Tag Archives: Johnson

Shoshana Johnson Pens Her Story In “I’m Still Standing”

Posted by guest contributor: Shanti

Shoshana Johnson poses for a picture in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010

Shoshana Johnson poses for a picture in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010 (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“In March of 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was only days old, world headlines were made when a U.S. army convoy was attacked in the city of An-Nasiriyah en route to Baghdad. Several soldiers were killed and others were taken prisoner.

Jessica Lynch became the face and name associated with this tragedy, but another female soldier, Shoshana Johnson, was also wounded and captured in the ambush. A video of Shoshana being interrogated by her captors was soon broadcast on Spanish-language television and then picked up by American media. Shoshana had become the first black female prisoner of war in United States history. She was held for twenty-two days.

When Shoshana returned to the United States, she received numerous awards for her valor, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Prisoner of War medals. She appeared on news networks and national television shows such as Oprah, Ellen, The Tonight Show, and Larry King Live, but she was bound by a military gag order. She was unable to discuss what really happened in Iraq — until now.

Shoshana holds nothing back in this harrowing account of an ordinary woman caught in an extraordinary circumstance. She reveals decisions made by higher-ups that may have led to the capture, describes the pain of post-traumatic stress disorder, and shares the surprising story of how a specialist in a maintenance company ended up on the front lines of war.

Divulging personal emotions and frustrations while raising fresh political issues, I’m Still Standing is the never-before-told and much anticipated story of the headline-making ambush, capture, and rescue described with the exceptional bravery and candor of a single mom and soldier who became an American hero. Source

CNN’s Larry King Live ~ Transcript of Interview with Shoshana Johnson aired February 2, 2010

KING: We welcome Shoshana Johnson back to LARRY KING LIVE. She is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She and other members of the 507th Maintenance Company were taken captive March 23, 2003. She was held prisoner 22 days. Author of a terrific new book I’m Still Standing; From Captive US Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home.”

Before we get into this, what do you make of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell controversy?

SHOSHANA JOHNSON, FORMER POW: Silly. If men and women want to serve in our military, I really don’t care who they want to sleep with. It’s all about serving your country.

KING: So you would repeal it?

JOHNSON: Yes, definitely.

KING: It’s been seven years since you were a POW. Do you think about it a lot?

I'm Still Standing by Shoshana JohnsonJOHNSON: Still. Very much so. The conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq is still in the media, so it’s hard to forget.

KING: How were you caught?

JOHNSON: During an ambush, vehicles were disabled. Basically, it seemed like the whole city of Nazariyah came out and participated in the ambush. I was shot and — shot and caught, basically.

Read the entire transcript here
Read a sample chapter

Shoshana Johnson tells her side of the story to Matt Lauer of The Today Show

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Shoshana Johnson actually said she wanted to tell her story, because there were a lot of distortions and half truths about the details of her capture. She wanted to set the record straight. I appreciate Shoshana’s resolve and passion for not only surviving the trauma of being a POW, but her courage and drive to THRIVE.~Shanti

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Welcome to 44’D’s Happy Holiday’s Special

We here at The 44 Diaries would like to say Thank You for participating in our blog and we hope that you all have a happy holiday and a prosperous new year. We also hope that you get to spend plenty of time with the people you love the most…

Please note: We will be keeping this up all week in celebration, but will be posting political news in the top section next to ‘Home’.


History of Christmas




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Origins and Traditions of Hanukkah

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Celebrating Kwanzaa



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Santa Claus Through History



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Famous and Not-So Famous Christmas Movies List

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The History of Christmas at the White House 1789-2009

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Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos

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Christmas Around the World



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Fun Filled Christmas Facts



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Christmas in the Age of Dickens

Christmas in the Age of Dickens



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Amazing Christmas Truce of 1914



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Holiday Season at the White House with the Obama’s 2009




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The History of Christmas at the White House 1789-2009

Like any other Americans, the family living in the big white house on Pennsylvania avenue has traditions surrounding the holiday season as well. Sit back, and get comfortable, while we explore how Presidents have celebrated Christmas from President George Washington to President Barack Obama.

A special note of thanks goes to our friends at White House Christmas Cards, for allowing us to use some of their outstanding research material as part of this presentation. If you are interested in a more in-depth study of Christmas in the White House, we highly recommend you visit their site.

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. ~ President Calvin Coolidge

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History of Christmas at the White House (1789-1849)



President George Washington and First Lady Martha (1789-1797)
President John Adams and First Lady Abigale (1797-1801)
President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
President James Madison (1809-1817)
President James Monroe and First Lady Elizabeth (1817-1825)
President John Quincy Adams and First Lady Louisa (1825-1829)
President Andrew Jackson and First Lady Rachel (1829-1837)
President Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
President William Henry Harrison and First Lady Anna (1841-1841)
President John Tyler and First Ladies Lettitia and Julia (1841-1845)
President James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah (1845-1849)
President Zachary Taylor and First Lady Margaret (1849-1850)


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History of Christmas at the White House (1850-1901)

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President Millard Fillmore and First Ladies Abigail and Caroline (1850-1853)
President Franklin Pierce and First Lady Jane (1853-1857)
President James Buchanan (1857-1861)
President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary (1861-1865)
President Andrew Johnson and First Lady Elizabeth (1865-1869)
President Ulysses S. Grant and First Lady Julia (1869-1877)
President Rutherford B. Hayes and First Lady Lucy (1877-1881)
President James A. Garfield and First Lady Lucretia (1881-1881)
President Chester A. Arthur and First Lady Ellen (1881-1885)
President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Francis (1885-1889, (1893-1897)
President Benjamin Harrison and First Lady Caroline and Mary (1889-1893)
President William McKinley and First Lady Ida (1897-1901)


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History of Christmas at the White House (1901-1953)

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President Theodore Roosevelt and First Ladies Alice and Edith (1901-1909)
President William Howard Taft and First Lady Helen (1909-1913)
President Woodrow Wilson and First Ladies Ellen and Edith (1913-1921)
President Warren G. Harding and First Lady Florence (1921-1923)
President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace (1923-1929)
President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou (1929-1933)
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor (1933-1945)
President Harry S. Truman and First Lady Bess (1945-1953)


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History of Christmas at the White House (1953-1977)

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President Dwight Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower (1953-1961)
President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1961-1963)
President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Claudia (Lady Bird) (1963-1969)
President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia (1969-1974)
President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty (1974-1977)

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History of Christmas at the White House (1977-2009)

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President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn Carter (1977-1981)
President Ronald Regan and First Lady Nancy (1981-1989)
President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara (1989-1993)
President William J. Clinton and First Lady Hillary (1993-2001)
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush (2001-2008)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (2009- )


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The History of Christmas at the White House 1850-1901

President Millard Fillmore and First Ladies Abigail and Caroline 1850-1853


Millard Fillmore spent several Christmas seasons in Washington D.C. but only three as President of the United States. President Fillmore and his wife, Abigail Powers, had grown accustomed to spending the Christmas holidays away from their children due to Millard’s political career. Millard Fillmore and his wife would take great care in selecting Christmas gifts to send home to their children, who were attending school in New York. Mr. Fillmore was especially apt to select books to send to the children.

Mrs. Fillmore had grown ill by the time Mr. Fillmore took over the presidency after the death of Zachary Taylor. President Fillmore’s daughter, Mary Abigail Fillmore, took over the First Lady’s White House hostess duties including all duties associated with the White House Christmas celebrations. The President’s daughter was an accomplished musician and would perform at several White House functions. Since the first Christmas cards were believed to be designed and printed in London, England just 10 years prior to the end of Millard Fillmore’s tenure as president, it is doubtful it ever occurred to President Fillmore or his wife to send White House Christmas cards.

The East Aurora, New York home of President Fillmore, where he celebrated several Christmas holidays with his family before entering the political arena in Washington and moving to the White House.

The East Aurora, New York home of President Fillmore, where he celebrated several Christmas holidays with his family before entering the political arena in Washington and moving to the White House.

President Fillmore’s wife would not live to see another Christmas after leaving the White House. Mrs. Fillmore had chronic health issues but insisted on standing by her husband’s side as his successor, Franklin Pierce, was sworn in. There was a raw northeast wind in the air and it snowed over the crowd. She returned to the Willard Hotel – chilled – and developed pneumonia. She died there on March 30, 1853.

President Fillmore’s daughter, Mary Abigail Fillmore, died of cholera a little over a year after her mother’s death. President Fillmore decided to go abroad and tour Europe, spending at least one Christmas season overseas.

President Franklin Pierce and First Lady Jane 1853-1857

Franklin Pierce served for one term as the 14th President of the United States just prior to the Civil War. Pierce’s four years in the White House was marked by a great deal of political turbulence and it is assumed that the thought of sending Christmas greetings would be buried under the weight of his responsibilities.

President Pierce may not have sent White House Christmas Cards, but he did have a Christmas tree put up in the White House. He is widely hailed as having the first White House Christmas tree, however, the first official “National Christmas Tree” was lit in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge on the section of the White House lawn known as the Ellipse. Pierce had the Christmas tree decorated in 1856 for a group of Washington Sunday School children. The practice of putting up a Christmas tree was brought to the United States by German immigrants and was in vogue during the mid 1800s. Prior to this, decorations consisted of holly and pine cones and sprigs of green.

White House Christmas ornament from 1997 honoring Franklin Pierce featuring the White House grounds as they would have appeared during his time

The White House was much more festive for this Christmas celebration, and carolers sang Hark the Herald Angels Sing to the children. There isn’t a written description of the festivities, but what would Christmas be without a treat, so they may have served refreshments

In 1997 the White House Historical Society issued its annual Christmas ornament – depicting the White House as it looked during the presidency of Franklin Pierce. This special ornament features the White House lawn as people are strolling on the grounds in a casual fashion. It appears to be a peaceful scene, although President Pierce’s term in office was not at all peaceful.

President James Buchanan 1857-1861

Few leaders have faced the harrowing dilemma our 15th President, James Buchanan, suffered during the Christmas season of 1860. In the most polarizing of elections, the nation had just voted to have Abraham Lincoln succeed him. Numerous southern states saw Lincoln’s election as the death knell for slavery, the growing irrelevance of their role in the federal government and direction of the nation, and an end to the southern way of life. Led by South Carolina, seven (and later 11) of these disaffected commonwealths had begun the process of drawing up Articles of Secession as Buchanan, a man with southern sympathies but a protector of the Union first, scrambled to find a solution to the exploding crisis. Surely, the President had no time or inclination to send White House Christmas cards during that bleak winter.

Wheatland, the Pennsylvania country estate of James Buchanan, where he would spend Christmas during his time away from the White House

Wheatland, the Pennsylvania country estate of James Buchanan, where he would spend Christmas during his time away from the White House

President Buchanan underestimated the depth of the antipathy of feelings between northern abolitionist forces and the southern pro-slavery ranks. By the 1860 election, President Buchanan’s unpopularity made it a foregone conclusion that he would not be re-nominated. The party split between the more moderate northern branch and the more fervently pro-slavery southern wing and nominated two different candidates for the presidency. This ensured the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln followed by the secession of the deep-South states and ultimately, the Civil War. Buchanan retired to his Wheatland estate near Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he would spend his last seven Christmases. He supported Lincoln during the war, as he felt that saving the Union was the paramount issue.

President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary 1861-1865

Christmas is not a topic that one often associates with our Civil War president. During the first Christmas of the war, Mrs. Lincoln arranged flowers, read books, helped serve meals, talked with the staff, and cared for the wounded at Campbell’s and Douglas hospitals. She personally raised a thousand dollars for Christmas dinners and donated a similar amount for oranges and lemons when she heard that there was a threat of scurvy.

During the Christmas season of 1863, the Lincolns son, Tad, had accompanied his father on hospital visits and noticed the loneliness of the wounded soldiers. Deeply moved, the boy asked his father if he could send books and clothing to these men. The President agreed and packages signed “From Tad Lincoln” were sent to area hospitals that Christmas.

One Christmas Tad Lincoln befriended the turkey that was to become Christmas dinner. He interrupted a cabinet meeting to plead with his father to spare the bird. The President obliged by writing a formal pardon for the turkey named Jack!

Commissioned by Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Nast illustrated the cover of Harper’s Weekly in January of 1863, depicting Father Christmas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) as we imagine him today

Commissioned by Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Nast illustrated the cover of Harper’s Weekly in January of 1863, depicting Father Christmas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) as we imagine him today

It was during the Civil War that Harper’s Weekly illustrator/cartoonist Thomas Nast became a contributor to the Union’s war effort. Nast, who became known for his Christmas drawings and was generally credited with depicting Santa Claus as we know him today, had initially worked for Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election creating campaign posters. Nast’s ability to stunningly depict Civil War battles and scenes prompted Lincoln to remark that Nast was “our best recruiting sergeant. His emblematic cartoons have never failed to arouse enthusiasm and patriotism.”
There is no evidence that the Lincoln family ever decorated a Christmas tree during their years in the White House.

What also was special at Christmastime was the serving of special foods for dinner: turkey, venison, biscuits, chicken salad, fruit, cake, and eggnog. A famous story involved son, Tad, who during one particular holiday season, pleaded with his father to not have a certain turkey (named Jack) killed for Christmas dinner because Tad considered Jack his pet. The President wrote a formal pardon, saving the life of the turkey. The Lincolns never did have a Christmas tree at the White House, although a short walk away there was a tree they may have gone to see when they attended services at the First Presbyterian Church.

Thomas Nast's illustration, Lincoln's Christmas Box to Jeff Davis, depicting the choices the South had as the Civil War came to an end

Thomas Nast's illustration, Lincoln's Christmas Box to Jeff Davis, depicting the choices the South had as the Civil War came to an end

In the years following Lincoln’s death, there were several Christmas-related illustrations done by Thomas Nast showing the Lincoln family, which proved to be very popular. One showed the family gathered around son, Tad, who was seated in a chair opening Christmas presents in 1861. Another was of Tad on Lincoln’s shoulders, along with Willie, peering into a toy store, seemingly mesmerized by all the Christmas goodies they saw through the window. Yet another showed Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, circa 1860, hanging a wreath on their front door at their home in Springfield, Illinois.

The 2004 American President Collection Abraham Lincoln Ornament

The 2004 American President Collection Abraham Lincoln Ornament

To many, Abraham Lincoln’s death at the hands of an assassin made him a martyr. Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment occurred less than eight months after his death and made the abolishment of slavery official – an important part of his legacy, as is the fact that he was successful in saving the Union. Historians and admirers have always mentioned that the moniker, “Honest Abe,” had been associated with Lincoln as far back as his days as a lawyer because he embodied the attributes of integrity, respect, and freedom for others no matter what their station in life.

As a result of his accomplishments and moral attributes for which Abraham Lincoln is known, historians agree that he should be considered among the best – if not the best – President of the United States our country has known.

President Andrew Johnson and First Lady Elizabeth 1865-1869


Andrew Johnson originally of Tennessee, serving as Vice President of the United States at the end of the Civil War, was thrust into the presidency upon the assassination of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. There is no information concerning how the Johnson family celebrated the Christmas holiday while he served in the nation’s highest office or whether they exchanged White House Christmas cards during his term as president.

Aside from having been born four days after Christmas on December 29, 1808, the only other Christmas-related occurrence associated directly with Andrew Johnson was one of his last – and yet a most significant of acts – when on Christmas Day in 1868, he granted unconditional and full amnesty to any and all former Confederates charged with treason, specifically the former President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and former Confederate Vice President, Andrew Stephens. The proclamation read, in part:

…the President of the United States…do hereby proclaim and declare unconditionally and without reservation, to all and every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion a full pardon and amnesty for the offense of treason against the United States…with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution…

2001 commemorative ornament featuring President Johnson taking his family for a carriage ride during Christmas at the White House

2001 commemorative ornament featuring President Johnson taking his family for a carriage ride during Christmas at the White House

During his presidency, Johnson often took his family on carriage rides. A special Christmas ornament with a 24kt. gold finish in several colors was commissioned in 2001 and features a reproduction of the type of carriage used by the family during Christmas of 1867. Although there is no written descriptions concerning Christmas celebrations in the White House, President Johnson is credited with being the first to have an Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Also, he declared a Thanksgiving holiday for December 7th in 1865 and was the first President to give government employees that day off, making Thanksgiving a legal holiday.

Although it has been substantiated that the first “official” White House Christmas tree was displayed in 1853 during the reign of President Franklin Pierce, having a tree during the Christmas season did not become a yearly staple for presidents until the Kennedy administration.

The Greeneville, Tennessee home of Andrew Johnson, where he spent Christmas with his family before and after living in the White House

The Greeneville, Tennessee home of Andrew Johnson, where he spent Christmas with his family before and after living in the White House

Although many different ornaments most certainly have been displayed on those indoor trees over the many years, it was not until 2007 that two artists from Greeneville designed and painted a special Christmas ornament featuring Johnson’s likeness, which was to be displayed on the White House Christmas tree. The artists, who were commissioned by the Andrew Johnson Historic Site, were sent the large, ostrich-sized white egg by the White House. For the front, they found a clear photograph of Johnson and superimposed a sepia-toned print of the picture over a mountain scene they had drawn, while the back showed President Johnson’s monument from the national cemetery where he and his family are buried. The ornament graced the White House tree at the end of that year to honor the beginning of the bicentennial of Andrew Johnson’s birthday.

President Ulysses S. Grant and First Lady Julia 1869-1877

Although there is no information about White House Christmas cards sent out by Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia, the Grant name has been connected with two important events involving Christmas itself. During his first presidential term in 1870, the former General in Chief of the Union Army signed into law the bill that had been introduced by Illinois Congressman Burton Chuancey Cook, making Christmas a legal holiday. The bill also declared that New Year’s Day, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving Day would also be national holidays.

The General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park, California, deemed the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” by Calvin Coolidge in 1926

The General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park, California, deemed the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” by Calvin Coolidge in 1926

The other significant Christmas-related event involving Ulysses S. Grant was the naming in 1867 of a giant sequoia tree as the General Grant Tree (this took place two years after the end of the Civil War and two years before Grant was elected president). Located in California southeast of Yosemite National Park, in what is now called Kings Canyon National Park, the approximately 2,000-year-old tree today measures almost 270 feet high, 40 feet across its base with a circumference of 108 feet. In 1926 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the huge sequoia the “Nation’s Christmas Tree.”

Three decades later, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the tree to be a national shrine and a living memorial to those who gave their lives serving the United States. Each Christmas, a wreath is laid at the tree’s base to honor the United States’ fallen war heroes.

There is no information available concerning how the Grant family may have celebrated the Christmas holiday. Exchanging White House Christmas cards was not yet a standard practice and there is no mention of a White House Christmas tree being displayed in the executive mansion.

Grant's Tomb, the national memorial in New York, the state where the former President Grant and his family spent their last Christmases together before his death in 1885

Grant's Tomb, the national memorial in New York, the state where the former President Grant and his family spent their last Christmases together before his death in 1885

In 1881, former President Grant and his family moved to New York City where they had purchased a home. For income, the Grants lived off of money friends had raised for them. Unfortunately, the family’s entire portfolio was invested in a banking partnership whose funds were swindled, causing the Grants to be (as they were 25 years before) without financial resources. In addition to the family’s dire financial plight, it was also around this time when Grant found out that he was suffering from throat cancer. To compound the family’s problems, on Christmas Eve in 1883, the former president injured his hip after slipping on a sidewalk that was covered with ice. He quickly contracted pneumonia and suffered from boils and bedsores during his confinement.

In 1885, Congress voted to reinstate Grant’s full general ranking along with providing a decent salary. While terminally ill, Grant had been moved to Mount McGregor in Saratoga County, New York for health reasons, and this was where he spent his last days working on his memoirs, writing his recollections in longhand since he was unable to speak because of the cancer which was killing him. The well-received publication earned the family more than $450,000.

President Rutherford B. Hayes and First Lady Lucy 1877-1881

President Rutherford B. Hayes was well known for his prolific letter writing before, during, and after he was president. There are many letters that were preserved from his four years spent in the White House. Although Hayes wrote a great deal during his presidency there is no indication whether or not he sent White House Christmas cards. Since the first known Christmas cards offered for sale in America date back to 1875, we can presume that President Hayes did not send out Christmas cards during his stay in the White House.

President Hayes kept a diary from the age of 12 through his death at age 70. Many of his White House moments have been recorded in these journal entries. While it’s been established that Hayes did not send out White House Christmas cards, he did send out letters during the holiday season to his uncle describing how he spent Christmases in the White House. In 1877 he wrote in his diary:

December 26, 1887 – Our visit to New York, 21st and 24th, was a most happy one. The Union League reception, 22nd, the American Museum of Natural History opening, and the New England dinner, all enjoyable. Christmas, the presents to the children made them and their parents equally happy.

The Doll House given to Fanny Hayes on her first Christmas in the White House, which was put on display by Pat Nixon along with several White House Christmas cards received by Rutherford B. Hayes during his presidency.

The Doll House given to Fanny Hayes on her first Christmas in the White House, which was put on display by Pat Nixon along with several White House Christmas cards received by Rutherford B. Hayes during his presidency.

President Hayes had eight children – one girl and seven boys. Hayes was quite staunch in his love and affection for his children often mentioning them with humor in his diary. Christmas of 1880 was spent in the White House library with his children, some friends, and the servants. The Christmas presents were kept in the Red Room and his children would run to get one gaily wrapped present at a time and bring them to the President, who would then take a great deal of time distributing the gifts to the proper recipients. All parties present shared in the fun and received at least a five dollar gold piece from President Hayes.

While serving as United States President, Hayes spent four Christmases in the White House, and there is evidence that he received several Christmas cards. President Richard Nixon’s wife Pat set up a Christmas display in the East Wing corridor that included three Christmas cards received by President Hayes during his term and a large doll house made for Fanny Hayes by White House carpenters, given to her during her first Christmas in the White House.

The 2004 Rutherford B. Hayes Ornament

The 2004 Rutherford B. Hayes Ornament

During his presidency, Hayes asked his wife to not serve wine or liquor in the White House. Many people believe that Lucy Hayes had a lot to do with that and she was dubbed “Lemonade Lucy,” but in reality, Lucy never asked her husband to practice abstinence, but President Hayes felt that there was no place in politics for alcohol and he wanted to set a good example. Although the lack of alcoholic beverages was his decision he once told a reporter, “I don’t know how much influence Mrs. Hayes has on Congress, but she has great influence with me.” Neither President Hayes nor his wife endorsed the temperance league, but rather practiced in the White House the same habits as they practiced at home in Ohio. Christmas sing-a-longs, lemonade refreshments, and casual hospitality were a natural way of life for the Hayes family – both in and out of the White House.

President James A. Garfield and First Lady Lucretia 1881-1881

James A. Garfield was born into humble circumstances on November 19, 1831 in Moreland Hills, Ohio. His father passed away before his second Christmas and young James was raised by his mother, brother, and uncle. As a teenager, he drove canal boat teams to earn money and probably never imagined that one day he would be in a position to send White House Christmas cards. Garfield attended Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) in Ohio. He went on to Williams College in Massachusetts, where he was known as an exceptional student, and graduated in 1856. After a brief stint as a preacher, he became a professor and returned to his former school in Ohio and was named President of the Institute within a year. He married his wife, Lucretia, in 1858 and the couple would have seven children. Garfield entered politics and was elected to the Ohio state senate in 1859.

Garfield spent Christmas 1880 sequestered at his Lawnfield Estate in Mentor, Ohio, poring over the inaugural addresses of all previous presidents, but he did not finish writing his own speech until just before the inauguration. In it, he spoke of the triumph of Constitutional law in the Civil War and he described the elevation of the African American race from slavery to citizenship as “the most important political change… since the adoption of the Constitution.”

Lawnfield, the Mentor, Ohio estate of Garfield, where he and his family spent many Christmases together

Lawnfield, the Mentor, Ohio estate of Garfield, where he and his family spent many Christmases together

On the morning of July 2, 1881, Garfield traveled to the Washington train station. He planned to join his wife on vacation at the New Jersey shore, but was shot in the back by Charles Guiteau, a deranged lawyer who had unsuccessfully sought Garfield’s appointment to a European ambassadorship. The bullet lodged near the President’s spine. Doctors tried for weeks to locate it, prodding the President’s wound with unsterilized instruments and fingers. In early September, after a series of infections, he was moved to the seaside town of Long Branch, New Jersey. He died from an internal hemorrhage on September 19. Most historians agree that with medical practices observed just 20 or 25 years later, Garfield’s injury would not have proved fatal.

President Chester A. Arthur and First Lady Ellen 1881-1885

Chester Alan Arthur was administered the oath of office as the 21st President of the United States on September 20, 1881, just before the Christmas season and shortly after the assassination of President James Garfield. When Garfield won the nomination for president, several people were asked and refused the nomination for Vice President. Going against his mentor’s advice Chester Arthur accepted the nomination of Vice President stating, “This is a higher honor than I have ever dreamt of attaining. I shall accept!” (not realizing he would shortly take over the presidency).

The Official White House 2006 Chester A Arthur Ornament

The Official White House 2006 Chester A Arthur Ornament

Chester Arthur’s last Presidential Christmas was celebrated in the White House. He enjoyed a Christmas drink with Senator Wade Hampton of South Carolina before calling for the family sleigh so he could accompany his son on a long drive. The President and his family enjoyed a Christmas dinner at the home of the Secretary of State. He received many Christmas gifts including a hammered silver button hook and boxes of premium cigars. Each of the White House servants was given a shiny five-dollar gold piece. Just a few days after the first family’s Christmas celebration, President Arthur’s daughter, Ellen “Nellie”, served as a waitress at a Christmas dinner for poor children and encouraged her father’s support of the charity.

President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Francis 1885-1889, 1893-1897

When Grover Cleveland first became President in 1885, he hardly stopped working long enough to celebrate anything, let alone the Christmas holidays. Then in 1886, the 50-year-old Cleveland married his deceased law partner’s daughter, 22-year-old Frances Folsom and between terms, their first child, “Baby Ruth,” was born. We can imagine that the President’s life was never the same from that point on!

Although there was no Christmas tree during the first Cleveland administration, when daughters Ruth, Esther, and Marion were born, this quickly changed. In 1895, a tree was set up, decorated with electric lights, gold angels with spreading wings, gold and silver sleds, tops of every description, and lots of tinsel. Under the tree was a miniature White House and a doll house for Esther, who was the only daughter of a President to be born in the White House.

The Cleveland family Christmas tree in 1896

The Cleveland family Christmas tree in 1896

Mrs. Cleveland’s main Christmas activity, rather than entertaining and decorating, was her work with the Christmas Club of Washington to provide food, clothing, and toys to poor children in the D.C. area. She took the time to wrap and distribute gifts to the children and sat with them for a Punch and Judy show. Although Christmas Club charities in Washington date back to the 1820’s, no previous first lady had taken as prominent a role in these activities as Frances Cleveland, who helped set a tradition of good works carried on by Lou Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt and many other First Ladies.

President Benjamin Harrison and First Lady Caroline and Mary 1889-1893

While it is reported that President Franklin Pierce was the first to decorate a White House Christmas tree, the tradition was not begun in earnest and announced to the public until the presidency of Benjamin Harrison over four decades later. On the morning of December 25, 1889, the Harrison family gathered in the second-floor Oval Room of the White House (later called the Blue Room) and stood around a tree decorated with glass ornaments, toy soldiers, and lit candles.

President Harrison’s young grandchildren, Benjamin and Mary McKee, were the leading recipients of gifts, which filled tables and stockings hung from the mantel. Besides the presents, candy and nuts were distributed to family and staff, and the President distributed turkeys and gloves to his employees. While there is no mention of White House Christmas Cards being exchanged, Harrison did receive a silver dollar-shaped picture holder from his daughter, Mary Scott “Mamie” Harrison McKee. First Lady Caroline Harrison, an artist, was instrumental in planning how the tree would be adorned. The Harrisons played an essential role in setting the stage for a tradition which has lasted to the present day, as the First Family’s Christmas tree is still set up in the same location in the White House chosen by the 23rd President of the United States.

The Oval Room, where the Harrisons formally erected the first White House Christmas tree

The Oval Room, where the Harrisons formally erected the first White House Christmas tree

The Harrisons were a religious clan and were known for throwing lavish, well-attended feasts at the White House in observance of the Christmas holiday. The following is the menu from their 1890 holiday celebration: to start they had Blue Point Oysters on the half shell and Consommé Royal; the main portion consisted of Bouchées a la Reine (pastries filled with a sweetbread and béchamel mixture), turkey, cranberry jelly, potatoes Duchesse, stewed celery, terrapin a la Maryland, salad with plain dressing, mince pie, and American plum pudding; and for dessert they had ice cream tutti-fruiti, lady fingers, macaroons, Carlsbad Wafers, and an assortment of fruit. Harrison’s Christmas parties are credited with popularizing the Carlsbad Wafers, a German-Czech creation which remains popular to this day, particularly in the California wine country.

The 2008 White House Benjamin Harrison Ornament

The 2008 White House Benjamin Harrison Ornament

He retired to his law practice in Indiana, and after spending four Christmases alone, married his second wife, Mary Lord Dimmick, in 1896. The couple had Harrison’s third child, a daughter named Elizabeth, in 1897. He returned to the spotlight briefly to serve as chief counsel to Venezuela in a border dispute with Great Britain before dying of pneumonia at his home in Indianapolis in 1901. Harrison would be the last Civil War general to serve as President.

President William McKinley and First Lady Ida 1897-1901

President William McKinley celebrated four Christmas Seasons in the White House but would not make it to see the first Christmas of his second term in office. McKinley met his untimely death just before the Christmas Season in 1901, when he was assassinated by Leon Frank Czolgosz on September 6 of that year.

President McKinley and wife Ida Saxton celebrated Christmas of 1898 in the White House. The manner in which the First Family celebrated Christmas was mostly dictated by Mrs. McKinley’s health at the time. This was the second year of President McKinley’s first term, and he and the First Lady decided to spend the holidays at home in the White House. Just prior to Christmas, Mrs. McKinley was feeling strong enough to make a special trip to New York to purchase gifts for the White House servants and attachés. Several of the executive couple’s friends and associates from Ohio arrived to spend Christmas in Washington. When attending church services, their minister spoke of God’s Christmas gift of freedom to an oppressed people. Later in the afternoon the couple took advantage of the pleasant but brisk weather they were experiencing and went for a drive.

1898 article from the New York Times archive discussing how President McKinley celebrated Christmas

1898 article from the New York Times archive discussing how President McKinley celebrated Christmas

Many gifts arrived for the President and his wife during the Christmas Season in 1899 including the fattest, juiciest turkey from Rhode Island, which had been sent to the White House compliments of the raiser. Mrs. McKinley was quite ill during Christmas, preventing her from participating in the same celebrations as the year before. The President and First Lady invited their nieces to the White House to celebrate Christmas with them along with a few other family members, making the gathering quite small by White House standards. There is no record of any White House Christmas cards being sent during the years William McKinley was in office, but Mrs. McKinley was a creative First Lady who would have surely added a unique and personal touch to any Christmas cards sent. Being so ill, Mrs. McKinley was unable to travel to New York or anywhere else to purchase gifts for the White House staff. Instead, she crafted unique and thoughtful gifts for all the unmarried attachés showing her flair for creativity. It was customary for all married staff members to receive a turkey for the holidays.

A special note of thanks goes to our friends at White House Christmas Cards, for allowing us to use some of their outstanding research material as part of this presentation. If you are interested in a more in-depth study of Christmas in the White House, we highly recommend you visit their site.

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The History of Christmas at the White House (1953-1977)

President Dwight Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie 1953-1961

As General of the United States Army and Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower easily became a well-liked man on domestic soil due to his military triumphs overseas. With the campaign slogan, “I Like Ike,” Eisenhower captured the majority vote in a landslide victory during the election of 1952, becoming the 34th President of the United States of America.

During his first Christmas in the White House in 1953, Eisenhower referred to Hallmark President Joyce C. Hall for assistance with his first official Christmas cards as the President of the U.S. An artist himself, Eisenhower painted a portrait of Abraham Lincoln while waiting for news on a Korean armistice. For inspiration, he used a photograph of Lincoln done by Alexander Gardner in 1863. Eisenhower ordered 1,100 white keepsake folders from Hallmark, each containing a reproduction of his Lincoln painting.

Signed card was sent by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie

Signed card was sent by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie

All of the folders were embossed with the official Presidential Seal. Over 500 of the reproductions were given to White House staff members at the annual Christmas party. Each folder was accompanied by a gift enclosure Christmas card imprinted with the words “Season’s Greetings” in gold.

Unlike other Presidents who distinguished political from household staff, the Eisenhower’s brought both together, more than 500 in all, for a Christmas party each year. For the White House staff, Mamie purchased gifts in area department stores, personally wrapping each one to save money.

Mamie Bangs gift enclosure Christmas cards design from 1957

Mamie Bangs gift enclosure Christmas cards design from 1957

As a gift from the American Public Golf Association, a putting green was installed on the South Lawn of the White House grounds for the President to enjoy. Echoing this gift, Hallmark designed a red and green accented “Mamie Bangs” personal gift enclosure Christmas card depicting the President and First Lady in a golf cart loaded with a Christmas tree and gifts. The First Family had 400 of these gift enclosure Christmas cards printed to send to close friends and relatives.

The 2005 Secret Service Eisenhower Executive Office Ornament

The 2005 Secret Service Eisenhower Executive Office Ornament

Christmas of 1958, Mamie pulled out all the stops in decorating the White House. She had 27 decorated trees, carols were piped into every room and greenery was wrapped around every column. Eisenhower Christmas trees in the White House were decorated with electric candle lights, glass balls and large amounts of tinsel. We have decorated our tree in pink because by 1955, “First Lady Pink” had become a bona fide color for hats, gloves, dresses, and nylon curtains as well as many other things

The Eisenhowers holding Christmas dinner in 1960

The Eisenhowers holding Christmas dinner in 1960

1960 marked Eisenhower’s last Christmas in the White House, and he wanted it to be the most memorable Christmas ever. A 75-foot Douglas fir cute from Oregon was used for the National Community Christmas Tree. The President’s Christmas message made mention of putting an end to prejudice because it puts “a blot on the brightness of America’s image.” He ended the night by saying, “For the last time as a part of this lovely ceremony, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very, very happy New Year – all of you.

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President Eisenhower’s Christmas Wishes From Space 1958

Having launched its first space satellite in January 1958, the United States launched an unique communications satellite on December 18, 1958 for the Christmas season. The recorded voice of President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed the wishes of the American people for peace and goodwill.

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President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline 1961-1963

John F. Kennedy was a Massachusetts senator when he declared his intent to run for President for the election of 1960. Defeating Hubert Humphrey for the democratic candidacy, Kennedy ran against Republic Richard M. Nixon, who was also the Vice President of the lame duck Eisenhower administration. During the first ever televised U.S. presidential debates in late September, less than two months before the election, Kennedy trumped Nixon with his poised, relaxed demeanor and handsomely tan appearance. Nixon, who was sporting his perpetual five o’clock shadow, appeared tense on camera and was 20 pounds underweight due to a serious leg injury from which he was recovering.

1961 Christmas gift from the Kennedys to their White House staff

1961 Christmas gift from the Kennedys to their White House staff

For the Kennedys’ first Christmas in the White House in 1961, as a Christmas gift to their staff they gave a photograph of little Caroline Kennedy’s ducks in the fountain on the South Lawn with the White House in the background. Caroline, who was only five-years-old at the time, had raised the yellow-beaked white ducks from baby ducklings. After several months of trying to keep the Kennedy’s terrier, Charlie, from eating her fine-feathered friends, they were transported to safer grounds in Rock Creek Park located in northwest D.C. Before the ducks’ transfer, the President’s personal photographer, Cecil Stoughton, snapped the memorable picture of the ducks in the fountain.

First official White House Christmas cards from President Kennedy in 1961

First official White House Christmas cards from President Kennedy in 1961

For the President’s official White House Christmas cards, Hallmark produced a design similar to the ones from Eisenhower’s presidency. The 1961 White House Christmas cards featured a wide green silk screen ban on a smooth white stock accompanied by the official Presidential Seal and the sentiment “Season’s Greetings 1961” engraved in gold. The imprint read: “The President and Mrs. Kennedy wish you a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Kennedy ordered 800 official Christmas cards from Hallmark. Additionally, since the President was sending Christmas cards to leaders around the world, he ordered 100 cards with a general New Year’s imprint that did not make any mention of Christmas.

Caroline Kennedy's attention as she inspects it before a party for White House employees given by her parents, December 1961

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds and angels modeled after Petr Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” ballet. Mrs. Kennedy reused these ornaments in 1962 for her childrens’ theme tree. Set up in the North Entrance, this festive tree also featured brightly wrapped packages, candy canes, gingerbread cookies and straw ornaments made by disabled or senior citizen craftspeople throughout the United States.

2004 American President Collection John F. Kennedy Ornament

2004 American President Collection John F. Kennedy Ornament

On December 20, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson lit the 75-foot Washington state Douglas fir, initiating the first Pageant of Peace during the Kennedy administration. The President could not be present at the ceremony because the Kennedy patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, suffered a stroke and the First Family flew down to Palm Beach, Florida to be with him. Johnson delivered the official Christmas message to the American people. He spoke of the nation’s dedication to seeking world peace, comparing that dedication to Christ’s quest for unity.

The President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House Staff Christmas reception, 12 December 1962.

President Kennedy had almost 2,000 official White House Christmas cards produced by Hallmark. Edward Lehman, an advertising illustrator, was commissioned to sketch some renderings of the rooms for the home furnishings section of the Philadelphia Bulletin. The First Lady took a particular liking to Lehman as well as his artistry, and at his request, he was invited back to the White House to paint a 20 x 30-inch watercolor of the Red Room for the Kennedys. The President and First Lady were so impressed with Lehman’s watercolor that they had it reproduced for their 1962 Christmas gifts to their White House staff.

The official presidential Christmas cards from 1962

The official presidential Christmas cards from 1962

The official White House Christmas cards were a bit different than ones from designs of recent years past. Instead of a formal design featuring a “Season’s Greetings” sentiment and the Presidential Seal, the President’s official Christmas cards from 1962 featured a photograph taken by Cecil Stoughton of a snow-covered White House lawn. With the executive mansion in the background, the foreground depicted Mrs. Kennedy sitting with John Jr. in a one-horse open sleigh being led by Caroline’s pony, Macaroni.

John F. Kennedy and Jacquelyn Kennedy celebrate the season around the Christmas tree with their children Caroline and John Jr., the former First Lady's sister Lee Radziwill, her husband Prince Stanislaus Radziwill and their children Anthony and Ann Christine and two of their furry friends in 1962

John F. Kennedy and Jacquelyn Kennedy celebrate the season around the Christmas tree with their children Caroline and John Jr., the former First Lady's sister Lee Radziwill, her husband Prince Stanislaus Radziwill and their children Anthony and Ann Christine and two of their furry friends in 1962. Photo taken at Kennedy seniors' residence in Palm Beach

Before his untimely death, the President and First Lady decided upon a Christmas gift to give to their executive staff members, which Mrs. Kennedy also proceeded in bestowing. The gifts were mounted reproductions of the President’s favorite William Henry Bartlett engraving, The President’s House, From Washington, which hung in his office. Each reproduction was signed by the President and First Lady: “With deepest appreciation, John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy.”

The 71-foot Norway red spruce from West Virginia was lit on December 22, marking the end of the 30-day mourning period after the President’s assassination.

President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Claudia (Lady Bird) 1963-1969

The Lyndon B. Johnson Administration began during a time of great uncertainty. In November 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy had stunned America. New First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson certainly felt a desire to help the nation heal. She chose comforting and nostalgic holiday decor during her White House years.

President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, and Yuki, the White House dog

President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, and Yuki, the White House dog

After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination a month of mourning was declared. But on the evening of Dec. 22, Johnson lit the National Christmas Tree behind the White House, and the next morning the black mourning crepe that had been draped over White House doorways and chandeliers was replaced with holly, wreaths and mistletoe. Lady Bird Johnson later wrote, “I walked the well-lit hall for the first time with the sense that life was going to go on, that we as a country were going to begin again.”

Her 1965 and 1966 Blue Room Christmas trees were decorated in an early American theme. They featured thousands of small traditional ornaments, including nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii. A paper mache angel graced the tops of the trees. For the 1967 holiday season, Mrs. Johnson added silver balls, silver stars and round mirrors to the previous years’ ornaments.

Lynda Bird Johnson Robb in front of White House Christmas tree with infant daughter.

Lynda Bird Johnson Robb in front of White House Christmas tree with infant daughter.

Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson spent four of their six presidential Christmases in Texas rather than Washington. Each year it seemed President Johnson faced a different crisis, so he liked to return home to his beloved ranch on the banks of the Pedernalas for Christmas to relax and renew his spirit. However, the holiday season in Washington begins long before December 25th and the Johnsons loved to entertain, so they didn’t miss out on Christmas in the White House. Whenever dignitaries were lucky enough to visit the the President and First Lady during the holidays, they were entertained with traditional elegance using a Christmas theme, including a decorated tree such as this one, patterned after a gingerbread theme once used by Lady Bird Johnson.

When President Johnson was in office the theme for that year was An American Past.

When President Johnson was in office the theme for that year was An American Past.

The Christmas of 1967 was special for the Johnsons because their daughter, Lynda, was married to Charles Robb in the White House on December 9th with 650 guests in attendance. The celebrating continued during Christmas week and the First Lady decided, over her husband’s objections, that they would spend that Christmas in Washington, the first time in seven years.

The Johnson’s final Christmas in the White House in 1968 was a time of reflection for them and the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends. On December 23rd, President Johnson sent Christmas greetings to the American troops in Southeast Asia, which included his two sons-in-law. In Drew Pearson’s syndicated column, he noted that Christmas at the White House for the Johnson’s was “not as gay this year as last.”

1967 Presidential Christmas cards from the Johnsons depicting the White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room

1967 Presidential Christmas cards from the Johnsons depicting the White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room

Six Christmases passed while the Johnsons lived in the White House. While the President found himself spending ever more of his energies on a war in Vietnam that would not go away, the First Lady committed herself to the beautification of America and the planting of trees. Except for their unplanned first Christmas in the Executive Mansion, all the cards and gift prints of later years were to feature trees.

These included trees planted by Presidents, trees surrounding the South Portico, trees on the South Lawn as viewed from the South Portico, and the Blue Room Christmas tree. The artist in each case was American Greetings watercolor painter Robert Laessig, with whom the Johnsons were to have a long, productive relationship. The gift prints were reproduced on textured paper 14 by 18 inches in size; to accompany each print, the First Lady enclosed a personal message penned on parchment.

On the bitter cold evening of December 16, President Johnson lit his last National Community Christmas Tree. At the touch of a button, the 74-foot Engelmann spruce from Utah lit up with 4,000 blue and green lights. During his last two years as President, Johnson’s credibility began to slip. With the Vietnam War still going strong and with no end in sight, Americans began to question their President’s motives. And with the Civil Rights movement on the rise, urban riots broke out across the nation. In his final Christmas greeting to the American people, Johnson prayed for peace in Southeast Asia and reconciliation on domestic soil. In his departing words he said, “We cannot say that we have triumphed in this endeavor. But we have begun at long last.”

President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia 1969-1974

After serving as Eisenhower’s veep and then losing the election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon retreated from executive-level politics until 1967, when he decided to again run for President in the election of 1968. Appealing to the “Silent Majority” of socially conservative Americans as well as promising peace in Southeast Asia, Nixon beat out Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to become the 37th President of the United States.

For President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon’s first Christmas in the White House in 1969, they began a tradition of gifting Presidential portraits to their staff members. That year they gave reproductions of Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington (the same portrait that Eisenhower used for inspiration to paint his 1954 Christmas gift print).

In 1969 Mrs. Nixon had the White House tree decorated in beautiful velvet and satin balls that represented the 50 States.

In 1969 Mrs. Nixon had the White House tree decorated in beautiful velvet and satin balls that represented the 50 States.

The 1969 “American Flower Tree” stood in the North Entrance. For its decoration, First Lady Patricia Nixon arranged for disabled workers in Florida to make velvet and satin balls featuring each state’s flower. For the 1970 Blue Room tree, she added 53 “Monroe” fans made by disabled workers in New York. Gold foil angels joined the trimmings in 1971. Mrs. Nixon took her 1972 Christmas theme from two White House collection paintings by Severin Roesen: Still Life with Fruit and Nature’s Bounty. The tree featured 3,000 pastel satin finish balls, the state flower balls and 150 gold Federal stars. A 1973 “gold” theme tree honored James Monroe, who bought gilded tableware for the White House in 1817. Gold bead strings and balls enhanced its natural beauty.

1971 White House Christmas Cards from the Nixons featuring a painting done by N.C. Wyeth in 1930

1971 White House Christmas Cards from the Nixons featuring a painting done by N.C. Wyeth in 1930

Christmas celebrations during the following years were not much better. In 1969, the train bringing the National Tree from South Dakota to Washington was twice derailed and a surprise storm on December 6th that year blew the tree down! In 1972, the Pageant of Peace was embroiled in legal controversy over the use of religious symbols. The nativity scene that had always been part of the pageant was no longer allowed. And in 1973, an air of gloom hung over the White House as the Watergate investigation continued.

At Christmas, the First Lady delighted in opening the White House for candlelight tours as well as nationally televised specials. It gave her and the President great pleasure to share with the nation at Christmas the rare and authentic acquisitions for the State Rooms. An admirer of his great predecessors, the President surprised no one when it came to holiday cards and gift prints. Each card was a rendition of the White House, which, for the last three Christmases, was an historical view by a well-known artist. Each gift print, invariably, was the portrait of a great President rendered by a celebrated portrait painter.

President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat with Frosty

President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat with Frosty

In celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Community Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony, President Nixon lit the tree on December 14 with the help of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout. For the first time since 1954, a live tree was planted on the Ellipse. The 42-foot Colorado blue spruce from Pennsylvania was donated by the National Arborist Association. With a major energy crisis taking place, the White House reduced the energy consumption of lighting the tree by almost 82%. Instead of using thousands of lights, the tree was decorated primarily with garlands and balls.

In his Christmas greeting to the American people, President Nixon talked about the impending energy crisis. He said, “This year we will drive a little slower. This year the thermostats will be a little lower. This year every American perhaps will sacrifice a little, but no one will suffer.” Unfortunately for Nixon, he wouldn’t stay President for much longer to make sure no one would suffer. Due to the Watergate scandal, which resulted in Nixon’s loss of political support and near certainty of impeachment, he resigned on the evening of August 8, 1974.

President Richard Nixon Tapes: “Merry Christmas, Operator

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President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty 1974-1977

Immediately following Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. He nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fill his vacated position as Vice President, and Rockefeller was officially confirmed several months later. Perhaps one of Ford’s most controversial decisions – one that he made only weeks after taking the Presidential Oath of Office – was pardoning Nixon for all the crimes he may have committed during his presidency. Nixon’s pardon might have been the best Christmas present he ever received.

In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford looks over decorations and presents

In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford looks over decorations and presents

Handmade crafts set the theme for First Lady Betty Ford’s 1974 Blue Room tree. Emphasizing thrift and recycling, Mrs. Ford used ornaments made by Appalachian women and senior citizen groups. Swags lined with patchwork encircled the tree. She kept this quaint feel in 1975 for her “old-fashioned children’s Christmas” theme. Experts from Colonial Williamsburg adapted paper snowflakes, acorns, dried fruits, pine cones, vegetables, straw, cookies and yarn into ornaments. In 1976, Mrs. Ford expressed the “love that is the spirit of Christmas” by trimming a Blue Room tree in a variety of entirely natural ornaments made by members of the Garden Club of America.

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty's 1974 Blue Room tree.

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty's 1974 Blue Room tree.

In the 1970’s, the old-fashioned Christmas–turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, popcorn strings, and patchwork ornaments–was at odds with changes taking place in America. The topic of Christmas at the White House didn’t even get discussed until November because the Fords didn’t take office until late summer. Both the Kennedys and the Johnsons took their Christmas ornaments with them when they left the White House and the Nixon ornaments were not Mrs. Ford’s style. She preferred homemade or sentimental ornaments. Mrs. Ford’s idea for a Christmas tree was that it should be warm and personal. In 1974, she asked specific groups to make the tree ornaments using a patchwork theme. The homemade patchwork tree emphasized thrift and simplicity in this time of recession. Mrs. Ford encouraged Americans everywhere to make their ornaments in order to save money. She even offered a White House pamphlet on how to make patchwork Christmas tree ornaments.

Gerald and Betty Ford brought to the Executive Mansion an informality that reflected their unique style and personality. The ambiance of the Ford White House was warm and folksy, simple and low-key. Mrs. Ford described it as kind of “down-home-like.” Especially at Christmas, the First Lady was able to define her independence and leave the distinctive mark of an old-fashioned Christmas on the White House, a tradition the Ford family had always enjoyed.

Final White House Christmas cards sent by President and Mrs. Ford in 1976

Final White House Christmas cards sent by President and Mrs. Ford in 1976

The President and Mrs. Ford liked the works of George Henry Durrie, so it was no surprise that they selected another one of his paintings for the design of their third and final White House Christmas cards. The painting, entitled Going to Church, depicted a white New England church with a pointed steeple in a bucolic setting with parishioners making their way to the door. The Fords had Hallmark produce 25,000 Presidential Christmas cards, each card bounded with a blue foil border.

A special note of thanks goes to our friends at White House Christmas Cards, for allowing us to use some of their outstanding research material as part of this presentation. If you are interested in a more in-depth study of Christmas in the White House, we highly recommend you visit their site.

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Ludacris Gives Away 20 Cars To Struggling Contest Winners

Rapper Ludacris smiles as Ella Me Johnson reacts to being presented with keys to her car at Nissan South, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009 in Morrow, Ga.. Ludacris, The Ludacris Foundation and Nissan South partnered to give away 20 used vehicles to selected Metro Atlanta area residents as part of his LudaDay weekend. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

Rapper Ludacris smiles as Ella Me Johnson reacts to being presented with keys to her car at Nissan South, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009 in Morrow, Ga.. Ludacris, The Ludacris Foundation and Nissan South partnered to give away 20 used vehicles to selected Metro Atlanta area residents as part of his LudaDay weekend. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)


Posted by Buellboy

By Jonathan Landrum Jr./Huffington Post—Talk about a one-man stimulus package: Grammy-winning rapper Ludacris has given away 20 cars to people who wrote about their struggles to keep their jobs for a lack of wheels of their own.

Ludacris said he was taken aback after reading thousands of essays by people struggling or unable to buy cars needed to get to and from work or find jobs. The 31-year-old rapper felt he could step in and move them ahead, partnering with a suburban Atlanta dealership for Sunday’s giveaway.

“People are getting laid off, and now are looking for jobs,” Ludacris said. “To be efficient, you need some transportation of your own to get there. That’s why I wanted to give back to those who need it.”

Each of the used vehicles included free gas for 30 days. Winning contestants were responsible for tags, registration, tax and insurance. About 4,000 contestants submitted a 300-word essay to the rapper’s foundation, explaining why they deserved a car.

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For more information on Luda visit The Ludacris Foundation, whose moto is Helping Youth Help Themselves

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GOP Congresswoman: Party Looking For “Great White Hope”

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)


Posted by Audiegrl

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins offered encouragement to conservatives at a town hall forum that the Republican Party would embrace a “great white hope” capable of thwarting the political agenda endorsed by Democrats who control Congress and President Barack Obama.

Rep. Jenkins: “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope,” Jenkins said to the crowd. “I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic weighs in: Sarcasm aside, again, the problem is that Jenkins hails from a party that has, historically, scorned talk of “diversity,” believes political correctness has run amok, and thinks that the worst discrimination happens to white people. When you don’t practice talking to people who aren’t like you, you tend to not be very good at it. This didn’t mean much twenty or thirty years ago–Who cares about a few Negroes in Harlem or Atlanta?–but the country is changing. The GOP, as we all know, isn’t changing with it.

I can imagine some defense of the phrase “great white hope,” as a kind of generic tag. But any politicians whose spent a portion of their career talking to black people, who knows the racist history of the phrase, or has some inkling of what it means to have a first black president, would know that invoking the phrase is a bad idea.

All of that said, it’s worth noting that Rep. Jenkins apologized for her words–as opposed to apologizing “if anyone was offended by her words.” It’s a shame that we have to give people points for that.

James Jeffries during his fight with Jack Johnson

James Jeffries during his fight with Jack Johnson

When I first heard of this, the first thing that came to my mind was the 1970 movie “The Great White Hope” staring James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. The movie was based on the 1967 award winning play of the same name written by Howard Sackler.

According to Wikipedia : The Great White Hope tells a fictional idealised life story of boxing champion Jack Johnson. Acting as a lens focused on a racist society, The Great White Hope explores how segregation and prejudice created the demand for a “great white hope” who would defeat Johnson and how this, in turn, affected the boxer’s life and career.

The first “great white hope” to accept the challenge was Jim Jeffries, who came out of retirement to fight Johnson unsuccessfully in 1910. Johnson’s title was eventually lost to Jess Willard, a white boxer, in 1915. There was, apparently, some controversy surrounding Willard’s win, with Johnson claiming he threw the fight. In part because of white animosity toward Johnson, it was twenty years before another African American boxer was allowed to contend for the world professional heavyweight title. In 1937, Joe Louis, greatly respected by both blacks and whites, defeated James J. Braddock, “The Cinderella Man,” to become the second African American to hold the world heavyweight championship title.

So in the end, I agree with Ta-Nehisi on this one. Rep. Jenkins is not guilty of racism, she is guilty of being tone deaf to the ever increasing diversity of America. The Republican party would understand the negative meaning of certain words and phrases, if when they looked out at their constituents they saw a sea of different colored faces. Their diverse constituents would educate them on what is acceptable and what is not. Until that happens, look for more embarrassing moments and apologies from the Republicans. It’s also interesting that Wikipedia has already added Rep. Jenkins comments to the page for The Great White Hope. So now she will always be linked to the phrase. Probably not what she wanted to be known for.

Trailer for The Great White Hope.
Author Jack London vs. Jack Johnson.

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