goes without saying." The aide was Françoise Ducros. In November of 2004, George W. Bush received a chilly reception in Ottawa when he made his first state visit to Canada. About 5,000 protesters turned up on Parliament Hill, and a smaller group clashes with police outside the Chateau Laurier hotel.

On July 6, 2006, Canada's Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his first official visit to Washington on Bush's 60th birthday. Harper was given the honor of staying at Blair House, the official White House guest quarters. The prime minister came bearing birthday gifts for Bush: a Calgary Stampede belt buckle and an RCMP Stetson hat.

Barack Obama made his first state visit to Canada in 2009, but has appeared to show little interest in his northern neighbor, although the two nations did cooperate in the bailout of General Motors. Among the issues causing tension during the Harper and Obama years were the Keystone XL pipeline (Obama did not support a proposed pipeline from Alaska to the 48 states through Canada, while Harper saw the economic advantages for Canada), the new Detroit-Windsor bridge that Ottawa had essentially offered to build for Michigan (but the Obama administration will not kick in $250 million for a needed customs plaza at the same time the U.S. Senate wanted to spend tens of billions reinforcing the southern border with Mexico), a dispute over improvements to the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie, and differences of opinion over Israel.

Relations between Donald Trump and current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) did not go so well. In April of 2017, Trump announced a 20 per cent tariff on Canadian lumber entering the U.S. Then early last month, Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Trump over the president's decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement. Trudeau said, "We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate."

The prospect of a U.S. immigration crackdown also prompted hundreds of asylum seekers to cross the Canada-U.S. border to make their claims in Canada instead. The night of Mr. Trump’s election win saw a huge spike in interest in Americans moving north. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website suffered outages due to heavy traffic. During the early stages of the Corona virus pandemic, President Trump ordered a stop to the export of surgical masks and respirators from the United States to Canada.

The future of relations between the two countries will face many more challenges. Evan Annet of the Globe and Mail wrote:

Canada and the U.S. are as different as can be on trade right now. One is led by a liberal who champions global trade, the other by a nativist conservative who, in his inauguration speech, pledged an “America first” attitude to not only trade, but immigration, foreign policy and taxes. Mr. Trump wants to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Any new agreement would have dramatic implications for Canadian businesses and the flow of goods and workers between the countries. The earliest NAFTA renegotiations can officially begin is this August, and in the meantime, Canada has contentious issues to work out with Washington about its dairy supply-management system and softwood lumber exports.

President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau continued to be openly critical of one another. The two leaders traded insults with Trump calling Trudeau "two faced" after Trudeau and other world leaders were overheard mocking the President at the recent G-7 summit.

President Biden and Trudeau agreed to work together on the public health and economic crises caused by the pandemic, as well as shared goals on addressing climate change, addressing racism and discrimination. On his first day in office, Biden revoked a permit for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline from Canada. "The decision will not be reconsidered," a U.S. official later told reporters ahead of the meeting between the two leaders. Canadians also have been angered that their government has been unable to secure COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna at plants close to the Canada-U.S. border, being relegated instead to ordering from Europe.

Following is a CPAC video of a portion of the virtual meeting between the leaders of the two nations:

The US remains Canada’s largest trading partner, a relationship valued at $673.9 billion. A recent report prepared by the CD Howe Institute finds that the tariffs will cause significant economic pain in both countries: Canada could lose as many as 6,000 jobs and a 0.33% GDP reduction, whereas the US would lose 22,700 jobs, but only a 0.02% disruption to the GDP. Canada has introduced more than $16bn in retaliatory tariffs against the United States, meant to inflict targeted pain on politically vulnerable industries, such as whisky, orange juice, frozen pizzas and soy beans. President Biden's cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline has also caused resentment among many Canadians.

But for today, let's send best wishes for a Happy Canada Day.

Presidents and Celebrities: Barack Obama and George Clooney

George Clooney is a famous contemporary American actor and filmmaker who had won numerous awards for his craft. These include a British Academy Film Award, four Golden Globe Awards, and two Academy Awards (one as an actor, the other as a producer). In 2018, he was the recipient of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. He made his acting debut on television in 1978, and later became familiar to television audiences for his role as Dr. Doug Ross on the NBC medical drama ER. He starred in that role from 1994 to 1999, and received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for it. This led to a variety of leading roles in films. His biggest commercial success in films occurred in 2001 with a starring tole in the film remake Ocean's Eleven, which led to a trilogy. Clooney made his directorial debut a year later with the biographical spy comedy Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, followed by the historical drama Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). Clooney won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the Middle East thriller Syriana (2005), and subsequently earned Best Actor nominations for the legal thriller Michael Clayton (2007) and the comedy-dramas Up in the Air (2009) and The Descendants (2011). In 2013, he received the Academy Award for Best Picture for producing the political thriller Argo.

Clooney was included on Time's Magazine's annual Time 100 list, which identifies the most influential people in the world, every year from 2006 to 2009. He had become known for his political and economic activism, and has served as one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace since January 31, 2008. Clooney is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is married to human rights lawyer Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin). Clooney is a supporter of the Democratic Party and this has led to a friendship with former President Barack Obama. Clooney supported both of Obama's presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, and he also endorsed Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential election, and Joe Biden for the 2020 presidential election. Clooney hosted a virtual fundraiser for Biden together with Obama on July 28, 2020.

Clooney has been involved with an organization known as the "Not On Our Watch Project." Its goal is to focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities. In January 2010, he organized the telethon "Hope for Haiti Now" which collected donations for the 2010 Haiti earthquake victims.

One of Clooney's causes has been advocating for a resolution of the Darfur conflict. He spoke at a 2006 Save Darfur rally in Washington, D.C., and in April of that year he and his father visited Sudan where they filmed the TV special "A Journey to Darfur." The documentary was broadcast in the US, the UK and France. In 2008, it was released on DVD with the sale proceeds being donated to the International Rescue Committee. In September of 2006, Clooney spoke to the UN Security Council with Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel to ask the UN to find a solution to the conflict and to help the people of Darfur. In December, he visited China and Egypt with other celebrities to lobby the governments of those nations to pressure Sudan's government to take remedial action. In March of the following year he wrote an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling on the European Union to take "decisive action" in the region, noting the failure of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to respond to UN resolutions. In December 2007, Clooney and fellow actor Don Cheadle received the Summit Peace Award from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Rome. On January 18, 2008, the United Nations announced Clooney's appointment as a UN messenger of peace. On March 16, 2012, Clooney was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy for civil disobedience. His arrest was deliberate, in order to draw attention to the cause.

In May 2015, Clooney told the BBC that he wanted to focus on helping the refugees from the Syrian crisis. In March 2016, he and his wife, Amal Clooney, met with Syrian refugees living in Berlin to mark the fifth anniversary of the conflict, before meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to thank her for Germany's open-door policy of accepting Syrian refugees.

In 2008, Clooney became one of Barack Obama's most enthusiastic backers in Obama's presidential campaign. Two years earlier in 2006, Clooney told a Los Angeles Times reporter, "If Senator Obama became Presidential Candidate Obama, it would be the most electrifying thing to happen to the Democratic party since Kennedy." The two met in April of 2006 at an event to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., following Clooney's return from the region. Obama was complimentary about Clooney, telling the media, "There are some celebrities who have really done their homework and know what they are talking about and are terrific advocates for justice and peace and opportunity around the world. I want all citizens to get involved. Whether they are the secretary in an office building or a movie star, I think the more engaged and interested people are, the better off we all are."

In that campaign Obama was able to attract support from a number of celebrities, including Clooney, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Will Smith, Tyra Banks and Jamie Foxx. Clooney explained his attraction to Obama in a 2007 interview with the Los Angeles Times, recounting that "We were at a rally on Darfur. People were standing around backstage. All of a sudden, Obama walks out and steps onto the stage. Everyone stopped to hear what he had to say. I've never been around anyone who can literally take someone's breath away." Obama appeared in Sand and Sorrow, a 2007 documentary about the crisis narrated and produced by Clooney. Clooney not only contributed financially to Obama's campaign, but also lobbied others to support the candidate. In response to those who thought the Illinois Senator to be too inexperienced, Clooney said: "He fascinates me. People say, 'Oh, he's too young,' you know. But you cannot learn or teach leadership. You either have it or you don't. Everyone says the country isn't ready for a black president. I think that's ridiculous. Is he going to lose Illinois? Is he going to lose New York or California because he's black? No. And maybe he makes some inroads into other places, and maybe, for once, he could get young people to show up and vote."

At the same time, Clooney did not want to appear too close to Obama in order to spare him the accusation that he was too cozy with the Hollywood elite and therefore out of touch with mainstream America. Clooney said, "I told him I would do anything for him, including staying completely away from him." Clooney's instincts were correct, as a TV ad aired in July 2008 that interspersed pictures of Obama with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton while a voice intoned, "He's the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?"

Clooney hosted a $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Obama at a private home in Geneva, Switzerland, in September 2008. Obama wasn't in attendance. Clooney was elated when his candidate was elected the 44th president of the United States on Nov. 4, 2008.

A month into the Obama Presidency, in February 2009, Clooney made his first of several trips to the White House to discuss Darfur. He returned to discuss Darfur with Obama in 2010 and 2012. Clooney also received an to attend a state dinner in 2012 in honor of visiting UK Prime Minister David Camera. Clooney was seated next to Michelle Obama at the dinner. Later that year, when Obama visited LA, he joined in a morning basketball game with Don Cheadle, Tobey McGuire, Clooney and others. This was followed by a $40,000-a-plate dinner for 150 Obama supporters at Clooney's house in Studio City on May 10 that raised $15 million.

Clooney came to the President's defense in 2012 when left-wing critics who were disillusioned by campaign vows left unfulfilled attacked the President for his failures. Clooney told ABC News, "I'm disillusioned by the people who are disillusioned by Obama. I'm a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you've elected." Clooney narrated a video at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that preceded Obama's convention speech.

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2014, emcee Joel McHale joked that "Every year, the White House doctor checks the president's colon for polyps and George Clooney's head." It was that weekend that Clooney married human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin in Venice. The Obama's did not attend, the the actor's spouse was a welcome addition to the Obama's social circle. Amal Clooney is an internationally renowned human rights attorney who was no stranger to the UN General Assembly.

Obamas left the White House in January 2017. The following June Obama visited the Clooneys' estate in the English village of Sonning. In 2020, the two families visited at Lake Como, Italy, and shared a boat ride across the lake. Obama described Clooney to reporters as "a good man, and a good friend." In 2020 the two participated in a “virtual conversation” fundraiser for Joe Biden, with tickets ranging from $250 to $250,000. Obama and Clooney appeared via Zoom at their own homes, making the case for voting for Biden. There also were humorous moments, such as when Obama’s remarks were interrupted by dog barking, and Clooney muting himself. Clooney quipped that his dogs “must be Tea Party members because every time you started talking about Obamacare” they would start barking.

Presidents and Celebrities: Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte was a French pirate and privateer. He operated in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century and accounts of his life are the stuff of legends and mystery. It is unclear where or when he was born. Some say he was born in Basque-France and other claim it was in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (the island where present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located). But in the early 19th century he had established a reputation as a famous pirate. He kept a warehouse in New Orleans where he would distribute the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre. After the United States government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana.

The Lafittes had a profitable smuggling and piracy operation and they were on the government's most wanted list. In September of 1814, a United States naval force successfully invaded the Lafittes' base on Barataria Island and captured most of his fleet. Earlier, Pierre Lafitte had been arrested and jailed, while Jean operated the piracy and smuggling business. On September 3, 1814, the British ship HMS Sophie fired on a pirate ship returning to Barataria. Lafitte's ship grounded in shallow water where the larger British ship could not follow. The British raised a white flag and launched a small dinghy with several officers. Lafitte and several of his men rowed to meet them halfway. Lafitte subsequently met with the British and he was presented with a letter under the seal of King George III, offering Lafitte and his forces British citizenship and land grants in the British colonies in the Americas if they promised to assist in the naval fight against the United States. It was also a condition that they were to return any recent property that had been captured from Spanish ships, as Spain was now an ally of the British.

Lafitte decided to back the Americans. His decision was made out of self interest. He believed that he could more easily defeat the US revenue officers than he could the British navy. Lafitte also hoped to win his brother's release. Lafitte later sent a note to Governor Claiborne, offering aid to the Americans, saying:

I am the stray sheep, wishing to return to the sheepfold. If you were thoroughly acquainted with the nature of my offenses, I should appear to you much less guilty, and still worthy to discharge the duties of a good citizen.

Within two days of Lafitte's notes, Pierre "escaped" from jail. US Commodore Daniel Patterson commanded an offensive force against Lafitte and his men at Barataria. On September 13, 1814, Commodore Patterson set sail aboard the USS Carolina for Barataria. He was accompanied by six gunboats and a tender. The fleet anchored off Grande Terre and the gunboats attacked. By midmorning, 10 armed pirate ships formed a battle line in the bay. Within a short period, Lafitte's men abandoned their ships, set several on fire, and fled the area. When Patterson's men went ashore, they met no resistance. They took 80 people captive, but Lafitte escaped safely. The Americans took custody of six schooners, one felucca, and a brig, as well as 20 cannon and goods worth $500,000.

Following the custom of the times, Patterson filed a legal claim for the profits from the confiscated ships and merchandise, and he was awarded the customary share of profits from the goods that had already been sold. The ships were held in port under custody of the United States marshal.

Governor Claiborne wrote the US Attorney General, Richard Rush requesting a pardon for the Baratarians. Claiborne next wrote to General Andrew Jackson, arguing that Patterson's actions had destroyed a potential first line of defense for Louisiana. Jackson was skeptical. In his reply he wrote, "I ask you, Louisianans, can we place any confidence in the honor of men who have courted an alliance with pirates and robbers?"

Jackson arrived in New Orleans on December 1, 1814, and he was dismayed to find that the city had not created any defenses. It had approximately 1,000 unseasoned troops and two ships for its use. The city had control of the eight ships taken from Lafitte, but did not have enough sailors to man them. Lafitte's men were unwilling to serve on their former ships.

In mid-December, Jackson met with Lafitte and a deal was struck. Lafitte offered to serve in the defense of New Orleans if the US would pardon those of his men who agreed to defend the city. Jackson agreed to do so. On December 19, the state legislature passed a resolution recommending a full pardon for all of the former residents at Barataria. With Lafitte's encouragement, many of his men joined the New Orleans militia or as sailors to man the ships. Others formed three artillery companies.

On December 23, advance units of the British fleet reached the Mississippi River. Lafitte was aware of the poor state of the city's defenses. He suggested that the line of defense be extended to a nearby swamp. Jackson liked the idea and ordered it done. The British began advancing upon the American lines on December 28, but were repulsed by an artillery crew manned by two of Lafitte's former lieutenants.

Commodore Patterson, who had led the raid on Barataria, now praised Lafitte's men who served on one of the US Navy ships. He assessed their skill with artillery to be better than their British counterparts. On January 21, after achieving success in battle, Jackson issued a statement praising Lafitte's troops, especially the artillery crew, He wrote, "Captains Dominique and Beluche, lately commanding privateers of Barataria, with part of their former crews and many brave citizens of New Orleans, were stationed at Nos. 3 and 4." Jackson also praised the Lafitte brothers for having "exhibited the same courage and fidelity". He formally requested clemency for the Lafittes and the men who had served under them. The government granted them all a full pardon on February 6, 1815.

The Lafittes went on to have more adventures. They agreed to serve as spies for Spain in the Mexican War of Independence in 1815-16. But Lafitte and his men later continued a life of piracy against Spanish ships in the Gulf of Mexico, often unloading their cargo at Galveston or on one of the barrier islands near New Orleans. A congressional delegation in Louisiana began demanded that the federal government do something to halt the smuggling. More U.S. Navy ships were sent to the Gulf and in October or November 1821, Lafitte's ship was ambushed. He and his men were captured and jailed, but on February 13, 1822 he escaped.

In late April 1822, Lafitte was captured again after an act of piracy on an American ship. The American warship which captured him turned Lafitte over to the local authorities, who promptly released him because Lafitte had been bribing them with a cut of his loot. Lafitte and other pirates operating in the area began attacking merchant ships carrying legal goods to Cuba. In June 1822, Lafitte approached the officials in the Great Colombia, whose government under general Simón Bolívar had begun commissioning former privateers as officers in their new navy. Lafitte was granted a commission and given a new ship, a 43-ton schooner named General Santander in honor to vice-president general Francisco de Paula Santander. Now Lafitte was legally authorized to take Spanish ships.

In February 1823, Lafitte was cruising off the town of Omoa, Honduras, the site of the largest Spanish fort in Central America. Lafitte attempted to take what he thought were two Spanish merchant vessels. The Spanish ships were heavily armed privateers or warships. Lafitte was wounded in the battle, and is believed to have died just after dawn on February 5. 1823. He was buried at sea in the Gulf of Honduras.

But like all legendary figures, rumors persisted that Lafitte had not died. One rumor claimed that Lafitte had rescued Napoleon from exile and both of them ended their days in Louisiana. No evidence had been reported to supports this theory. Lafitte is also rumored to have buried treasure at many locations, including Galveston and sites along coastal Louisiana.

In 2021, a book entitled Jean Lafitte Revealed, Unraveling One of America’s Longest-Running Mysteries by Ashley Oliphant and Beth Yarbrough presents the theory that Jean Laffite, did in fact successfully change his name and live out the rest of his natural life, dying 1875 at the age of 96, under the pseudonym, “Lorenzo Ferrer” in Lincoln County, North Carolina. Ferrer is buried in a marked grave at Saint Luke's Episcopal Church in Lincolnton, North Carolina. The grave is commonly referred to as locals as “The Pirate’s Grave.” Whether or not the story is true, it would make for a great movie.
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Presidents and Celebrities: Edwin Booth and the Lincolns

Edwin Thomas Booth was a famous and talented American actor who toured throughout the United States and the major capitals of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays. Though not a personal friend of any American president, the path his life took crossed with that of at least three US Presidents. Many theatrical historians consider him the greatest American actor, and the greatest to ever play Prince Hamlet, at least up to his time. But his achievements were overshadowed by the actions of his younger brother, actor John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Booth was born in Bel Air, Maryland on November 13, 1833, into a famous Anglo-American theatrical family. His father was the famous 19th century actor, Junius Brutus Booth,who named Edwin after Edwin Forrest and Thomas Flynn, two of Junius' fellow actors. Edwin was the older brother of John Wilkes Booth, who was also a successful actor.

Early on in his careerm Edwin usually performed alongside his father. He made his debut playing the part of Tressel in Colley Cibber's version of Richard III in Boston on September 10, 1849. The following year, on September 27, 1850, he made his first appearance in New York City, playing the character of Wilford in The Iron Chest, at the National Theatre in Chatham Street. In 1851, his father became ill and Edwin took his father's place in the character of Richard III. Junius Booth died in 1852 and Edwin went on a worldwide tour, visiting Australia and Hawaii. His reputation as a great actor grew.

Edwin appeared in a play with his two brothers, John Wilkes Booth and Junius Brutus Booth Jr. only once, The play was Julius Caesar. The brothers performed the play in 1864 in New York at a benefit performance. John Wilkes played Marc Antony, Edwin played Brutus, and Junius played Cassius. The funds were used for a statue of William Shakespeare that still stands in Central Park today, just south of the Promenade.

Edwin went on to perform in a production of Hamlet on the same stage in New York. It came to be known as the "hundred nights Hamlet", and it set a record that lasted until John Barrymore broke the record in 1922, playing the title character for 101 performances.

When the Civil War broke out, Edwin was a staunch Unionist while his brother supported the Confederacy, From 1863 to 1867, Booth managed the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City, mostly staging Shakespearean tragedies. In 1863, he bought the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Booth was married to Mary Devlin from 1860 to 1863, the year of her death. They had one daughter, Edwina, born on December 9, 1861, in London.

Prior to Lincoln's death, Edwin Booth had an interesting encounter with Lincoln's son, Robert, though the incident was not revealed until many years later. Edwin Booth is credited with saving Robert Lincoln from death or serious injury. The incident occurred on a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey. The exact date of the incident is not known, but Robert Lincoln believed it to have taken place in late 1864 or early 1865. Robert recalled the incident in a 1909 letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine. According to the letter, the incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was a narrow space between the platform and the railway car. Robert wrote:

There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.

Edwin Booth did not know the identity of the person whose life he had saved until some months later, when he received a letter from a friend, Colonel Adam Badeau, an officer on the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant. Badeau had heard the story from Robert Lincoln, who had since joined the Union Army and was also serving on Grant's staff.

Despite their feud, Edwin Booth made attempts to acquire his brother's body for a proper burial and in 1869 he was successful. He had repeatedly written to President Andrew Johnson and Johnson finally agreed to released the assassin's remains. Edwin had them buried, unmarked, in the family plot at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.

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When John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln in April 1865, his action tarnished the family name and Edwin Booth was forced to abandon the stage for many months. The two brothers had been feuding before the assassination and Edwin disowned his brother, refusing to have John's name spoken in his house. Edwin returned to the stage at the Winter Garden Theatre in January 1866, playing the title role in Hamlet, a role he would become famous for. His acting style was considered to be a quiet, more cerebral delivery.

In 1869 Edwin Booth remarried, this time to his acting partner Mary McVicker. She died in 1881 when he once again found himself to be a widower. In 1867, after a fire damaged the Winter Garden Theatre, the building was demolished. Booth built his own theatre, an elaborate structure called Booth's Theatre in Manhattan, which opened on February 3, 1869, with a production of Romeo and Juliet starring Booth as Romeo, and Mary McVicker as Juliet. Unfortunately the theatre never became a profitable or even stable financial venture. The panic of 1873 caused the final bankruptcy of Booth's Theatre in 1874. After the bankruptcy, Booth went on another worldwide tour to rehabilitate himself financially.

Edwin Booth suffered a minor stroke in 1891, and a second stroke in April 1893. His health declined and he died on June 7, 1893.

Remembering James Madison

On June 28, 1836 (186 years ago today) James Madison, Jr. the 4th President of the United States, died at his home Montpelier in Orange, Virginia. He was 85 years of age. Born on March 16, 1751, Madison is remembered as a great statesman, and a great political theorist. He is considered by many to be the "Father of the Constitution" because he was instrumental in the drafting of the United States Constitution and was the author of the Bill of Rights. He was a career politician for most of his adult life.

James Madison, Jr. was born at Belle Grove Plantation near Port Conway, Virginia on March 16, 1751, (March 5, 1751 on the Julian calendar which was then in use). His father was a tobacco planter and a slaveholder. he was small in stature, five feet, four inches in height and it is said that he never weighed more than 100 pounds, making him was the smallest president. During the American Revolutionary War, Madison served in the Virginia state legislature from 1776 to 1779, where he became a protégé of Thomas Jefferson.

Madison attended the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 where he wrote "the Virginia Plan" which became the blueprint for the constitution that was produced at the convention. Madison became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it. He worked with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to produce the Federalist Papers in 1788. Circulated only in New York at the time, they would later be considered among the most important treatises in support of the Constitution. He was also a delegate to the Virginia constitutional ratifying convention, and was instrumental to the successful ratification effort in Virginia. During the drafting and ratification of the constitution, he favored a strong national government, though later he grew to favor stronger state governments, before finally settling between the two extremes.

In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting much of its legislation. He drafted the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which led to his being called the "Father of the Bill of Rights". Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and what became the Federalist Party in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called the Democratic-Republican Party).

He served as Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809. In that capacity he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation's size. Madison was elected President in 1808, succeeding Jefferson. He presided over renewed prosperity for several years and after the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against Great Britain, he led the nation into the War of 1812. He was responding to end British encroachments on American rights, including impressment of its sailors and influence among Britain's Indian allies, whose resistance blocked United States settlement in the Midwest around the Great Lakes. Madison found the war to be a huge challenge. The nation did not have a strong army nor a strong financial system. When the war ended, he afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, all of which he had previously opposed.

Like most other Virginia statesmen of that era, Madison was a slaveholder who inherited his plantation known as Montpelier, and owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime. Madison supported what was known as the "Three-Fifths Compromise", which allowed three-fifths of the enumerated population of slaves to be counted for representation.

When Madison left office in 1817, he retired to Montpelier. He was 65 years old and his wife Dolley was 49. Madison left the presidency a poorer man than when he entered, due to the steady financial collapse of his plantation, aided by the continued low price of tobacco and his stepson's mismanagement. In his later years, Madison became extremely concerned about his historic legacy. He took to modifying letters and other documents in his possession: changing days and dates, adding and deleting words and sentences, and doing other editing. For example, he edited a letter written to Jefferson criticizing the Marquis de Lafayette.

In 1826, after the death of Jefferson, Madison was appointed as the second Rector ("President") of the University of Virginia. He retained the position as college chancellor for ten years until his death in 1836. In 1829, at the age of 78, Madison was chosen as a representative to the constitutional convention in Richmond for the revising of the Virginia state constitution. It was his last appearance as a legislator. Between 1834 and 1835, Madison sold 25% of his slaves to make up for financial losses on his plantation.

In his latter years, even with his bad health, Madison wrote frequently on political subjects, including an essay against the appointment of chaplains for Congress and the armed forces. But Madison found himself ignored by the new political leaders. He died on June 28, and is buried in the Madison Family Cemetery at Montpelier.

Presidents and Celebrities: Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson

During the Presidency of Jimmy Carter, first lady Rosalynn Carter arranged for a series of performances by famous musical artists in the White House and on the south lawn. These included such famous names as John Lennon, Dolly Parton, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein, Beverly Sills, and famed country singer Willie Nelson. Nelson and Carter would become fast friends, notwithstanding the country singer's advocating for the legalization of marijuana at a time when the substance was looked up with greater scorn than it is today.

Willie Nelson was born on April 29, 1933 during the great depression in Abbott, Texas. He went on to become one of the most recognized artists in country music. Along with Waylon Jennings, he was one of the main figures of a genre of country music known as outlaw country, one that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville country music establishment. Nelson became very involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalization of marijuana.

Nelson, who was raised by his grandparents, wrote his first song at age seven and joined his first band at ten. After graduating from high school in 1950, he joined the U.S. Air Force but was later discharged due to back problems. Nelson attended Baylor University for two years, but abandoned his studies because of the commercial success he was achieving in music. He worked as a disc jockey at radio stations in Texas and in the Pacific Northwest, while working as a singer and songwriter. He wrote many country classics including "Funny How Time Slips Away", "Hello Walls", and "Crazy". In 1960 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and joined Ray Price's band as a bassist. In 1962, he recorded his first album, and in 1964 he joined the Grand Ole Opry the following year. Nelson grew weary of the corporate Nashville music scene, and in 1972 he moved to Austin, Texas, where he performed at the Armadillo World Headquarters. In 1973, after signing with Atlantic Records, Nelson turned to outlaw country, achieving commercial success with his albums Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages. In 1975, he switched to Columbia Records, where he recorded the critically acclaimed album Red Headed Stranger. The same year, he recorded another outlaw country album, Wanted! The Outlaws, along with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser. During the mid-1980s, he recorded hit albums such as Honeysuckle Rose and released hit songs like "On the Road Again" and "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." Nelsom joined the country supergroup The Highwaymen, along with fellow singers Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. In 1985, he helped organize the first Farm Aid concert to benefit American farmers; the concerts have been held annually ever since and Nelson has been a fixture, appearing at every one.

During Carter's presidency, Nelson was a frequent guest at the White House. In his White House Diary, Carter recorded how, on May 15, 1979, Nelson and fellow country singer Charlie Pride presented the President with the Country Music Association Award for his interest and support of country music. On September 13, 1980, Nelson performed a concert on the south lawn of the White House. The concert of First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Nelson in a duet of Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother". On the day before the concert, Carter noted in his diary:

Willie Nelson, [Nelson's wife] Connie, and their two daughters are staying with us. We jogged three or four miles and then went swimming. I like them very much. They are at ease with is and vice versa. He's having a fund-raising concert tomorrow night.

It was revealed in the documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President that on this visit, Nelson and Carter's son Chip smoked some marijuana on the roof of the White House. Nelson originally had written in his autobiography that he was joined by a “servant” in the White House when he smoked the joint on the roof. But Jimmy Carter revealed in the documentary that Nelson was covering up for his son James Earl “Chip” Carter. According to the Los Angeles Times, Chip recalled when he went to the roof with Nelson on Sept. 13, 1980, “In the break I said, 'Let’s go upstairs.’ We just kept going up till we got to the roof, where we leaned against the flagpole at the top of the place and lit one up.” Prior to this admission, there had been considerable speculation about who it was that Nelson had smoked with, ranging from various White House staff members to the president himself.

Nelson discussed more details about the joint in an interview with Patrick Doyle of Rolling Stone magazine, calling the joint "a fat Austin Torpedo." The incident occurred after Nelson had finished singing in the Rose Garden. Nelson had gone to sleep with his wife, Connie, in the Lincoln Bedroom, when Chip Carter knocked on his door. Nelson said, “Chip Carter took me down into the bottom of the White House, where the bowling alley is,” and the two of them went up to the roof and smoked a joint. Nelson recalled how Chip explained to him about the surrounding view, pointing out the Washington Monument and the lights on Pennsylvania Avenue. “It’s really pretty nice up there,” Nelson said.

In the film, Nelson recalled another occasion when he visited the White House on crutches:

"I had just been to Jamaica and got busted (for marijuana possession) down there," Nelson says. "I was so excited to get out of jail I jumped off the porch and sprung my ankle, and then the next day I had to go see the president of the United States. It was really kind of funny. We laughed about it a lot."

Nelson performed at fundraisers for Carter's unsuccessful re-election bid in 1980. Five years later, after Carter's presidency had ended, Nelson did a favor for his friend the former President by attending a celebration for the centennial of Carter's home town of Plains, Georgia held from May 17 to 19 of 1985. Carter had recorded a radio announcement informing people that Nelson would be holding a concert at the softball field in Plains. When Carter was asked to describe Nelson by a reporter for the Americus Times-Recorder, he called the singer "one of America's true heroes. He has a sure and certain style, which has never needed many radical changes because his music is based on integrity. [Nelson is] A longtime personal friend." At the concert the two performed "On the Road Again" together.

In the documentary, Nelson opined that his friendship with Carter has lasted so long because "Jimmy and I basically come from the same spot."
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Presidents and Celebrities: Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (better known by his last two names) was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in British India, but lived in the United States from late 1892 until 1896. It was during this time that Kipling made the acquaintance of Theodore Roosevelt, who was then a Commissioner of the United States Civil Service Commission, and later President of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners.

Kipling and his wife, the former Carrie Baelstier, had left London on their honeymoon in early 1892, just as a an influenza epidemic was occurring in the city. They went first to the United States (visiting the Balestier family estate near Brattleboro, Vermont) and then to Japan. When they arrived in Yokohama, they learned that their bank, The New Oriental Banking Corporation, had failed. The couple returned to the U.S., back to Vermont. Mrs. Kipling was pregnant with their first child. They rented a small cottage on a farm near Brattleboro, and lived simply, while Kipling wrote some of his more famous works. Their first child, Josephine, was born on December 29, 1892. It was also in this cottage that Kipling wrote The Jungle Book stories.

The couple bought a 10 acre parcel of land along a rocky hillside overlooking the Connecticut River from Carrie's brother Beatty Balestier and built their own house. In the next four years Kipling wrote the Jungle Books, a book of short stories (The Day's Work), the novel Captains Courageous, and a prodigious amount of poetry. It is said that Kipling enjoyed writing the Jungle Books and also corresponding with many children who wrote to him about them.

While in Vermont, Kipling was visited by his father in 1893 and by the British writer Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes stores), who brought his golf clubs and gave Kipling golf lessons. Kipling came to enjoy the game, playing the game with the local Congregational minister and even playing with red-painted balls when the ground was covered in snow.

It was sometime during this stay that Kipling met Theodore Roosevelt in New York City. The two first met at the Cosmos Club. In her book The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism, author Doris Kearns Goodwin writes:

Rudyard Kipling, whom Theodore had first met at the Cosmos Club in New York, was a guest [of Roosevelt's] on a number of occasions. Kipling later described that first encounter when he "curled up" on a chair across from Roosevelt "and listened and wondered until the universe seemed to be spinning around and Theodore was the spinner." If Roosevelt initially resented Kipling's "tendency to criticize America," he nonetheless recognized the author's "genius" and found the man himself "very entertaining."

Initially Roosevelt was critical of Kipling, but this soon dissolved and the two men became lifelong friends. Roosevelt and Kipling shared the same opinion of the corrupt city government in New York. Kipling wrote that the city had " a government of the worst elements of the population tempered by occasional insurrections of respectable citizens." They continued to correspond, even after Kipling returned to England.

In February 1896, Elsie Kipling, Kipling's second daughter was born. The Kiplings enjoyed living in Vermont, but tension in relations between Great Britain and the United States spilled over into how Kipling was treated. By the early 1890s, the United Kingdom and Venezuela were in a border dispute involving British Guiana. The U.S. had made several offers to arbitrate, and in 1895, the new American Secretary of State Richard Olney argued that the United States had the right to arbitrate on grounds of sovereignty on the continent, according to the Monroe Doctrine. This led to a diplomatic incident in London, with talk of war on both sides. Kipling was concerned about what he felt was persistent anti-British sentiment in the U.S., especially in the press. By January 1896, he had decided that it was time to end his family's life in the U.S. The decision to leave was bolstered by a dispute with his brother-in-law Beatty Balestier, owing to the latter's drinking and insolvency. In May 1896, an inebriated Beatty encountered Kipling on the street and threatened him. The incident led to Beatty's arrest, and the resulting publicity disturbed Kipling's tranquility. In July 1896, a week before the hearing was to resume, the Kiplings packed their belongings, left the United States and returned to England.

Kipling in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was among Great Britain's most popular writers. In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, as the first English-language writer to receive the prize, and at 41, its youngest recipient to date. In 1914, Kipling was one of 53 leading British authors – a number that included H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy – who signed their names to the "Authors' Declaration," a manifesto declaring that the German invasion of Belgium had been a brutal crime, and that Britain "could not without dishonor have refused to take part in the present war."

But the war resulted in personal tragedy for Kipling. His son John was killed in action at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, at age 18. John had been initially rejected for military service due to poor eyesight. He tried twice to enlist, but was rejected. His father was a good friend of Lord Roberts, former commander-in-chief of the British Army, and colonel of the Irish Guards, and at Rudyard's request, John was accepted into the Irish Guards. After his son's death, in a poem titled "Epitaphs of the War", Kipling wrote "If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied." Many interpret these words may as an expression of Kipling's guilt over his role in arranging John's commission.

After the war, Kipling and Roosevelt corresponded about how both of them disliked the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations, two ideas promoted by President Woodrow Wilson. Both hoped that the United States would abandon isolationism and the post-war world be dominated by an Anglo-French-American alliance. Kipling also wrote about how he hoped that Theodore Roosevelt would again become president in 1920. This was not to be, and Kipling was saddened to learn of Roosevelt's death in January of 1919. He wrote that he believed that Roosevelt was the only American politician capable of keeping the United States in the "game" of world politics.

Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but as he aged, he began to slow down in his writing, and was less successful commercially. On the night of January 12, 1936, he suffered a haemorrhage in his small intestine. He underwent surgery, but died at Middlesex Hospital in London six days later on January 18, 1936, at the age of 70, of a perforated duodenal ulcer. Kipling was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in north-west London, and his ashes interred at Poets' Corner, part of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.