1792, Washington, DC, USA --- The White House as seen from Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House was built from the design submitted by Irishman James Hoban. The corner stone was laid on October 13, 1792. The footings for the main residence were dug by slaves and much of the work was performed by immigrants not yet citizens. John Adams was the first president to take residence in the White House on November 1, 1800. --- Image by © William Manning/Corbis


This election season has certainly been an unusual and unpredictable one according to most every political observer. The 2016 campaign will certainly be written about as either the beginning of a different trend in how we conduct campaigns or an outlier election that baffled many. Either way, this will be one for the history books.

As a student enrolled at this university in the Retired Persons Scholarship Program, I have devoted my classes to history and political science. I thoroughly enjoy studying presidents and presidencies. This has led me to reflect on how much presidential history I have been able to witness in my lifetime. I am thinking not so much about presidential elections that happen every four years, important as they are. Rather, I am fascinated by presidential events that I believe qualify as historic moments in American history.

Let me identify what these events have been.

  1. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was the fourth president to have been killed. This was the first one covered by mass media which brought the tragedy first hand to every household in real time.
  2. The resignation of President Richard Nixon. Never had a president resigned before. The drama of Watergate was unprecedented. The crisis that the nation endured with the impeachment process underway in the Congress tested our constitution and involved all three branches of government.
  3. The swearing in of a new president who had never been elected. Vice President Ford was nominated by President Nixon to become vice president when the then current vice president resigned due to scandal. So Gerald Ford was never elected to national office before assuming the presidency.
  4. The attempted assassination of President Reagan. The fear that such an event created was so unsettling for the entire country. It created confusion at the White House as officials tried to identify who was in charge during this crisis since Vice President George H.W. Bush was out of town.
  5. The impeachment of President Clinton. Although he was impeached, he was not convicted. This was only the second time in American history that a president was impeached. The drama involving an impeachment is unparalleled. The media frenzy at that time was almost uncontrollable. To see the process of impeachment and subsequent trial in the Senate was a firsthand lesson in constitutional history.
  6. The election of George W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush. To have a father and son elected to the presidency is rare. This occurred once before in our history with John Adams and John Quincy Adams. For Bush to witness his son becoming president so soon after his own term of office seems so remarkable.
  7. Presidential leadership at time of attack. The 9/11 attacks have been compared to the crisis precipitated by the attack at Pearl Harbor. Presidential action during such critical events are studied for decades. 9/11 will always remain a defining moment in our history.
  8. Election of Barack Obama. The prospect of an African-American being elected president seemed so remote even a few years ago. Civil rights leaders could not have imagined this when they fought against discrimination both now and in decades past.


There could be another event this year should we witness the first woman to be elected president and who also happens to be the spouse of a former president. How rare that combination would be. If this should occur, we would also see the beginning of a new role associated with the presidency, the First Spouse or First Gentleman, however it might be titled. Bill Clinton could potentially go down in the history books as the 42nd President of the United States and the first First Gentleman.

For someone who loves history, this has been a fascinating journey. Certainly there will be more to come.