If you are excited about the newest panda at the National Zoo, you should thank Richard Nixon.
President Nixon’s historic trip to China in February 1972 opened diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries and was one of the most successful achievements of his administration. The result that sticks most keenly in the popular memory, though, is the arrival of two chubby black and white furry goodwill ambassadors—Ling-Ling (shown here) and Hsing-Hsing.
Mrs. Nixon had been captivated by the pandas at the zoo in Beijing and was delighted to head up the delegation to welcome the pandas to the National Zoo.
On April 16, 1972, she officially accepted the gift of the People’s Republic of China and declared, “I think ‘panda-monium’ is going to break out at the zoo.”
She was right. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were the top attractions at the zoo until their deaths in in the 1990s.
Watch Mrs. Nixon’s speech from 1972 on the Prologue blog.
Image: Ling-Ling munches on her snack on her first day in the new Panda House at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, April 16, 1972. (Nixon Presidential Library)
This lunch was the last meal that Richard Nixon ate as President at the White House. Photographer Oliver Atkins made a point of documenting the preparation of the lunch.
Later that day—August 8, 1974—President Nixon announced he would resign following damaging revelations in the Watergate scandal.
You can learn more about President Nixon and his domestic policies in this Prologue magazine article: http://go.usa.gov/jUKG
Image from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Apollo 11 - This Week in History
Tomorrow is the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.
Soon after their historic steps, they received a phone call from President Nixon in the Oval Office. To celebrate the occasion, we’re teaming up with the NASA History Office to tweet out the lunar call between the President and astronauts.
Photo: Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. standing on the moon next to the U.S. flag, 7/20/196.
POW Week at the Nixon Library
A sheriff-led motorcade will escort Vietnam POWs to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California at 12:30PM PT. Their arrival at the Library coincides with the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s POW homecoming dinner at the White House.
An All-American Homecoming is a new exhibit at the Nixon Library about the POWs visit to the White House. The event occurred on May 24, 1973, and it remains the largest dinner ever held at the White House. This week, the Nixon Foundation is hosting a series of events to celebrate the POWs.
Tomorrow evening, on the anniversary of the original White House homecoming, the Foundation will hold a reunion dinner for the POWs in the Nixon Library’s “East Room.” The original menu will be recreated, including American comfort foods like sirloin steak and potatoes.
Learn more about POW Week at the Nixon Library through the Nixon Foundation.
Photo: Entertainers sing “God Bless America” to the returned POW troops at the White House. From L-R: Phyllis Diller, Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, actress Joey Heatherton, President Nixon, Songwriter Irving Berlin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Pat Nixon and Comedian Bob Hope. 5/24/73.
Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from Center archivist Kristen Wilhelm.
Forty years ago today self proclaimed “ol’ country lawyer” Senator Sam Ervin stepped onto center stage as chairman of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, better known as the Watergate Committee. Senator Ervin became a household name as an estimated 85% of U.S. households viewed at least some of the hearings broadcast that summer.
Attorney General John Mitchell, shown in the photo, was one of the high-level Nixon administration figures whose testimony was broadcast. For the committee, bringing the hearings directly to the people was vital. As stated in its Final Report: “The full import of the hearings could only be achieved observing the witnesses and hearing their testimony.”
Photograph of Attorney General John Mitchell, 1973, Records of the U.S. Senate
President Dwight D. Eisenhower is lassoed by cowboy star Montie Montana (with permission from the Secret Service) while reviewing the inaugural parade as Vice President Richard M. Nixon and other dignitaries look on on January 20, 1953.
Originally, the parade was meant to escort the President to the White House from the Capitol, but it soon developed into something more. Jefferson began the tradition of the open house. Americans could come directly into the White House and congratulate the President. Over time, the crowds became so enormous that President Jackson fled the crush through an open window.
By the time Grover Cleveland took office, the number of inaugural visitors was too large to manage, and so Cleveland had parade stands set up outside, where he could review the troops. Over time, this the review came to include floats and other civilian contributions. For Clinton’s second inauguration, the parade featured floats, choirs, and marching bands from all 50 states.
A Year-Long Celebration of 2013 Presidential Centennials
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the births of two Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon (January 9, 1913–April 22, 1994) and Gerald Ford (July 14, 1913–December 26, 2006).
Throughout the year, the National Archives will feature programming in celebration of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Learn more about the 2013 Presidential Centennials here.
Nixon’s Surprise Visit from Elvis
President Richard Nixon shakes hands with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. Presley was born on January 8, 1935, and Nixon was born on January 9, 1913 (100 years ago tomorrow).
Incidentally, the photo from this impromptu meeting on December 21, 1970, is among the most requested from the National Archives. The Elvis-Nixon meeting draws more inquiries than the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Birthday cheers for Elvis and Nixon!
-from the Nixon Library
“In Event of Moon Disaster”, July 18, 1969.
White House speechwriter, William Safire, was asked to write a speech that President Nixon would make in case the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.
It was never delivered, and this speech was quietly tucked away into Nixon’s records.
Source: Nixon Library
Jazz legend Duke Ellington died on this day, May 24, 1974
On April 24, 1969, Ellington celebrated his 70th birthday at the White House where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The medal was presented by President Richard Nixon, who himself had played the piano since childhood. From the President’s remarks:
“When we think of freedom, we think of many things. But Duke Ellington is one who has carried the message of freedom to all the nations of the world through music, through understanding, understanding that reaches over all national boundaries and over all boundaries of prejudice and over all boundaries of language..
In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke.”
Afterwards, the President played “Happy Birthday” on the piano for the Duke while guests at the White House sang along.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington
April 29, 1899 - May 24, 1974
Dinner Diplomacy Thaws the Cold War
Sometimes sharing a good meal is the best way to resolve the differences you may have with another. For the United States and China, this strategy helped normalize relations during a peak of the Cold War. Read more
Images from Nixon’s culinary travels through China:
Banquet place settings (cigarettes included); Chinese people having lunch outdoors; President Nixon using chopsticks; Pat Nixon samples cuisine in the Peking Hotel kitchen; Menu from Banquet given by Prime Minister Chou in honor of President Nixon. February, 1972.