President’s Day should be celebrated with a patriotic tea. Yes, given the whole, Boston Tea Party fiasco, it was once considered unpatriotic to drink tea. But, we’ve gotten over that, even if it did lead to our coffee obsession.
President Obama almost never drank coffee preferring tea. First Lady Jackie Kennedy held tea parties on JFK’s campaign trail. President Reagan’s visit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was called the ‘Tea Summit’, with Nancy Reagan offering her favorite, decaffeinated almond tea to Raisa Gorbachev. First ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama notably encouraged and hosted tea parties; in Belfast to sort out problems and hosting incoming First Lady Melania Trump. That is just a sip, a taste of the preferences and style of Presidents and First Ladies.
Since the advent of media technology, particularly television, Americans have been better acquainted with presidential style. From newspapers and radio broadcasts to the first televised presidential debate in 1960, we are increasingly drawn to the leaders relative to advances in media technology. Here are 4 presidents and how they left there mark and complemented their eras.
John F. Kennedy became synonymous with style as was his wife, Jackie Kennedy during his presidency. JFK graced the cover of GQ magazine, though it is believed he thought the photograph was for CQ, the Congressional Quarterly. Still, he was considered a style icon, American royalty, timed perfectly with the boom of television. Jackie may have had even more impact than her husband. Women were enamored with her personal taste, mirroring the First Lady to the point of becoming a playful nightmare. An October 1961 issue Coronet Magazine, relayed the story of a woman who, after attempting to customize her style, wittingly concluded, “But, I Don’t Want To Look Like Jackie Kennedy!” The dresses and pill-box hats were unavoidable in the early 60s. Even Mary Tyler Moore was crowned a Midwest version of Jackie. From 1960-1963, JFK and Jackie both set and complemented the tone and visual style of an era.
Ronald Reagan made his mark as an actor in Hollywood in the late 1930s until the early 60s. It was fitting the he presided over the 80s portion of Blockbuster Era (a term taken from bombing, war tradition). The 1980s contained some of the most groundbreaking and iconic media ever created. Pick a ‘greatest’ year for movies or music, and you’ll see articles floating 1984 or 1988 among the few chosen. Michael Jackson’s visit to the White House cemented Reagan’s status and era as entertainingly iconic. From 1980-1988, few, if any president has served and resonated through such a pop culture era.
Bill Clinton played saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show. It may have won him the election. In a culture shifting transition from the 1980s into a global, technical 90s, he was the cool, young leader to get us to Y2K. Keep in mind, this was the time where saxophones where in high demand; in crime dramas (all of ’em), sitcoms intros and Kenny G. His relative youth, 46 when he started his first term, kept him in tune with generation X. Carefree, and openness to diversity, helped established the president of the new, Real World and dawn of a digital age. Like the kids who grew up during the time, he is the link of traditional America to the America of today. From 1992-2000, Bill Clinton sat on the float on the parade that was the 90s.
Barack Obama was the first president after the 2005-2006 wave of social media technology. And he used it, embracing popular culture like no other president before him. Music, sports, technology, he played them all; and in doing so reestablished what it meant, and looked like to be president. Few things aren’t pop culture today, with a preference towards watered down Hip-Hop and urban culture. It’s in news, politics, sports, commercials, and it was Barack Obama from 2008-2016, who gave these entities permission to break the mold.
JFK and Jackie, Ronald and Nancy, Bill and Hillary, Barack and Michelle – they all left us with something that most people still celebrate. Style, personality, culture, and presence; sometimes it cuts through the red and blue, and leaves a different kind of legacy, politics aside. This in part is why they were elected, they fit the time, and in doing so, left their imprint on an era.