The first meeting in what would become a lengthy, lucrative, and often complicated relationship between the United States of America and Saudi Arabia took place on February 14, 1945, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the waters of Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake during a transit of the Suez Canal.
Roosevelt was returning home to the United States following the Yalta Conference in the Crimea where FDR had met with fellow Allied leaders Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin to discuss plans for peace as World War II was finally drawing to a close. The conference and the lengthy travel required to get to the summit and arrive back home safely had taken its toll on the already-exhausted Roosevelt, who had been sworn in for his unprecedented fourth term as President less than a month earlier. Although FDR was tired and ailing — in fact, the President was dying; the 63-year-old had less than two months to live — he and King Ibn Saud instantly liked each other and enjoyed their discussions, which were translated by a remarkably fascinating man named Bill Eddy. Eddy, fluent in Arabic, was a Marine Colonel who was serving as the U.S. Minister to Saudi Arabia and would later help build and shape the CIA. Ibn Saud, who had never left Saudi Arabia in his life, was close to Colonel Eddy and personally requested that Eddy serve as the interpreter during the summit with the President.
The meeting between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud was very successful and it helped set a tone which would be continued by their successors for decades to come in which personal relationships between the Presidents of the United States and the Kings of Saudi Arabia (all of whom, including current King Abdullah, have been sons of Ibn Saud, who fathered at least 68 children) would help solidify diplomatic ties between their two very different countries. Perhaps more critically to the interests of the United States, the meeting helped to forge an advantageous economic partnership with the oil-rich desert kingdom.
As President Roosevelt and the King prepared to part ways, they exchanged gifts. The King gave the President a solid gold dagger along with four luxurious, traditional Arab robes. Roosevelt gave the King a gold medal and informed Ibn Saud that the biggest part of his gift would be awaiting him upon his return to Saudi Arabia. FDR had arranged for Ibn Saud to receive a customized Douglas DC-3 airplane which was stocked with American crew members and featured a throne on board that was capable of swiveling in any direction in order to permit the King to face Mecca during prayers, as all Muslims are required to do. When Saudi Arabian Airlines was formed in September 1946, the aircraft that the King had been given by the President became its flagship plane.
After 34 years of tension — a few months longer than I have been alive — all it takes is for two guys to pick up the phone and things begin to ease. Major props to President Obama and President Rouhani. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we shouldn’t disregard the fact that the President of the United States and the President of Iran just had a cordial chat via telephone. That’s history.
In the nearly 225 years that the Presidency has existed, the American Presidents have been born in less than half of the nation’s states. In all, 29 of the 50 states in the Union have never seen a native-born son reach the White House.
Visitors to the following states will not find a Presidential birthplace within the borders of their destination: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Colorado; Delaware; Florida; Idaho; Indiana; Kansas; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; South Dakota; Tennessee; Utah; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming. In addition, no President has ever been born in the District of Columbia, either.
The “Cradle of Presidents”, of course, is Virginia, birthplace of 8 of our Presidents, including 7 of the first 12. The Old Dominion is followed closely by Ohio, birthplace of 7 Presidents, all of whom served in the span of just a half-century.
Here’s the rundown of the states where the Presidents were born and how many each state produced:
•8: Virginia (Washington; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; W.H. Harrison; Tyler, Taylor; Wilson)
•7: Ohio (Grant; Hayes; Garfield; B. Harrison; McKinley; Taft; Harding)
•4: Massachusetts (J. Adams; J.Q. Adams; Kennedy; G.H.W. Bush); New York (Van Buren; Fillmore; T. Roosevelt; F. Roosevelt)
•2: Kentucky (Lincoln; Jefferson Davis [Confederate President]); North Carolina (Polk; A. Johnson); Texas (Eisenhower; L. Johnson); Vermont (Arthur; Coolidge)
•1: Arkansas (Clinton); California (Nixon); Connecticut (G.W. Bush); Georgia (Carter); Hawaii (Obama); Illinois (Reagan); Iowa (Hoover); Missouri (Truman); Nebraska (Ford); New Hampshire (Pierce); New Jersey (Cleveland); Pennsylvania (Buchanan); South Carolina (Jackson)
2012 Note: If Mitt Romney defeats President Obama in November, he will be the first President in American history born in Michigan.
As for the Vice Presidents, we have had 48 VP’s in American history (I’m including Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens), and their birthplaces are scattered across 23 states meaning more than half of our country’s states (27) can’t claim a Vice President as a native-born son: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Utah; Washington; West Virginia; and Wyoming.
Here’s the rundown of which states the Vice Presidents were born in and how many VPs each state produced, beginning with the “Cradle of Vice Presidents” — New York:
•8: New York (George Clinton; Daniel D. Tompkins; Martin Van Buren; Millard Fillmore; Schuyler Colfax; William Almon Wheeler; Theodore Roosevelt; James Schoolcraft Sherman)
•4: Kentucky (Richard Mentor Johnson; John C. Breckinridge; Adlai E. Stevenson; Alben William Barkley)
•3: Massachusetts (John Adams; Elbridge Gerry; George H.W. Bush); Ohio (Thomas A. Hendricks; Charles Warren Fairbanks; Charles G. Dawes); Vermont (Chester A. Arthur; Levi P. Morton; Calvin Coolidge)
•2: Indiana (Thomas Riley Marshall; Dan Quayle); Maine (Hannibal Hamlin; Nelson Rockefeller); Nebraska (Gerald Ford; Dick Cheney); New Jersey (Aaron Burr; Garret Augustus Hobart); North Carolina (William Rufus DeVane King; Andrew Johnson); Pennsylvania (George Mifflin Dallas; Joe Biden); Texas (John Nance Garner; Lyndon B. Johnson); Virginia (Thomas Jefferson; John Tyler)
•1: California (Richard Nixon); District of Columbia (Al Gore); Georgia (Alexander Hamilton Stephens [Confederate Vice President]); Iowa (Henry A. Wallace); Kansas (Charles Curtis); Maryland (Spiro Agnew); Minnesota (Walter Mondale); Missouri (Harry S. Truman); New Hampshire (Henry Wilson); South Carolina (John C. Calhoun); South Dakota (Hubert H. Humphrey)
2012 Note: If Paul Ryan is elected Vice President in November, Ryan will be the first Vice President in American history born in Wisconsin.
Looking at all of the information, there are 23 states in the U.S. that can’t claim either a President or Vice President as a native-born son: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Colorado; Delaware; Florida; Idaho; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Utah; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.
"In reviewing our blessings we must pay heed to our leadership. It is said of us that we demand second-rate candidates and first-rate Presidents. Not all our Presidents have been great, but when the need has been great we have found men of greatness. We have not always appreciated them; usually we have denounced and belabored them living, and only honored them dead. Strangely, it is our mediocre Presidents we honor during their lives.
The relationship of Americans to their President is a matter of amazement to foreigners. Of course we respect the office and admire the man who can fill it, but at the same time we inherently fear and suspect power. We are proud of the President, and we blame him for things he did not do. We are related to the President in a close and almost family sense; we inspect his every move and mood with suspicion. We insist that the President be cautious in speech, guarded in action, immaculate in his public and private life; and in spite of these imposed pressures we are avidly curious about the man hidden behind the formal public image we have created. We have made a tough but unwritten code of conduct for him, and the slightest deviation brings forth a torrent of accusation and abuse.
The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment — social, political, or ethical — can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.
To all the other rewards of this greatest office in the gift of the people, we add that of assassination. Attempts have been made on the lives of many of our Presidents; four have been murdered. It would be comparatively easy to protect the lives of our Presidents against attacks by foreigners; it is next to impossible to shield them from the Americans. And then the sadness — the terrible sense of family loss. It is said that when Lincoln died African drums carried the news to the center of the Dark Continent that a savior had been murdered. In our lifetime two events on being mentioned will bring out the vivid memory of what everyone present was doing when he or she heard the news; those two events are Pearl Harbor and the death of John F. Kennedy. I do not know anyone who does not feel a little guilty that out of our soil the warped thing grew that could kill him.
It is said that the Presidency of the United States is the most powerful office in the world. What is not said or even generally understood is that the power of the chief executive is hard to achieve, balky to manage, and incredibly difficult to exercise. It is not raw, corrosive power, nor can it be used willfully. Many new Presidents, attempting to exert executive power, have felt it slip from their fingers and have faced a rebellious Congress and an adamant civil service, a respectfully half-obedient military, a suspicious Supreme Court, a derisive press, and a sullen electorate. It is apparent that the President must have exact and sensitive knowledge not only of his own office but of all the other branches of government if his program is to progress at all. The power of the President is great if he can use it, but it is a moral power, a power achieved by persuasion and discussion, by the manipulation of the alignments of many small but aggressive groups, each one weak in itself but protected in combination against usurpation of its rights by the executive; and even if the national government should swing into line behind Presidential exercise of power, there remain the rights, prejudices, and customs of states, counties, and townships, management of private production, labor unions, churches, professional organizations of doctors, lawyers, the guilds and leagues and organizations. All these can give a President trouble; and if, reacting even to the suspicion of overuse or misuse of power, they stand together, a President finds himself hamstrung, straitjacketed, and helpless.”