Wednesday, October 22, 2003

President John F. Kennedy received a lei while aboard a motorcade here on June 10, 1963.

Isles a stopover
and vacation spot
for presidents

Then-President George Bush, father of the current president, waved to the crowd at Hickam Air Force Base before boarding Air Force One in 1990. All U.S. presidents in the last 60 years have visited the islands.

All American presidents in the past 60 years have visited Hawaii, often as a rest stop on the way to or from a diplomatic mission in Asia and the Pacific.

President Bush's plan to meet Pearl Harbor survivors at the USS Arizona Memorial recalls appearances there by his father and his predecessor. President George H.W. Bush spoke at the Dec. 7, 1991, anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. President Bill Clinton spoke Sept. 2, 1995, at ceremonies recalling V-J Day, the end of World War II.

Bush's 12-hour stopover tomorrow on his way home from Asia won't be the shortest. The senior Bush took advantage of a 90-minute refueling stop on his way to Australia Dec. 30, 1991, to jog two miles at Hickam Air Force Base. President Jimmy Carter also touched down for 90 minutes on July 1, 1979, enough time to meet and greet 1,000 people at the base.

The longest visit by a top executive was President Harry Truman's monthlong vacation in 1953. But he received only a fraction of the public exposure surrounding Clinton-and-family's vacation week in July 1993 after his first G-7 economic summit in Tokyo. Thousands of islanders witnessed the swimming, golfing, shopping and impromptu restaurant stops of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea -- a dramatic contrast to the heightened security cocoon for the younger Bush on this visit.

More than 20,000 people responded to Clinton's open invitation to a July 11, 1993, speech on the beach of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. He told the crowd about his visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Evoking poignant memories of a safer time are accounts of the June 9, 1963, visit of President John F. Kennedy. An estimated 300,000 people gathered hours early along a Pearl Harbor to Waikiki route to glimpse his passage in an open convertible, and dashed forward to shake his hand or present a lei. His assassination in Dallas five months later put an end to such openness.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan took a dip in waters off a Kahala residence where they were staying on April 23, 1984.

Among the visits:

>> Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to visit Hawaii. He spent four days in July 1934, planting a kukui tree at Iolani Palace grounds and fishing for swordfish. His return in 1944 to meet with military leaders at the height of World War II was no secret to Honolulu residents who saw him about town in an open touring car. But it was not reported in the press until he was safely back in Washington, D.C.

>> Harry Truman stopped briefly in 1950 on his way to and from Wake Island where his meeting with Gen. Douglas MacArthur led to the firing of the famous soldier. He reportedly declined to wear a flower lei because, he said, it wasn't appropriate for the president. He lightened up and was seen wearing flowers on his 1953 vacation.

>> Dwight D. Eisenhower was welcomed by 200,000 islanders in 1960, a year after he signed Hawaii into statehood. He spent four days golfing and relaxing on the way back from a goodwill tour of Asia.

>> John F. Kennedy spent less than a day here during his 1963 visit to speak at the Conference of U.S. Mayors about the civil rights crisis inflaming America.

>> Lyndon B. Johnson made seven brief visits to Hawaii between Far East trips or for meetings with military authorities during the Vietnam War. His first trip in February 1966 for a conference with South Vietnamese leaders caused a scramble for security forces, who had only a day's advance notice. It was a scramble for Royal Hawaiian Hotel guests, too, relocated at short notice because the president decided to stay there. On other visits he stayed at the Koko Head estate of the late Henry Kaiser.

>> Richard M. Nixon made four presidential visits, one en route to his historic 1972 visit to China. His first trip in June 1969 was enroute to a Midway Island meeting with the South Vietnam president, which preceded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the war-torn country.

>> Gerald R. Ford stayed less than a day on his way back from China in 1975. He laid a wreath in the Dec. 7 ceremonies on the Arizona Memorial and spoke about "America's positive concern for Asia" at the East-West Center.

>> Jimmy Carter, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor from 1948 to 1951, had planned to vacation several days on his July 1979 return from Japan and Korea but cut it short because of energy crisis issues.

>> Ronald Reagan attended Easter services at St. Andrew's Cathedral on a 1984 stopover on his way to China. He made no public appearances in a 1986 visit on the way to an economic summit in Tokyo.

>> George H.W. Bush's first visit in October 1990 was to hold a conference with Pacific Island leaders and stump for Pat Saiki, candidate for the U.S. Senate. His speech at the Dec. 7, 1991, memorial event included his personal recollection of his first view of Pearl Harbor when he arrived as a young Navy pilot in 1944.

>> Bill Clinton made seven stops in Hawaii as president. His last was in November 2000 on his way to a three-day visit in Vietnam, the first American president to visit the reunified nation.

USS Arizona is a tradition

Every president has made a pilgrimage to the USS Arizona Memorial since it was named a national shrine May 30, 1962. All the presidents presented a wreath and tossed a flower into the channel. Presidential visits to the USS Arizona were:

>> John Kennedy: 1963
>> Lyndon Johnson: 1968
>> Richard Nixon: 1972
>> Gerald Ford: 1975 (30th anniversary of the end of World War II)
>> Jimmy Carter: 1977
>> Ronald Reagan: April 1984 and April 1986
>> George H.W. Bush: Oct. 1990 and Dec. 1991
>> Bill Clinton: July 1993, Nov. 1994, Aug. 1995, Nov. 96, Nov. 1998, and twice in Sept. 1999.

Star-Bulletin staff


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