Disney and the Presidents of the United States

By Keith Mahne

You know a place is special when celebrities are often seen wondering around. When several US Presidents decide to be seen, visit and photographed at a location many times over the decades, you know that place is an American treasure. Well, the Disney parks certainly are. Today we’ll take a look at the visiting US Presidents that have visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World…

Dwight Eisenhower
 

 
 
 
Every US President, from Dwight Eisenhower (pictured above with Walt and his son, David Eisenhower, in the middle) on, has paid a visit to a Disney park at least once in their life. Most visited either before or after their terms, but some came while still in office.
 
 


 
 



 

Harry S. Truman
 
 


Harry S. Truman, while enjoying his retirement, came to Disneyland and famously refused to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant because he didn’t want to be seen and photographed riding inside the Republican’s mascot.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 Ronald Reagan
 

 
Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney had a lot in common. They both came from small Midwestern towns, followed their dreams to California and made a name for themselves in the entertainment industry. They also socialized with each other on occasion though Walt pretty much kept to himself and was not big in the Hollywood party circles.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Ronald Reagan visited Disneyland numerous times. His first visit was as host of the live television broadcast of Disneyland’s grand opening, in July 1955. He would return again in various other capacities, including as Governor. The photo below shows Reagan in a parade down Main Street with Disney CEO Michael Eisner in 1990. Reagan gave a speech to kick off the park’s 35th Anniversary Celebration that day.
 
 

 
 
 
He also returned for his Inauguration Parade at EPCOT Center on Memorial Day, 1985.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Richard Nixon
 

 
Perhaps no President was as close to Walt Disney as Richard Nixon. While he didn’t enter the Oval Office until two years after Walt’s death, Nixon and Walt spent a significant amount of time together. Disney had no greater national booster than Nixon. It’s easy to see why. Richard Nixon was a Southern California native and resident, serving as both Congressman and Senator for the area.
 
 
 

 
 
 
And my personal favorite picture of Nixon:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
John F. Kennedy
 
 
When John F. Kennedy was Senator from Massachusetts, he met with the President of Guinea to discuss politics of the African region.
 
 
 
 
 
This private meeting had been planned originally for a Sunday evening at the Ambassador Hotel but had been changed to Sunday morning, November 1st, at Disneyland. This was indeed an historic meeting between the two young leaders: one who was destined to become president of this great land and one who had won independence for his nation.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lyndon B. Johnson
 
 
Forty years after founding his studio, Walt Disney was given the highest honor an American citizen can get in peacetime. In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson named Disney as one of the 30 recipients for that year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom Award.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jimmy Carter
 

 
Jimmy Carter, who was elected President in 1976, was a native of the southeast and very popular in Florida. When the International Chamber of Commerce chose to have its 26th Conference and Convention at Walt Disney World (the first time the event was held outside of the capital city of the host country) Carter was chosen to make the opening remarks.
 
 

 
 
 
Jimmy Carter stopped by one morning before opening to jog around the park. The photo below shows him jogging past the America Sings building, which now houses Innoventions.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
George Herbert Walker Bush
 
 
George Herbert Walker Bush served eight years as Vice President before getting his shot at the Oval Office. He was elected as the nation’s 41st President in 1988. On September 30, 1991, President and Mrs. Bush arrived at EPCOT Center. The President was there to speak about the 20th Anniversary of Walt Disney World and did so in the American Gardens and, like Reagan before him, took great care to link Walt Disney to this special day.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Barack Obama
 
 
President Barack Obama stopped by the Magic Kingdom as recently as January 19, 2012 to deliver a speech on tourism and travel. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hall of Presidents
 
 
Walt Disney himself was pretty apolitical. In his lifetime he supported both Democrats and Republicans alike, and he had friends on both sides of the aisle, including a few Presidents. But what would an article about Disney and US Presidents be without at least mentioning the wonderful Hall of Presidents…
 
 
 
 


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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

 
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