What do Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton have in common–other than their roles as previous leaders of the free world? A penchant for international travel!
I’ll admit that even as a travel junkie experienced in the ways of fitting my life into a 20 lb backpack for months on end, many of our nation’s greatest leaders put my past travel itineraries to shame. Even prior to the boom in transportation technology President Teddy Roosevelt, the first to leave U.S. soil while in office, traveled by presidential yacht and safari, visiting foreign destinations such as Brazil, the African regions of Congo, Kenya, and Sudan, Cuba, and Panama.
Despite his love for hometown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Eisenhower found himself visiting nearly 35 countries while in office, a far greater number than any previous president. Following close behind, Nixon became quite the globe-trotter, making perhaps the most important overseas trip in presidential history when he touched down in China and changed relations between the two nations forever. Regardless of being the oldest candidate ever elected, Reagan found himself in Berlin at the ripe age of 69 demanding that Gorbachev “tear down this wall”. And though Clinton had previously poked fun at Bush Sr.’s frequent flier track record, declaring “It’s time for us to have a president who cares more about Littleton, N.H., than about Liechtenstein”, he racked up a total of nearly 133 trips in an effort to build better international relations, tackling issues such as AIDS and the eradication of poverty.
While it would be inaccurate to say that every great president in American history was well-traveled (case in point: Abe Lincoln never left the U.S.), today’s interconnected world demands a greater sense of responsibility to the global community. Establishing personal contact with the populations of faraway regions is advisable, especially when trying to boost one’s international image. The advent of Air Force One, the most impressive and sophisticated means of presidential transportation to date, leaves little excuse for neglecting to visit and engage in shuttle diplomacy in distant locales.
For newly-elected president Barack Obama, choosing to embark on an overseas tour during his candidacy helped him win over the hearts and minds of not only voting U.S. citizens, but people around the world. The Washington Post provides a picture documentary of Obama’s international travels. His visits to Afghanistan, France, Germany, Iraq, and the U.K. have racked up an impressive number of miles, a figure which is likely to increase as he plans to spend more time in the developing world while in office. Check out the Dopplr 2008 Personal Annual Report for details on Obama’s travels.