Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can we get Barack to "Do The Doo Wop?"

Regardless of which side of the political fence you sit on (or whether you sit anywhere near the fence at all), today is a momentous occasion in the history of our country. This afternoon, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the first ever U.S. president of African descent; he will succeed George W. Bush as the nation's 44th Commander-in-Chief.

A massive turnout is expected for events in D.C., and millions more will watch Obama deliver his long-awaited inaugural address on TV. Many will want to hear, specifically, about the new president's plans for the economy, the war in Iraq, and other important issues of the day.

Much more serious matters aside, I naturally got to wondering... When was the last time a sitting (or even former) president visited the Wildwoods? And, what are the chances that Mr. Obama might make a stop on 5 Mile Beach within the next four (or, who knows, maybe eight) years?

A quick Google search doesn't yield much in the way of results, as far as possible presidential visits over the past 100 years go (this will definitely be a topic of research on my next trip to the Boyer). However, check out this terrific series of historical pieces by local journalist Maureen Cawley.

According to Cawley's findings, Benjamin Harrison (pictured right), our 23rd president, visited the island on May 30, 1890. He was on hand that day to dedicate the new Hotel Dayton, one of the grand lodging offerings of its time. Harrison also apparently took a liking to the famed "W" Tree (preserved to this day and on display at the Boyer) and insisted on having his picture taken with it.

From other historical accounts, we know that Harrison was quite fond of the Wildwoods' neighbor to the south, Cape May. In fact, he made Congress Hall his "Summer White House" during his term (1889-1893), conducting affairs of state from the hotel. Four other presidents famously stayed at Congress Hall: Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Ulysses S. Grant. Additionally, Abraham Lincoln was known to have vacationed in Cape May, prior to becoming president.

It is possible, I suppose, that any of these men, in addition to Harrison, might have passed through the Wildwoods at some point. I wonder what historical records might tell us about this...

At any rate, there doesn't seem to be any info out there as it relates to presidential visits to Wildwood since 1890. It's hard to believe that close to 120 years have gone by without such an occurrence, if that is indeed the case.

A modern day visit would seem to be in order, and is certainly overdue. If just for that photo-op of Mr. Obama strolling down the Boardwalk, wading in the surf, or posing in front of a plastic palm at the Caribbean Motel.

I'm drafting my letter of vacation recommendation to the White House right now...

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