The JFK Presidential Library and Museum recently honored the 50-year anniversary of the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, in a very modern and imaginative way: they created his very own Twitter account. It follows the first 1,000 days in office of President Kennedy, offering the world today a glimpse into what was a half century ago.
Why stop at Kennedy? This President’s Day, as we remember some of the greatest leaders in history, let’s take a flight of fancy and imagine what fun it would have been had these past Commanders-in-Chief themselves tweet. Thus, suspending all disbelief, here is the list of the five Presidents who I wish could have used Twitter.
There are myriad reasons why Washington is fascinating and influential, but we are not going to get to any of that here. What makes Washington a great candidate for Twitter is the pith with which he spoke and addressed the nation. He led in a time before fanfare and majesty was created around everything the President did, making the leaders of today as much ceremonial monarchs as they are Presidents. In Washington’s day, however, there was no radio and no television and no theatre as there is now, making him perfect for Twitter. In fact, his second inaugural address made on March 4, 1973 is all of 133 words and under 800 characters, meaning that Washington could have sent out this message to the country in six powerful Tweets. “I AM again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate…”
It is unlikely that the world has witnessed an iconic tweet; we’ve experienced giant headlines in newspapers, images in television and movies that are forever engrained, and music that shall eternally evoke specific emotions. But there has yet to be a tweet that has that same impact in cultural or social conscious. Adams rumored famous last words, were they true, may have had such an impact. Adams died on the 50th anniversary of the birth of the country that he took part in founding. On July 4, 1826, he lie in bed and drifted into unconsciousness and beyond. He friend and colleague, President Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, hours earlier, unbeknownst to Adams. Before he passed, he was asked what day it was, leading into what would have been a most powerful tweet.
“Oh, yes; it is the glorious #FourthofJuly. It is a great day. It is a good day. God bless it. God bless you all….@ThomJeff survives…”
The 15th President, Buchanan served before Lincoln, from 1857-1861, as the nation became increasingly divided. He was in charge when the Supreme Court ruled in the famous Dred Scott decision, and saw the Democratic Party divide into a northern and southern group. Buchanan was a lawyer, a diplomat, and a skilled debater; he is however better known for being the only bachelor President. As the nation was coming apart and Buchanan sat back hoping diplomacy would prevail, it’s easy to believe he would have been stronger and more resolute had he had a woman holding him up. As he sits lonely one night watching the country argue, he tweets, “Another Saturday night and I’m all alone, good thing I’m a master debater #DickinsonCollegeEducated”
The 25th President of the United States, McKinley’s leadership from 1897-1901 was often dominated by foreign affairs. However his death is often overshadowed by that of Lincoln’s, as McKinley too was assassinated, one of four Presidents to have that unfortunate distinction. It would have been eerie to look back upon McKinley’s words of optimism traveling into Buffalo before his fateful day. It is all too common today for society to look back on the online world inhabited by those who pass in such horrific, deranged, or murderous ways, searching the past for answers. McKinley himself disregarded security and feared not for his safety when he visited the upstate New York city in September 1901 for the Pan-American Exposition. Earlier in the day before anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot McKinley twice from a receiving line, McKinley tweeted to his secretary, “@Cortelyou wants me to have xtra protection- Why should I? No one would wish to hurt me,” later perhaps musing, “Buffalo is such a lovely city, I expect great things from this industrial town in the next century, and beyond.”
Once of Taft’s lasting legacies, other than being the known as the country’s fattest President, was introducing the ceremonial first pitch in baseball. Taft started this long-standing tradition on April 14th, 1910, throwing out a pitch before the Washington Senators game at National Park in the nation’s capitol. Since then, save for Jimmy Carter, every President has thrown out a first pitch at a baseball game. Taft’s Twitter would have been teeming with baseball facts, stats, and his experiences at the ballpark; he saw 14 games while in office. He was the first President to witness a double header, tweeting “What a great day for a ball game, let’s play two!”