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E Pluribus Unum: A Presidential Tour of Washington D.C. 19

The Latin motto on the official US presidential seal reads 'E Pluribus Unum', meaning 'Out of Many, One', and on the 8th of November, America goes to the polls to elect its 45th head of state. With the result deciding the leader of the foremost global superpower, commander-in-chief of the most powerful army on the planet and the leader of the free world, a US presidential election is probably the most momentous and far-reaching political decision that the population of any country on earth has to make. Since 1900, US presidents have explored the jungles of Brazil, changed the course of history by decisively intervening in two world wars and broken down ideological walls and as ballot paper boxes are ticked across all fifty American states from Maine to Hawaii, all that the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees can do is to wait and sweat over the result. 2016's race for the White House was one of the controversial, puzzling, heated and personal of all time and as the campaign trail draws to a close and voters make their decision, we take a tour of the American capital, exploring some of the stories and legacies of six of the most iconic US presidents of the twentieth century.

The White House, Washington DC

Oct 19 2016

Probably the most famous building in America, Washington DC's White House serves as the official residence and work place of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and with dozens of federal buildings and presidential monuments surrounding it, the White House was designed by Irish-American architect James Hoban, whose blueprints won a contest in 1791 after the site had been approved by George Washington himself. Surprisingly, the White House was originally painted yellow and construction took place over a period of eighteen years from 1792 to 1800, with John Adams first president to take up residence in the building on November 1st, 1800. The east wing of the White House contains the offices of the First Lady and her staff and the west wing features the situation room and the Roosevelt room, an office used for staff meetings and named after Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, the two presidents who contributed most to the interior design of the White House itself. The president's office, known as the Oval Office, is also located in the west wing and after the result of every US election, the newly elected president spends just under two months waiting before the Oval Office becomes his or her place of work for the next four years or more. Image Date: 12/25/2010

Theodore Roosevelt

Oct 20 2016

One of the most popular American leaders of all time, Republican Theodore R. Roosevelt was sworn in as the 26th President of the United States on September 14th, 1901. Roosevelt was popular during his time in office because of his charismatic, larger-than-life personality and he served two terms before losing the election of 1909. A known progressive, Roosevelt championed the idea of a fair society and equal rights during his time in office and in 1904 he commissioned the construction of the Panama Canal, which would provide a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In 1906, Roosevelt became the first of four US presidents to win the Nobel Peace Prize after successfully mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War which had been raging in Manchuria, Korea and the Yellow Sea from February 1904 to September 1905. After his two terms as president, Roosevelt continued to be prominent fixture in the American media, embarking on an expedition of the Brazilian Amazon in 1913 and advocating US involvement on the Allied side in World War I from 1914. Image Date: 01/08/1907

Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington DC

Oct 21 2016

In the middle of the Potomac River which flows through Washington DC, a 91 acre stretch of wilderness known as Theodore Roosevelt Island is a national memorial dedicated to the USA's 26th president. The island was given as a gift to the American people from the Theodore Roosevelt Foundation on May 21st, 1932, and is also part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The monument honours Roosevelt's commitment to conservation, national parks and forests, which he was such a strong advocate of during his two terms in office, and two and a half miles' worth of footpaths and trails lead through the forested area and the island is also home to dozens of bird species, colourful spring wildflowers and its own freshwater tidal marsh. Image Credit: M01229 (Flickr) Image Date: 04/02/2013

Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington DC

Oct 22 2016

The island was originally commissioned in 1932, but funding for the memorial project were officially designated by Congress in 1960 and the monument was finally declared open as part of the US National Park Service on what would have been Theodore Roosevelt's 109th birthday, on October 27th, 1967. A seventeen foot-high cast bronze statue of Roosevelt himself stands at the centre of the island. The statue waves its left arm in the air as if making a proclamation, its broad chest pumped with the same sense of charisma and machismo which Theodore Roosevelt himself exuded all throughout his life, and the island also features four twenty one foot-high stone tablets inscribed with some of his principles of politics, nature and philosophy. Image Date: 09/02/2005

Woodrow Wilson

Oct 23 2016

Democrat Woodrow Wilson became president on March 4th, 1913, and famously declared his position as new head of state to be one "in which a man must put on his war paint". Wilson was the first southerner to be elected to the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848. A progressive liberal, Wilson is the only United States President in history to hold a PhD and his first term in office saw the passing of the Federal Reserve Act, which created the central banking system in the US and saw the introduction of paper money, and 1914's Federal Trade Commission Act, which ensured by law that all commerce and business transactions were fair to all parties involved. Wilson's second term was dominated by World War I and America's protracted entry into the conflict. After the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram, sent by Germany to Mexico ensuring German support of a Mexican attempt to reclaim the states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and German unrestricted submarine in the Atlantic sinking American ships, Wilson declared war on Germany and the US entered the conflict on April 6th, 1917. Image Date: 01/26/1915

Wilson Center, Washington DC

Oct 24 2016

Woodrow Wilson's status as the only American head of state to hold a doctorate and as one of the most astute and erudite political figures of his generation led to the opening of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 1968. Charted by Congress as Wilson's official memorial, the Center can be found inside the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue and is one of the most highly regarded think tanks on current and global issues on the planet. With its core aim being to 'build a bridge between the worlds of academia and public policy', the Wilson Center hosts forums, symposiums, Q&As and conferences on current global issues and the Center is also home to an exhibit devoted to the former president. With fully-digtalised and interactive touch screen displays centering on some of the global issues which Wilson himself tackled, a digital road map explores his life story and dozens of inscribed stone plaques showcase his philosophy and some of his more famous presidential speeches. Image Credit: Wasted Time R (Wikimedia) Image Date: 01/03/2010

Wilson Center, Washington DC

Oct 25 2016

The vast majority of the permanent staff at the Wilson Center is made up of academics, scholars and professional librarians assigned to programmes devoted to the study of the society, culture, geopolitics, trade and commerce and, continuing the academic legacy of Woodrow Wilson himself, political science of countries and regions across the globe, with projects specifically focusing on key issues in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Oceania, Brazil, Korea, Mexico, China, the Middle East and Canada as well as on global energy, the environment and international security. The Wilson Center also regularly hosts conferences and penal sessions with global leaders, including in September 2015 when Spain's King Felipe VI spoke during a discussion named 'Transatlantic Conversations: Confronting Common Security Challenges,' which focussed on a 'U.S.-Spanish counterterrorism effort to counter extremism around the world.' Most recently in November 2016, the Wilson Center hosted a discussion on green energy proposals in China as well as the proposed reduction of toxic metals and chemicals and their replacement with solar power and other environmentally-friendly forms of energy in China's factories and industrial areas. Image Date: 09/16/2015

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Oct 26 2016

Fifth cousin to Theodore Roosevelt, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president on March 4th, 1933, and immediately set about bring the country out of the Great Depression. Through his 'New Deal', FDR introduced measures to help the unemployed, reignite the American economy and reform the financial system to prevent a repeat of the economic catastrophe. FDR is, to date, the only US president to serve four consecutive terms in office, such was his popularity, and he served from his first election victory in 1933 right through until his death in 1945. An internationalist in a time of often staunch American isolationism and unwillingness to become involved in foreign, especially European, affairs after the catastrophe of World War I, FDR was all too aware of the threat posed by the aggressive war being waged by Adolf Hitler and he knew that the US would eventually have to enter the conflict. FDR's hand was finally forced on December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and American industrial and military might decisively swung into action. Crippled by polio by the end of his life, FDR passed away on April 12th, 1945, but as a direct result of his actions as president the USA had emerged as a superpower. Image Date: 09/11/1932

FDR Memorial, Washington DC

Oct 27 2016

Opened and dedicated by the president Bill Clinton on May 2nd, 1997, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a monument honouring America's 32nd president. The FDR memorial is located on the eastern bank of the Potomac River on Washington DC's Tidal Basin and is also laid out across a total of four individual outdoor rooms carved from South Dakota red granite. The four rooms are a kind of living tour of FDR's presidency and the challenges he faced during his twelve years in office and features sculptures of the former president himself, his dog Fala as well as a bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt depicted in front of United Nations emblem. The complex was designed by American landscape designer Lawrence Halprin and with respect to FDR's long battle with polio which caused the president to suffer an almost crippling disability, great effort was made for the complex to be fully wheelchair friendly and accessible to disabled visitors to the site. Image Date: 03/21/2007

FDR Memorial, Washington DC

Oct 28 2016

The four outside rooms of the FDR memorial are studded with waterfalls and other aquatic sculptures and these become more elaborate and detailed as visitors pass through the granite rooms to represent how both international and domestic events during Roosevelt's presidency became increasingly complicated. One water feature, designed as a single large drop of water, represents the economic crash and the Great Depression which followed it another feature sees water cascading down multiple granite-carved steps to represent the Tennessee Valley Dam building project which FDR personally signed into effect to regenerate the area's economy in 1933. In a 1936 presidential address, FDR famously said 'I Hate War' and this is inscribed on a piece of rock alongside another of the memorial's granite water features which sees water falling at multiple opposite angles to reflect the global chaos caused by World War II. A tranquil and mirror-like still water pool represents the somber national mood after FDR's death in April 1945 and fifth waterfall acts a combination of the previous four at the complex offering a retrospective reflection of his time in office. The FDR memorial is also home to individual sculptures of the president which were inspired by his classic and iconic 'Fireside Chats' which were broadcast on US national radio during the Great Depression as well as slabs of granite inscribed with some of FDR's famous quotes, such as 'Four Freedoms' speech, and sculptures of the infamous bread lines of the early 1930s. Image Date: 04/16/1997

John F. Kennedy

Oct 29 2016

Democrat John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the USA's 35th president on January 20th, 1961, and his tumultuous two years and ten months in office were marked by nuclear tension, the rapidly escalating Cold War with the Soviet Union and the ongoing Civil Rights Movement. At 43 years of age, JFK was America's second youngest president and he was also a decorated veteran of the US Marine Corps during World War II, receiving both the Purple Heart and Navy and Marine Corps Medal for service during the Solomon Islands campaign against the Japanese. Domestically, JFK sought to implement his 'New Frontier', which proposed to completely eradicate American poverty and social injustice as well as, as one political commentator put it, "raise America’s eyes to the stars through the space program." JFK also increased American military presence in Southeast Asia, which would ultimately lead to another war later in the 1960s, and on April 17th, 1961, he ordered a covert invasion of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, its Communist head of state. In 1962, ballistic missiles were discovered in Cuba and as a result, a nuclear standoff between the US and the Soviet Union developed and which JFK personally resolved along with Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev. On November 22nd, 1963, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, by for US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald, dying of his gunshot wound later that day. Image Date: 01/18/1963

John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, Arlington Cemetery

Oct 30 2016

In Arlington's National Cemetery, in its namesake suburb of Washington DC, the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame is a memorial to the former president located at his grave site. The site was designed by John Carl Warnecke, an architect and family friend of the Kennedys, and was opened for the public to visit on March 15th 1967. The eternal flame itself is the actual torch which was both requested and lit by JFK's wife and former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, at the president's funeral on November 25th, 1963, and her inspiration for the torch came after a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Paris' Arc de Triomphe two years earlier. The eternal flame was symbolically by Mrs. Kennedy as well as the president's brother, Robert and Edward, during the ceremony and it was specially designed by the Institute of Gas Technology of Chicago to feature a permanently flashing electrical gas nozzle which can withstands the elements and the flame even continues to burn in memorial of JFK during periods of strong winds and torrential rain. Image Date: 02/22/1998

John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, Arlington Cemetery

Nov 1 2016

Today, JFK's eternal flame memorial sits above the graves of both the former president and Jacqueline Kennedy. According to Arlington Cemetery officials it costs $200 per month to keep the flame burning once energy costs mount up and the torch is officially maintained by a team of US Army engineers. The eternal flame had been visited by over seven million people during the first eight years in which it continued to burn over JFK's grave site and in 1964 the United States Postal Service released a memorial stamp featuring the torch next to an image of the former president and an excerpt from his inaugural speech which read 'And the glow from that fire can truly light the world' was printed around the edges of the stamp. Image Credit: Tony Fischer (Flickr) Image Date: 11/22/2012

Lyndon B. Johnson

Nov 2 2016

Inaugurated in November 22nd as America's 35th president, the same day as the assassination of JFK and having served as vice president, Lyndon B. Jonson entered the White House at a time when the US was undergoing revolutionary socio-cultural change. Throughout his tenure, LBJ presided over some of twentieth century America's most significant issues and events. At home, Johnson oversaw the passing of not one but two Civil Rights Acts, one in 1964 and another in 1968 in addition to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, due to increasing tension over discrimination and segregation against black Americans in the southern states and he also introduced 'War on Poverty' and the Medicare and MedicAid policies as part of his domestic 'Great Society' programme. Abroad, Johnson escalated of the war in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 when the USS Maddox was torpedoed by three North Vietnamese warships. Congress then passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed Johnson to give military assistance to any Southeast Asian country 'threatened' by Communist aggression. As a result, LBJ significantly increased US troop numbers on the ground in Vietnam and the conflict would continue for a further eleven years. Image Date: 01/09/1969

Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, Washington DC

Nov 3 2016

As part of both the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and Lady Bird Johnson Park which honours his wife, on the southern bank of the Potomac River, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove is a memorial dedicated to America's 36th president. The park complex is built entirely of natural materials from the Potomac River and its banks, testament to the efforts of LBJ's wife, Lady Bird Johnson, to preserve the natural beauty of the US during her time as First Lady, and is divided into two parts. Facing the Pentagon, the first area of the memorial grove features a monolith carved from a single pieces of solid Texas pink granite surrounded by a circular walkway made of serpentine tiles. That the granite is made from Texas pink granite is testament to the fact that LBJ himself was born in the state and the monolith is also the focal point of the memorial grove complex. Image Date: 03/30/2006

Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, Washington DC

Nov 4 2016

The second area of the memorial grove is a fifteen-acre meadow originally designed as a place of reflection within nature and spiritual reflection in tranquil surroundings. The natural meadow marks one of the exact spots that LBJ himself would visit and walk around during his often stressful time as president and, while visitors to the memorial grove today are most likely not pondering some of the key political and military decisions of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement or eradicating American poverty once and for all, the grove still provides a peaceful retreat from the highly charged politics of central Washington DC. Hundreds of white pine, dogwood trees, azalea and rhododendron bushes cluster the memorial grove and at the entrance to the complex, a recording by Lady Bird Johnson, in which she discusses her conservation efforts and the original design and idea behind the monument. Image Credit: Cliff (Flickr) Image Date: 03/09/2009

Ronald Reagan

Nov 5 2016

Following a career spanning over twenty years and over fifty Hollywood movies, Republican Ronald Reagan entered the White House on January 20th, 1981, having defeated incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter in the election of the previous November. Reagan is remembered as one of the most affable, charming and charismatic presidents in America's history and he served two full terms in office between 1981 and 1989. Domestically, Reagan announced his 'War on Drugs' which would also see him describe illegal narcotics as 'Public Enemy Number One' and his economic policies, dubbed 'Reaganomics', called for radical tax cuts and federal control of the America's money supply to control inflation. A staunch opponent of communism, much of Reagan's time in office was dominated by issues surround the Cold War and in 1983 he famously denounced the Soviet Union as an 'Evil Empire'. As a result, Reagan sensationally and controversially announced plans for his futuristic 'Star Wars' missile defense system which would use state of the art laser beams, positioned both on earth and on space stations specially sent into in orbit, to destroy any Soviet intercontinental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles aimed at the US. 09/01/1987

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington DC

Nov 6 2016

Referred to as ingenious 'free market economics' by his supporters and 'voodoo economics' by his political opponents, Ronald Reagan's financial and monetary policies, or 'Reaganomics', struck a chord with politicians across the spectrum during his presidency and his bold economic and financial spirit lives on today in Washington DC's Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The building is located 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, next to Pershing Park and just to the southeast of the White House, and at 1.3 million square feet, is also the largest structure in the American capital. In addition to being a memorial to Reagan himself, the center is home to a number of organisations dedicated to globalisation and international trade, including the headquarters of the US Agency for International Development, and regularly hosts trade expos, conferences and commercial and cultural events. Image Credit: Cliff (Flickr) Image Date: 08/272008

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington DC

Nov 7 2016

The center is officially designated as the 'World Trade Center, Washington DC and is part of a financial network of over 750,000 business and companies in over one hundred countries. The building also hosts over 1200 events each year and having originally been commissioned and delayed during George H.W. Bush's tenure as head of state, was opened on May 5th, 1998, by then Democratic president Bill Clinton and the former president's wife, Nancy Reagan. As with almost all of Washington DC's presidential memorials, the Regan Center also showcases and exhibits such as marble and silver statues of Reagan as well as some of his favourite pieces of art. One of the most famous and most talked about moments during Ronald Reagan's time as president came in Germany on June 12th, 1987, when during a speech at the Brandenburg Gate about the Berlin Wall and the resolution of Cold War suspicion and hostilities between east and west, he famously uttered the now immortal phrase "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Today, the Reagan Center showcases an actual and still graffito-tagged section of the Berlin Wall. Image Credit: Wasted Time R (Wikimedia) Image Date: 01/03/2010

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