Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The presidents dig this campus
WASHINTON, Pa. – Bill Clinton earned the distinction Tuesday of becoming the 13th president to visit Washington and Jefferson College.
Whether or not the unlucky number will have an impact on his wife Hillary’s race for the White House remains unknown. But Mr. Clinton joined an impressive list of U.S. presidents who have rubbed shoulders with students at the storied small campus in Washington, Pa., which became the first in 1781 to form west of the Alleghenies.
The Clinton campaign chose the college as its first of what will surely be many stops in Pennsylvania in advance of the state’s April 22 primary. The Clintons are so determined to beat Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president that political pundits have been joking that Bill and Hillary might go as far as follow people to their cars after a rally to win votes.
Yet it's amazing to think that so many presidents have followed the National Road to what the hicks around here call “Little Wershington.” Especially since the collage has fewer than 1,500 students taking classes this term.
James Monroe was the first to stop there in 1817 while touring the west to promote a nonpartisan federal government, of all things. He was followed by Ulysses S. Grant, who was known to sometimes hide out with relatives in the then-backwoods city in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The other sitting presidents who came knocking were Benjamin Harrison, Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy.
The others who would become president after stopping at the college were John Q. Adams, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, William Howard Taft, Harry Truman and Richard Nixon. A rather impressive list of leaders, indeed.
Maybe they came thinking that their stature would be raised a notch by having their names mentioned in the press beside a college named after two of the nation’s most honored presidents. Of course, many of the visits were initiated by a college that has rightly boasted a collective ego as big as some of the presidents who have accepted its invitations for tea.
(Caption: Bill Clinton prepare stomp for his wife's bid for the White House during a rally at Washington and Jefferson College.)