Queen Elizabeth II Dies At 96: Met U.S. Presidents Since Harry Truman

It still came as shock, even though it was often talked about over the past years. Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96 and there is now a new monarch in Britain. Only earlier this week the Queen had continued her constitutional duty and invited Liz Truss to form a new government. Even with health problems and aging concerns, there was always Queen Elizabeth who kept the long line of history very much intact on the British throne, acting with quiet resolve for decades.

I have thought about how to best reflect her life as seen through the eyes of this American home, and have settled on a series of photos of her interactions with our top leaders. (The Queen never met President Lyndon Johnson.) President Harry Truman was her first president to meet even though Elizabeth was not yet queen when, at the age of 25, she filled in for her very ailing father.  

President Harry S. Truman and Britain’s Princess Elizabeth are shown as their motorcade got underway following the reception ceremony at Washington National Airport on October 31, 1951.
 Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
20th October 1957: Queen Elizabeth II, US president Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 – 1969) with his wife Mamie (1896 – 1979) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a White House State banquet.
 Keystone/Getty Images
Buckingham Palace during a banquet held in his honor, American President John F. Kennedy and his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, pose with Queen Elizabeth II London, United Kingdom, June 15, 1961.
 PhotoQuest/Getty Images
From BBC
President Gerald Ford dances with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during a White House State Dinner honoring the Queen US Bicentennial visit, Washington DC, July 7, 1976. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)
6/8/1982 President Reagan riding horses with Queen Elizabeth II during visit to Windsor Castle, Daily Mail
Express UK
People magazine
Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo: Jack Hill – WPA Pool/Getty Images
(Wow….just wow.)

Kennedy Election Loss, Heavy Hearts For Believers In Camelot


The election loss last night in Massachusetts for Joseph Kennedy III was more than just a political happening.  For many who have journeyed in spirit and through history with this famous family, in good times and bad, it was far more than just a campaign loss.  It was as if a part of our larger family had been impacted with a major setback.

I never shook a hand of a Kennedy at a whistle-stop or was able to stand in the back row at a campaign rally for anyone with the famous Irish name, and yet I was always able to feel like a part of the show,, the drama, the humor and broad, beaming smiles.  After all, their politics was mine, too.  Liberal Democratic values.

And the family knew precisely what they were fighting for, as they had also experienced it in their own generations and wanted the government to even the playing field for all the ones yet to come up from hardship–no matter how that hardship manifested itself. I have read the books of this family since high school and recall a term that almost punched from the pages when reading of immigrants packed on “coffin ships”.  It was an image from my teenage years that speaks to the hopes immigrants had for their new home, and the risks they took to reach it.

That is how the Kennedy family made their way to these shores, and as we know in three generations Jack Kennedy would be sworn into the presidency of our country.  What has always alerted me to the family’s pull on the nation was, following the assassination in 1963, a landslide proportion of citizens told pollsters they had voted for Kennedy in 1960.  But we know that 1960 was a squeaker election outcome.  Yes, some of the responses after Kennedy’s death was due to national grieving, but let us be clear about another fact. Politics did not always matter as the Kennedy family had passed above being just a partisan name.   They were a part of the larger family for millions in the nation.

The tales of Camelot and the beautiful and handsome faces of generations of Kennedys have left their mark on the hearts and minds of millions of my fellow citizens.  Their fame and feats have been the stuff of headlines and history, their times of crisis and funerals have showcased family solidarity and steadfastness.  The family of doers and dreamers also faced frailties and human shortcomings, which also made the headlines, and in the end, proved how very much they were like every other family in America.

So yes, today there is a real sadness in the nation among those who still know the value of history and nostalgic touchstones.  Our nation needs to have those moments from history that still evoke passion and energy and bring forth the best of us.  The Kennedy family and Camelot was such a marker.

We still love them.




When America Has No National Voice

Waking up this morning on the Madison isthmus is surreal.

The sun is shining and the bright blue skies are welcoming.  Morning Dove babes that left their nest yesterday are being fed by parents on our lawn’s arbor.  There is a seemingly calm wonder to the day.

But just a number of blocks away on the isthmus a very different scene greeted the early morning hours in this city.


Tenacious and violent protestors, probably more accurately called anarchists, broke windows, spray-painted graffiti, and looted stores on State Street as the three local news stations reported on the scenes for over 6 hours. A police cruiser was dramatically set ablaze and driven down a street.

This absurd and shameful behavior is playing out in cities all over the nation, and for some places over continuous days. Nothing of this scope has happened in our land since the tumultuous times in 1968.  As I sat and watched the events over the past nights, and especially being glued to the television as my city was the target, I thought of what was missing.

Yes, common sense and any allotment of decency is certainly absent from the violent events.  What started out as protests around the nation which were correctly grounded in righteous anger over the death of George Floyd has been hijacked by a loathsome and disgusting array of the worst elements this country has produced…other than for Derek Chauvin, the cop who killed the black man.

But Saturday night as I sat trying to eat a late dinner and talk with various local folks on the phone one glaring fact came back to me over and over.  There was no one able to take to a podium, or hold a microphone and stand on the back of a truck, or call into a national news program and speak the words this nation must hear from a leader.

The vacuum was–and pardon me for using a trite overused oxymoron–deafening.  What this nation needed, craved, and once had over our long history was a national leader with credibility who could ask for calm, speak to our historic path towards justice, empathize with those grieving as a direct family of the victim, and then wrap us all into the common family of a nation moving forward.  

That did not happen this weekend when we desperately needed it.

As I watched the news I thought back to one of those images from 1968 that even those born this century have surely seen and heard about as it speaks to the best of who we are in this nation when others lower themselves to being their worst.

Robert Kennedy was that election year, landing in Indianapolis the night Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis.  Kennedy had planned to rally in a place in the city considered dangerous to the point police refused to escort him to, but nonetheless, Kennedy found his way to the location.  When he got there he realized those who were gathered were not aware of the killing.  It was then Robert acted as a leader for the nation.

Climbing onto a flatbed truck and wearing Jack Kennedy’s overcoat, Robert gave what is considered one of the most eloquent extemporaneous speeches of the 20th century.

“I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.” Gasps and shrieks met his words. “Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling,” he said. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.”

Our nation needs a lot of things, my readers and friends, but it needs more than anything else a single unifying, credible, grounded, calming, reasoned, and adult voice to lift us up and beyond the times in which we now find ourselves.  We know the impact over the arc of our national story when we have had such people to comfort, guide, prod, and convince the nation of what needed to be done.

We are now seeing the absence of such a voice, and dealing with the dreadful consequences. 

Humphrey’s History Video: Moms Even Embarrass Presidents

Amusing letter from Jack Kennedy to his mom.

Freedom Of The Press Wins An Important Battle

A federal judge today ordered the Trump administration to immediately return, on a temporary basis, the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed by Donald Trump a year ago to federal district court in Washington, said the White House must give the credential back temporarily to give Acosta a chance to persuade the administration that he should be allowed to keep it. He ruled that the Trump administration had most likely violated Mr. Acosta’s due process rights when it revoked his press badge after a testy exchange with Trump at a news conference last week.

“I want to emphasize the very limited nature of this ruling,” the judge said from the bench. “I have not determined that the First Amendment was violated here.”

White House Spokesperson Sanders, in a written statement, said the White House will be putting a list of procedures in place to allow for “decorum at the White House”.

I know what any good parent would say to such a response.  ‘If you want decorum you need to first create it, yourself.’  That will be a near impossible task for Trump.

There has been an ongoing discussion in the nation about how the political and governing institutions must hold under the strains and chaos created by Trump.  Some feared they could not hold, and the republic as we know it, would suffer harm at the foundation.  Today, we have a strong piece of evidence to show that our checks and balances are still fully employed and doing the work our Founders envisioned.   For that we can all be proud.

As to the larger issue of the First Amendment, it is vital we not relent on this matter.  Make no mistake today was important.  It was an important interim ruling.  I stress, continuously, about the  need for a free and independent press.  There is no need for me to state that our nation has an out of control autocratic person in the Oval Office.  Each day our nation’s core values, the rule of law, and democratic order are under attack.  Absolutely we need to have a strong and vibrant Fourth Estate reporting facts and insight so to allow citizens knowledge of their government.

I applaud all the news operations around the nation who came to the defense of freedom of the press.  There is a lesson here not to be missed.  With resistance to unwarranted and illegal decisions we can force, through law, the corrupt ones to back down.

Long time readers to this blog know I love history.  Therefore, the following makes for a perfect ending to this post.  President John F. Kennedy spoke to the American Newspaper Publisher Association in 1961.

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”

And so it goes.

Air Force One Flies Over Arlington National Cemetery For President John F. Kennedy Burial

While reading the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s superb biography of Lyndon Johnson I came across a most interesting tidbit.  In The Passage Of Power Caro writes that Air Force One flew over John F. Kennedy’s burial at Arlington Cemetery.

While doing the fly-by Colonel James Swindal dipped the aircraft’s wings in a show of honor.

I have searched high-and-low for a photo of Air Force One making that pass over Arlington and have not been able to find it.  There are photos of the military jets with the missing man formation, but none that I can find of AFO.

If anyone finds that photo in the years to come, as this blog post bounces across the internet highway, I would love to see it and have it sourced.


For Mothers Day—-Something From The Pages Of History

JFK asked his Mother (after the Cuban Missile Crisis) not to contact Nikita Khrushchev again without asking him first.   You can just sense the feeling Kennedy must have had when learning what his Mom had done—and then what he needed to do to make sure things like this did not continue.

Solly sent a comment today with how Rose responded!  Thanks Solly!


A Piece Of Trivia As We Observe 50 Years Since Death Of Martin Luther King, Jr.

While reading about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man some historians correctly call “a new founding father’, I came across this slice of trivia.

On the road in Indianapolis, Robert F. Kennedy, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, learned about King’s murder from R.W. Apple Jr. of the New York Times.

But this next line is what I had not known before.

Wearing an overcoat that had belonged to his brother Jack  RFK broke the news to an inner-city crowd.

“What we need in the United States,” he said, “is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

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