Monday, February 19, 2007

One of four helicopters transporting the President and his entourage arrive in the pasture west of the bowling green (MVLA)The President of the United States traveled to Mount Vernon on the federal holiday commemorating George Washington's 275th birthday, marking the first time a sitting president made formal remarks at Mount Vernon in 25 years.

On February 19, 2007, President and Mrs. Bush arrived by helicopter a little before 10 a.m., and proceeded immediately to George Washington's Tomb, where they placed a wreath in memory of the nation's first president. The solemn wreathlaying ceremony lasted less than five minutes. It featured a brief prayer by a military chaplain and a ceremonial performance of taps.

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush are seen inside the tomb of President George Washington and Martha Washington, Monday, Feb. 19, 2007 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

A small motorcade then transported the President and First Lady to the west front of the Mansion. Time would not allow for a full tour of Washington's home, but the presidential party did view most of the first floor before signing the official Mount Vernon guestbook.

A stage outfitted with patriotic bunting was the President's final stop. After a brief but enthusiastic introduction by Gay Hart Gaines, Regent of the  Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the President delivered prepared remarks about continuing legacies of George Washington. President Bush began by recalling that his first visit to Mount Vernon took place when his grandmother traveled with him from Midland, Texas. He noted that Mount Vernon has always been a "good place for families," and that he had escorted his own daughters to the estate when they were youngsters.

The President praised Washington as a soldier, statesman, and "champion of liberty."

With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to take George Washington's successes for granted and to assume that all those events were destined to unfold as they did... Well, the truth is far different. America's path to freedom was long and it was hard. And the outcome was really never certain. Honoring George Washington's life requires us to remember the many challenges that he overcame, and the fact that American history would have turned out very differently without his steady leadership.

President Bush noted that "the story of George Washington continues to bring Americans together. We find the best of America in his spirit, and our highest hopes for ourselves in his character." The warmth of the President's remarks helped to make up for a chilly environment somewhat reminiscent of Valley Forge. Much of the Mount Vernon estate was still covered with ice and snow, and sub-freezing temperatures forced the cancellation of performances by the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, as well as the Commander in Chief's Guard. But the public was not deterred - before the day was over, some 10,000 people had passed through the Texas Gate.

Many guests had clearly come for a glimpse of the President, and they were not disappointed. When the formal program was over, both President and Mrs. Bush left the stage to greet members of the audience, despite the worried stares of secret service agents. Because the holiday celebrating George Washington's Birthday is the only day of the year when admission to Mount Vernon is complimentary, the estate tends to attract a number of visitors who share a quality with George Washington himself - an admirable frugality. Some were surprised to discover that the President was on the property and extended their stays to take advantage of the opportunity.

Among those present were students who traveled to Mount Vernon from a small town in Texas not far from the President's ranch. They cheered just a little louder than the rest of the assembled crowd, and the President was visibly appreciative.

Laura Bush at Mount Vernon in 2001 (MVLA)Although it was the President's first visit to Mount Vernon since being elected in 2000, the occasion marked Mrs. Bush's third trip in six years.

Laura Bush visits Mount Vernon

When President Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, served as president, he escorted King Hussein of Jordan to Mount Vernon in April 1989.

President H. W. Bush

Because the visit was not announced to the public in advance, the security level was reasonably relaxed. The presidential party toured the Mansion in about 20 minutes and then walked to the wharf, where a government boat was waiting to whisk the international leaders back to Washington.

The younger President Bush, however, was constantly surrounded by security agents, and about half of the Mount Vernon estate needed to remain off limits to the public until the President's departure. Magnetometers were placed at all entry points to the estate, and well-trained canines became a familiar sight during the lock-down period before President Bush's arrival.

Still, the President's whirlwind visit came off without incident, and the media coverage was widespread and generally positive. "The White House staff members were extremely competent and cooperative, and everyone at Mount Vernon felt they were involved with a truly historic occasion," noted Executive Director James Rees. "We only wish that sitting presidents would come to Mount Vernon more often, like they tended to do in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These visits remind people that it all began with Washington, and that we could not have gotten off to a better or faster start."

 

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and President George W. Bush bid firewall at a press conference following the historic meeting in the Large Dining Room of the Mansion (White House photography by Chris Greenberg)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On November 7, the presidents of two great nations met together in a truly inspirational setting: the large dining room of George Washington's Mansion. They talked about the values they share and reaffirmed their mutual quest for a peaceful world.

President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both made references to following in the historic footsteps of George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, who probably talked about some of the same topics, perhaps in the same room, more than two centuries ago.

Unlike the visits of many other heads of state to Washington's home, this was no mere social gathering or photo op. The two presidents met in a closed session with only a handful of top advisors. Among the topics they discussed were strengthening security and encouraging democracy in Afghanistan, as well as stopping Iran from securing nuclear weapons. The talks touched upon the far corners of the globe, focusing on peace in the Middle East, halting genocide in Sudan, and encouraging a democratic government in Burma.

Although a number of international leaders have traveled to Mount Vernon with American leaders-- including Winston Churchill of England, Charles de Gaulle of France, and a host of kings, queens and emperors-- historians believe the Bush-Sarkozy session marks the first time the Mansion has been used for a substantive meeting between two heads of state.

To make the strictly confidential meeting possible, Mount Vernon curators removed most of Washington's original furnishings and the delicate china, silver and glass that decorates the room. Fortunately, the Kindel Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, handcrafted a Duncan Phyfe-style mahogany table that was perfect for the 12 members of the presidential delegations.

To make Washington's dining room more pleasing to the eye, Mount Vernon's Collections staff recovered period-style chairs with fabric donated by Brunschwig & Fils. It was a bold green--thought to be Washington's favorite color.

On the day of the meeting, President Bush and his advisors arrived first by helicopter. President Sarkozy, who addressed a joint session of Congress in the morning, traveled to Mount Vernon by limousine, stopping traffic and turning heads of curious onlookers in Old Town Alexandria, George Washington's hometown.

Both heads of state were greeted at the Mansion by Gay Hart Gaines, Vice Regent for Florida of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, where they were presented with leather­bound copies of a recent speech penned by author David McCullough on the close relationship between the United States and France. Executive Director James Rees then provided the two gentlemen (and two translators) with a ten-minute whirlwind tour of the Mansion.

Along the way, President Bush explained to his French counterpart that his first visit to Mount Vernon was as a young boy. "My grandmother thought I should see this place," he remembered. President Bush has visited many times since, and he recalls riding his bicycle to Mount Vernon at least once. He previously visited Mount Vernon in February of that same year, to participate in a tribute to Washington on his 275th birthday.

The two leaders then paused for photographs on the piazza and the east lawn, before closing the doors of the large dining room for their official meeting.

Following the business session, they walked through Washington's famous Upper Garden to the greenhouse, where they enjoyed a luncheon featuring squash-stuffed agnolotti and seared rockfish, prepared by White House Chef Cristeta Comerford.

The last stop during the three­-hour stay was the Bowling Green, where more than 100 reporters were gathered for a press conference.

"I have a partner in peace," President Bush said of Sarkozy, "who has clear vision, basic values, who is willing to take tough positions to achieve peace."

President Sarkozy announced at The White House on the previous evening, "I wish to reconquer the hearts of America." He continued, "When I say the French people love the American people, that is the truth and nothing but the truth."

If George Washington and his young friend Lafayette had been watching, they would have undoubtedly approved.

US Presidents at Mount Vernon

1789
2017
George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
Andrew Jackson
James K. Polk
Millard Fillmore
James Buchanan
Abraham Lincoln
Rutherford B. Hayes
Benjamin Harrison
William McKinley
Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Woodrow Wilson
Calvin Coolidge
Herbert Hoover
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Gerald Ford
Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush
Barack Obama

TERM OF OFFICE: 1789-1797

George Washington

1st President of the United States. After retirement, George Washington spent his final years at his beloved home.

John Adams

2nd President of the United States.

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Thomas Jefferson

3rd President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon on January 3, 1801 to pay a condolence call on Martha Washington who was greiving the recent death of her husband.

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Andrew Jackson

7th President of the United States. Visited in November of 1815.

James K. Polk

11th President of the United States. Came to Mount Vernon in June 1845 with his wife, Sarah Childress Polk and former First Lady, Dolley Payne Madison.

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Millard Fillmore

13th President of the United States. Visited in March 1851.

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James Buchanan

15th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in 1860 with the Prince of Wales.

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Abraham Lincoln

16th President of the United States. In 1862, during the Civil War, Lincoln came to Mount Vernon via steam boat down the Potomac River.

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Rutherford B. Hayes

19th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon on Saturday, May 18, 1878 with his wife.

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Benjamin Harrison

23rd President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in May of 1889.

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William McKinley

25th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon on Thursday, December 14, 1899 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington's death.

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Theodore Roosevelt

26th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon many times with his family.

William Howard Taft

27th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in 1912 to place a wreath at Washington's tomb.

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Woodrow Wilson

28th President of the United States. Visited several times, including a grandiose Independence Day celebration in 1918.

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Calvin Coolidge

30th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon twice during his administration.

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Herbert Hoover

31st President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon on Washington's 198th birthday in 1930, and again, two years later, on the 200th.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

32nd President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon on May 15, 1933 and many other occasions.

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Harry S. Truman

33rd President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in 1947.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower

34th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in 1958.

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John F. Kennedy

35th President of the United States. Hosted a state dinner at Mount Vernon for President Ayub Khan of Pakistan on Tuesday, July 11, 1961.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

36th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in 1961.

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Gerald Ford

38th President of the United States. Visited Mount Vernon in 1961 as a Congressman and gain in 1976 during his presidency.

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Ronald Reagan

40th President of the United States. Came to Mount Vernon on Monday, February 22, 1982 with First Lady Nancy Reagan to commemorate the 250th birthday of George Washington.

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George H. W. Bush

41st President of the United States. Landed the presidential helicopter on the Bowling Green on Wednesday, April 19, 1989.

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George W. Bush

43rd President of the United States. Paid a visit with Mrs. Bush on the Presidents’ Day holiday in 2007; came back in November of the same year to meet with the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. LEARN MORE

Barack Obama

44th President of the United States. Barack Obama has never been to Mount Vernon. However, First Lady Michelle Obama, her daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother Marian Robinson visited the Mount Vernon estate in August 2009.

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