When Nixon (almost) visited Disney World

The most important man in the country had a dilemma on his hands: how to get to Disney World?

The Vietnam War was an ongoing disaster, and the president Richard Nixon He was about to make an important announcement to the American public about troop reductions at the end of the war. This coincided with the time Disney World opened in October 1971. Nixon, who loved Disney, debated for weeks whether he could make it to the festivities.

“Be a hell of a time,” he said in the Oval Office. But Nixon knew the bad optics of appearing at Disney when he talked about ending a war that killed 60,000 Americans.

Disney World’s 50th anniversary has brought renewed interest in the theme park’s history. The person who studied it from a deeper angle is Bethany BemisMuseum specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Bemis listened to the infamous Nixon Tapes, where 52 males from Disney were buried in the contents.

“Honestly, it was a fun project to be blogged about because it was so fun,” Bemis said. “Just imagine two politicians in suits in the Oval Office talking about heading to Walt Disney World.”

Bemis’ major is political history, but she’s also a fan of Disney because she spent her childhood family vacations in Orlando. For Bemis, there is a story about how Disney fits into American history and culture, something that has become as American as baseball and apple pie. It has been that way from the start when even White House officials were excited about the influence of Disney World.

For a few moments spanning several weeks, Nixon’s mind was like everyone else’s in the fall of 1971: He wanted to see the Magic Kingdom for the first time.

Nixon’s chief of staff said the opening of Disney World was “the most important thing in Florida for many years.” HR “Bob” Haldemanaccording to the texts of Bemis.

“They also have this Hall of Presidents which has an interesting twist because they have ah, lively characters of all the presidents, every one of them talking or something, including you, which is a bit embarrassing,” Haldeman said. The Watergate scandal. Haldeman spent 18 months in prison for his role.

The two men plotted for Nixon’s arrival for a Disney dedication party in late October 1971. Nixon was concerned about appearing at a theme park while he was making an important announcement about the Vietnam War.

“I probably shouldn’t have gone before,” Nixon said on September 15, 1971.

The chief of staff suggested that perhaps Nixon could visit Disney during the preview before the grand opening.

Nixon was not convinced.

He didn’t want to go to an empty park.

“You have to have people around to make the preview worthwhile; I don’t want to sit there with Mickey Mouse,” Nixon said.

As they spoke, Nixon had a bad habit of confusing the name Disney World with Disneyland. It made them confused. But it was clear that Nixon was a big fan of Disney.

As the current Vice President, Nixon was given a ceremonial key to Disneyland when he visited with his family in 1955 for the park’s grand opening. He returned when the park expanded, and opened the funicular and other rides in 1959.

“I think he really liked to escape from reality,” Bemis said. He rode all the voyages. There’s a report…where his wife Pat says, “Nixon gets a bigger kick out of his kids ‘as he sails away on a pirate ship on the Peter Pan voyage.'”

Nixon’s love for Disney was even mentioned in his presidential library.

According to the Nixon Presidential Library website, “Richard Nixon is considered the first Disney fan of any American president.” “As a native of Orange County, he still holds the record for the most visits to Disneyland by any US president.”


The White House had a “beautiful plan.” They could have presented Disney World with a flag flying over the White House, as Haldeman suggested to Nixon on September 20, 1971.

“You can present it to Mrs. Disney,” Haldeman said.

Nixon looked open.

“I think I’ll keep thinking about the idea of ​​going to Florida this weekend,” he said.

Days later, Nixon was still wrestling with what to do.

“What the hell are we doing about Disneyland?” asked Haldeman on October 5, 1971.

Haldeman called it a “Disney problem”.

“You don’t have to do that or you can do it your way on Friday,” Haldeman said.

“Just stop and give them the flag?” Nixon asked.

“Sure,” Haldeman said.

“Make this news the news,” Nixon said. “Go around and see all the toys and bosses, bring them a flag etc. Check it out, right?”

A few days later, Nixon changed his mind again. Once again, I misunderstood the name.

“At Disneyland. I’m inclined to think we’d better not do it; I’ll tell you why.” Henry [Kissinger] back to 25The tenth And oh, we got that troop announcement shortly thereafter. See what I mean?” Nixon said October 18, 1971. “I can’t do a press event until I’m ready to announce the troops, see? So maybe I can’t do that this weekend.”

Nixon stuck with it this time. He wasn’t going to the Disney World dedication party on October 25, 1971.

In Nixon’s place, the White House sent a flag to be hoisted on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, USA.

“Your fairy kingdom will delight and delight millions of all ages and of all countries, and in this spirit of goodwill, I am especially pleased to present to you the flag of the United States that has flown over the White House,” Nixon wrote. On October 23, 1971 a letter to Roy O. Disneybrother of Walt, on the official dedication to the park.

Bemis’s interest turned to Nixon Tapes primarily because she wanted to track down what happened to that banner. I listened to the tapes for clues that never came up. Last year, Bemis tracked him down to the Disney archives and learned that the mouse had kept it safe all these years.

“They kept it, and in fact brought it back,” Bemis said.

Last year, Disney displayed the flag to the public at the rotunda entrance to the quaint Hall of Chiefs at the Magic Kingdom.

Did Nixon reach Disney World?

At the contemporary Disney resort, Nixon gave his infamous “I’m Not a Rogue” speech on November 17, 1973. The contemporary was right next door to the Magic Kingdom, but Nixon was clearly so preoccupied with other things that his presidency was falling apart, aloof. Bemis said he never made it to the park.

Finally, in the 1980s, Nixon visited Disney World with his family, Bemis said.

Of all the accommodations, Nixon is back in the contemporary era. Bemis noted that Nixon shouldn’t have any hard feelings about the hotel.

The flight was magical for Nixon, who could not hide his joy.

“You didn’t see the world until you saw Disney World,” the former president said, according to Bemis. “And I watched 80 countries.”

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