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tv   The Presidency President Truman White House Restoration  CSPAN  April 23, 2018 12:03am-1:06am EDT

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much for a thoughtful and interesting conversation here on c-span and c-span3's american history tv. we appreciate it. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer: next on the presidency, clifton truman daniel, president harry truman's eldest grandson, returns to the white house to deliver a talk about why president truman found it necessary to move his family out of the white house while it -- white house for a restoration that lasted between 1948 and the 1952. white house historical association, based adjacent to lafayette park across the white house, hosted this hour-long event. mr. mclaurin: good evening, everyone. good evening, class. this is good, i like this. [laughter] mr. mclaurin: my name is stewart mclaurin and i'm the president of the white house historical association and it is my privilege to welcome you on behalf of my colleagues and our board of directors, represented here tonight by secretary john
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dalton, who is the 70th united states secretary of the navy. it was during his term he named the uss harry truman, so he has a double connection to tonight's events. thank you for being here, mr. secretary. we also want to welcome our friends from c-span, who are broadcasting tonight's event. we have a wonderful and long-standing friendship with them and the wonderful work they do to share historic messages and stories, not only across our country but around the world. thank you to those watching by c-span. i would also like to welcome our good friend mary sessions, the wife of the 84th attorney general of the united states, and her two sisters that are visiting. i recognize her because she is from the great state of alabama, which is also my home state, and her sister visiting is from decatur, alabama, so she has another double connection with the historic decatur house, where we are tonight. in addition to our distinguished speaker, we're joined by several descendents of former presidents
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of the united states. we have susan eisenhower, who is with us. we have matthew mckinley, a descendent of both presidents mckinley and cleveland. not sure how that ties together. [laughter] mr. mclaurin: but i'm sure you can explain it for everyone. , whoe have duncan sandis although is not a grandson or a relative of an american president, he is virtual family in that he is the great-grandson of winston churchill. welcome to all of you here tonight. [applause] now as many of you know, were certainly anyone who has had to sit through my remarks knows, the white house historical association was founded in 1961 by first lady jacqueline kennedy, who at the very young age of 32 years old as first lady of the united states, had the foresight and wisdom to know that what she and president kennedy needed then,
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presidents and first ladies would need over the course of time. that would be to have a private partner. nonpartisan, nonprofit, a private-public partnership with the white house that we've had since 1961. we provide nongovernment funding for the preservation and restoration of the beautiful museum quality staterooms of the white house. we acquire art and furnishings for the permanent white house collection. it was also very important for mrs. kennedy that we educate the public about the history of the white house. we have undertaken a very robust education program here that teaches and tells the story of white house history going back to hundred 26 years -- going back 226 to the day when george washington selected the site of
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the white house, just across the street from where we are tonight. a key part of our education mission would be our publications. this year we will publish seven books related to white house history. we have a quarterly magazine related to white house history. it is terrific that these are all available to the public and can be purchased online or in our shop here. i will say a little more about that at the end of my remarks. this particular program is sponsored by the david rubenstein center for white house history, led by dr. curtis stamper and his colleagues on our staff that undertake the robust education program we have. tonight's speaker is clifton truman daniel, the oldest grandson of president truman and bess truman, and the son of margaret truman. which is a personality in her own right. his father was the former managing editor of "the new york times."
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and clifton had his own career in journalism. in addition, he is the honorary chair of the board of the truman library institute, which is a nonprofit partner to the truman library and museum in independence, missouri, and he is the board secretary of the harry s. truman scholarship foundation. he is the author of "growing up with my grandfather: memories of truman" and a book of his grandfather's letters. two weeks ago, i had the privilege of recording a podcast with clifton, which you can access on our website,, and in that conversation, he shared wonderful stories and insights about the white house restoration, which was significant during the truman years. his relationship with his grandparents, wonderful stories, and if his talk tonight is half as interesting as my wonderful conversation, the privilege i
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had to talk with them, you are really in for a treat tonight. but the real reason we invited liston tonight -- there is a connection here, and you have to bear with me while i explained this -- is the white house christmas ornament. it was 1981 and nancy reagan was first lady of the united states. the idea was sprung to develop a white house christmas ornament. this year, we have created the 38th ornament in that series. mrs. reagan was also very wise in that she decided we would feature a president each year sequentially. so we don't have to decide which president shall we feature this year, it takes that part of the conversation away from it. and we have stopped along the way for a five times -- four or five times to have commemorative observances, like for the bicentennial of the white house.
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we did an ornament for that occasion. but for all intents and purposes, from george washington in 1981 all the way up harry truman in 2018, the white house christmas ornament has told a story about a specific president. this year it is harry truman. lastrnament was launched monday on president's day at the truman library in independence and had a wonderful experience there. i want to tell you about the three elements of the ornament that feature harry truman. i have one here so that you can see. on the front is the truman balcony. this was quite controversial in its day, when it was announced that harry truman wanted to put a balcony midway along this colonnade on the south portico of the white house. as you can see there. but his persistence and insistence overcame any objection, and up the balcony went. it is a wonderful feature for first families today, to have a bit of family space, to go out on the south portico, to look
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over the vista of the monuments, the potomac river, and have some family time just as we would on patios or decks and enjoy quiet space in washington. that is a wonderful legacy of the building itself that remains from the truman years. on the reverse of the ornament is the interior of the blue room of the white house. you will hear tonight about the major restoration that took place during the truman years. this depicts the blue room as it existed when president truman reconstructed the white house during that lengthy restoration. above the ornament is a gold medallion, which is what we call the truman seal. before he passed in 1945, president roosevelt asked a aide to look into changing what was the presidential seal. harry truman adopted one major change, and that was he took the
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eagle's head, which had been turned to the left towards the arrows of war -- he turned the head toward the olive branches of peace. away from work and towards peace. he encircled it with 48 stars. emblematic of this 48 states at the time. the only changes since that time were the addition of two stars for alaska and hawaii under the presidency of president eisenhower. otherwise, it has remained the same. that is the ornament as it is depicted for 2018. we have these available for you in our shop tonight. i will make a public service announcement. the shop will be open until 8:00 and we also give you a 10% discount on anything in the shop. we have a special gift that you have to go in there and get. it is kind of like disneyland, you have to exit the gift shop before you leave. [laughter] mr. mclaurin: we have a special
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little brass bookmark that has the truman seal, as well as the little legend and story that i just told you about the redesign of the seal. that is our small gift for you tonight. thank you for being here as friends of the association. some of you have been here many times before. i see general hayden, thank you so much for being with us tonight and for your friendship and support. and so many of you who are familiar to this campus here. decatur house is 200 years old this year. although it is owned by the national trust for historic preservation, we are privileged to use it as our campus and operate from here, where we teach and tell those stories of white house history across the country and around the world. with that, i will return to the main purpose of my remarks, and that is to introduce our speaker, mr. clifton daniel. [applause] mr. daniel: thank you, stewart. thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
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and stewart, thank you for apparently allowing me to do half as well on this lecture as i was planning to. [laughter] mr. daniel: i really -- that is very nice. thank you for having me here. thank you all for having me. mr. secretary, mrs. sessions, and i should say mrs. sessions' sisters. nice to have you here, too. [laughter] mr. daniel: and my children and grandchildren over there. i have known duncan sands for 10 minutes and he is already giving me a hard time. nothing historic either, he just said let's go down and unplug clifton's laptop and see what happens. [laughter] mr. daniel: my grandfather was a classically trained and very adept pianist. he often said that had it not been for politics, he would've been happy being a whore house piano player. [laughter] mr. daniel: and in truth, he said it is pretty much the same job. [laughter]
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mr. daniel: so when you are harry truman's grandson, you learn to play the piano whether you want to or not. i had a teacher named charles morris, who was the soul of patience. he was the kindest man -- he may still be, i may have buried mr. morris before his time. but he was a wonderfully kind and patient man. he every saturday before arrived at my house, i used to pray he would be hit by a bus. [laughter] mr. daniel: i hated piano lessons. i hated it so much that i cheated. i used to get my mother -- my mother could sit at a piano, open the music, and just play it. she could site read music. i never learned to do that and i never did because i got her to play my music and i would watch her fingers. it was at that piano that my
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mother first told me the story of the leg of her piano punching through the floor of the white house, from her sitting room upstairs. to a kid who is eight or nine years old, that is a great story. that is much better than the piano homework. she followed that with other stories about the white house. grandpa called it the great white jail. and sitting alone in it early in his presidency, he heard popping wind sighingand through the cracks of the house and told everybody that would listen that it was ghosts. he was there alone. my grandmother went back and forth independence, missouri, and my grandfather was there alone a bit. he said, i can imagine old andy and teddy having an argument. or franklin and pierce deciding who was more useless to the country. [laughter] mr. daniel: and when millard fillmore joins in, the den is almost unbearable. but he got some work done and i
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think they knew at this point that this was a serious problem, this was not just ghosts, that it was a serious problem. mrs. roosevelt came over to see my grandparents as she was leaving. they were staying at blair house temporarily. she came over and apologized for the condition of the rooms upstairs at the white house. the roosevelts had not spent any money on it during the war and depression. they felt they could not do that. and she came over anyway to apologize to my grandparents, said, i am sorry it is so dingy upstairs. she said, oh, you also have rats. [laughter] mr. daniel: apparently i was talking to the folks -- i was talking to ed today, i think it was ed that told me at the white house historical association, that my grandparents and the roosevelts were not the only ones who had rats. apparently andrew johnson fed them. the joke being that they kept
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him company during the impeachment process. [laughter] mr. daniel: he just had to watch something going on up there. mrs. roosevelt apparently told my grandparents she'd been having lunch with friends on the south portico and a big rat ran across the balustrade and all the ladies pretended not to see it. [laughter] mr. daniel: so they had rats. the house was falling apart. grandpa saw some of the things himself. eugene list played for my grandfather in's dam when he was in the army. he played for my grandfather and josef stalin and winston churchill. my grandfather invited him back to the white house after the war and eugene list gave a concert in the east road. it was at that point that the engineers came to my grandfather , and as he said, they had found the chain holding the center chandelier was stretching. the survey had been made three or four weeks ago and it was a nice time to tell me. i let the show go on in order the thing down the next day. if it had fallen, i would have been in a real fix, but it
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didn't. those people had a 1200 pound chandelier hanging over their heads, so they knew something had to be done for the white house. the condition was worse than they expected. the reason i put this lecture together originally was because the truman library in independence has hundreds of the photos that abby roe took of the white house restoration, and we did an exhibit last year. i called the guys at the white house historical association looking for some background and history, and they were great. they were wonderful. i imagine -- first we talked about the kind of abuse that would lead to this sort of thing. i was just starting, i didn't know the causes of the deterioration of that point. i remembered in reading about this in williams steals very good two-volume book, the 1400 pound cheese that colonel thomas meachum gave to andrew jackson and everybody came and ate on it for weeks. [laughter] mr. daniel: ground it into the
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carpets. the white house smelled like cheese. people took souvenirs, they slept all over the place. during lincoln's time -- this is a picture of a ball in an east room, the east room looking rather bigger than it actually does. [laughter] mr. daniel: either that or people were much smaller during the civil war. [laughter] mr. daniel: apparently when they had big parties during the war, they had to shore up the floor from underneath with timbers to keep everybody from falling through the white house into the swampy ground we built it on. i was looking at injuries that could have happened over the years to the white house. this is benjamin harrison. what i love -- i imagined all the drilling that went on over the years. people drilling through the walls to put an electric lights, gas, heat. -- electric put in lights came in during his
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tenure, but he refused to touch them for fear of being electrocuted. he had the servants do it for him. very presidential. [laughter] mr. daniel: and what i like about that, of course, is this turns out to be my wife's ancestor. so we have got my presidential friends over here, we have got one more in the family. my wife is decended from the harrisons. presidents, like anybody else, people don't take care of their homes. i know i don't completely. i will look at something and think, i can fix that now, i can't afford that, i will leave it, until it gets bigger and better. things like that happened at the white house. the president's budget could not cover all this stuff. i begin to look at my grandparents' home. you will notice at the truman home in independence, missouri, rather than replace the linoleum, grandpa just got out not hammer and tacks and it back down.
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that is the way it is today. another example -- this door looks fine. it is in my great-grandmother's upstairs bedroom and looks just dandy, but it is missing two flint blocks that went up above either side of the door like that. the reason they are missing is because the wallpaper man -- he was going to redo the wallpaper -- and he told my grandmother, it will cost extra to get the paper behind the blocks. my grandmother said, to hell with that, saw them off. [laughter] mr. daniel: i think they are still in a closet or locker somewhere. when they had a knothole, they stuffed it with newspaper and -- this has been pulled up, but they put carpet over it so nobody would see it. they just covered things up. i love this one. this is how my grandparents rewired the house for more electricity. [laughter] mr. daniel: they just stuck it
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through the wall. [laughter] mr. daniel: you know, i was in the house before childproofing, i am surprised i am alive today, frankly. [laughter] mr. daniel: this is my favorite. cord -- what is underneath that tarp is the desk on the second floor landing of the truman home. that court you can barely see going below the lights -- grandpa, there is no light switch downstairs for that. grandpa would go upstairs in the dark every night and hit his desk trying to reach for that light cord. they called an electrician, they were going to wire it downstairs so he could turn it on at the base of the stairs. that's too expensive. my grandpa got a piece of twine and tied it to the end of the light court and dangled it all the way down the stairs. to turn on the light, you just reached up and pulled. [laughter] mr. daniel: anyway, i had all of this wonderful disaster.
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i pictured every president ruining the house for my grandfather. le, got them ong a conference call and laid this out. i was really pleased with myself, i was going to have a lot of fun with this. and they laughed and said no, you can't blame it on all of the other presidents. i said why not? they said, yes, you can blame it on two presidents, teddy roosevelt and calvin coolidge. but before you blame it on either one of them, you have to blame it on the british. [laughter] mr. daniel: [laughter] duncan, you're not in the picture, it is fine. thank you all for that. you are the first audience that has laughed at monty python. everybody else looks and goes, why is that funny? i almost took it out. i thought -- it wasn't monty
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python, it was major general robert ross and 150 sailors in 1814. by this time, the war of 1812 was actually over. they went to the white house, they ate the dinner dolly madison had prepared for her guests, they apparently commented favorably on the madeira, and they stepped outside and threw in torches and burned the white house. that is a scary and great painting by tom freeman. the fire burns really hot for a time, and then it rained. when you had afterward was a -- so what you had afterwards was a show with cracked -- was a shell with cracked stone. it was in bad shape. a lot of the stone was unusable and the brick inside was unusable. i will jump forward to the british again, a different one. field marshal montgomery came to see my grandfather after the
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war, and you can see they are eating along just fine in that picture. montgomery asked my grandfather, when was this built? and grandpa said, once in 1792, to 1800, and then again in 1814 after you burned it. [laughter] mr. daniel: and the field marshal was very quick on his feet. he smiled and said, well, if london hasn't paid for by now, -- paid for it by now, you should go burn whitehall. [laughter] mr. daniel: we rebuilt it fast because it was the symbol of this country. they wanted it to go back up fast after that war. this is a peter widell painting. you can see the original stone on the outside, you can still see two feet of stone and two feet of brick. all the interior walls were brick. when they rebuilt it in 1814-1817, they did not use as much brick.
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i believe the brick was a bit inferior. they were working fast so they ood on the inside, which left the building not as strong as it had been in the beginning. so there is the blame the british part. you can also blame them for building it too fast the second time around. then along comes theodore roosevelt. president roosevelt -- families lived and worked in the mansion. the office was in the mansion. president roosevelt had a lot of kids, and their animals, apparently. so they needed more room. he added the west wing for the office of the president and he wanted a larger state dining room. what he did -- this is the old west end of the white house, that is the other staircase. that wall to the left where the chairs are is the wall to what was then the state dining room. president roosevelt wanted it bigger, so he not only knocked out the stairwell, he took out that loadbearing wall. [laughter]
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mr. daniel: he had his architect -- and i know why he wanted to make the state dining room bigger, it was so there was room for the antlers that you can see all over the wall. [laughter] mr. daniel: that is very impressive in that room. but he took out that loadbearing wall, and they rigged a weird steel buttress system from the roof, holding up the second floor. instead of the loadbearing wall, you now have got a loadbearing buttress, which is holding up the second floor. then along comes -- and i apologize to members of the coolidge family -- the reason i called him cement cal is because he had to repair the roof of the white house. the roof was in bad shape. this is 20 years after roosevelt has done his renovation. he came along and had to repair the roof at a cost of about $.5 million. but he used cement. so now you have a weird i don't
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know what holding up the second floor, and now there is cement on top of it. so it is basically squashing the white house into the ground. my grandfather was not a huge fan of president coolidge. i kind of liked him just for being the straightforward, pennypinching vermonter that he was. grandpa did not like that aspect of him. he once told a story that a friend of president coolidge collected cigar bands, and the friend went to mrs. coolidge and said, do you think the president would give me a cigar band for my collection question mark she said, sure, go ask him. she went into the president's office, he took out a cigar, took the band off it, and handed him the band. he was not going to give him the cigar to smoke, just the band. [laughter] mr. daniel: anyway, part of the roof restoration created the sky parlor, which is now the solarium. susan's sister, mary jean, has a
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nice story about that. when she was four years old, president eisenhower was out lighting the national christmas tree. there was a family retainer that there was a family retainer that worked for you guys, his wife. she was up there, and she kept looking out the window and kept saying watch. and mary jane is four and she is like, nothing is happening. finally, the christmas tree burst into life. mary jane was stunned. she said, he would like a god, who cares if he is president. he can do anything. [laughter] mr. daniel: that was of the solarium. going back to the truman home, he mentioned the truman balcony. you look at the back of the truman home, there is a sitting and and thereack is the porch on the front.
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there is a short stairway. that is how the family got in and out of the truman home. i did not know the home had a front door. i never used the front door. i always went in through the kitchen. a quick story about the kitchen on this house. a group of israeli officers were at fort leavenworth in the 1950's. they went to see my grandfather. they were told, my grandmother said he had a head cold and they should not go over. they wound up sneaking in. but mr. herzog, being mindful that my grandfather might actually have a head cold, the -- being mindful, he did not take the israeli officers in. he left them in the car. that is the kitchen, right off the porch. you see the porch is enclosed, my grandmother let those bushes
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grow all the way up the side of the porch so they could have privacy. when it came time for the truman balcony, that was a refuge. that's where my grandparents spent mornings and evenings, if it was nice out. this was a refuge. the truman balcony to him was a natural idea and he said it improved the lives of the white house. everybody disagreed with him at first. he got a lot of flack and congressman not give him the money forcibly pay for it out of his household budget. he saved for it, i think it cost about $14,000 at the time. but at the time, it was the only safe place to stand. [laughter] mr. daniel: there is grandpa on the balcony reading. you can tell who the photographer was because she cut my grandmother in half.
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i had to throw that mrs. truman balcony out there as well. you can see my grandmother -- you can hear her, stop that, get that camera away for me. -- from me. she is yelling at my mother taking the picture. but presidents have loved the balcony ever since. the kennedys playing on the balcony and the carters. i love this picture of president and mrs. bush. i went to my goddaughter's wedding a few years ago and we had a rehearsal and everybody was worse for wear the next day. we went to the norman rockwell museum and we were walking through it and i kept looking at this attractive, very regal lady looking at the pictures and all i could think was, was she has -- at the party last night? [laughter] mr. daniel: she looks really familiar. then i realized, it was mrs. bush. [laughter] mr. daniel: i almost pulled the president's grandson move, i
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thought i was going to run over and introduce myself but there were armed men around her so i decided it was probably not a good idea in my condition. i left mrs. bush alone. during the restoration, my grandparents lived at blair house, which i went through this afternoon. i had not been there since i was 16 years old. my father took us over there one afternoon after listening to the watergate hearings for an hour. we had had enough and went to blair house. my father scared a couple of russian security guys looking under tables for bugs because of a diplomat who was staying there. , head had lived in moscow leaned in and said good morning at the top of his lungs and one of the guys hit his head. [laughter] mr. daniel: my grandparents liked blair house because it was easier. it was smaller, more like a family home. they did not have to entertain as much.
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life was easier and it was a very tense time for my grandfather, the korean war and a host of other things. he enjoyed that. he did get a little cranky when prime minister churchill came to visit. they had to take official portraits on the steps of blair house and there was not quite the room he would have. they do not have the white house behind, so he blamed president roosevelt and president coolidge rather loudly after having to take the pictures on the blair house steps. i am sure you all know that blair house is where the two puerto rican nationalists tried to shoot my grandfather. came running from either side, the white house guard was killed, but he mortally wounded one of the shooters. but blair house was someplace they enjoyed living. i will tell you a slightly risque story, my grandmother as
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i said went home a lot. she was being pulled in two directions. my grandfather wanted her here and his mother-in-law, my great-grandmother, wanted her home to help with the house. she was always being pulled back and forth and she was away a long time. when she got back to blair house, the enjoyment was infectious. they were so happy to see each other that the staff got caught up in it. everybody was in a really good mood. my grandmother came down the next day and she took mr. fields, the head butler aside, and said, "mr. fields, we have a little -- of stairs, there is a little -- oh hell, one of the slats on the bed is broken." [laughter] mr. daniel: that's as close as i want to get to knowing anything about that. [laughter] mr. daniel: anyway, a good story.
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when it came to the restoration, i mentioned earlier. he took hundreds of pictures of the restoration of the white house. it was either polio or a childhood accident, he could not move very well. humana into mrs. roosevelt and she wrote about him in her column. that led him to getting a job at the national parks service which eventually led him to the white house. he was a national parks service photographer working at the white house during the restoration. he took hundreds of good studies. this shows you a crack in the wall upstairs. they started to pull away the wallpaper and this shows you the kind of condition behind the walls. the second floor oval study, which my grandfather used as his study, mr. fields brought him
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lunch one day upstairs in his study, and as he came across the floor, both of them could feel it moving. the floor was moving under his feet. it was very unstable. here is the buttress, inside a wall, holding up the second floor underneath it. and here, this next one, that is the broken floor beam in the family dining room. my mother's piano leg punched through. it lowered the ceiling about a foot and a half. it broke the beam in the ceiling of the family dining room. as an aside, my grandfather was very interested in this restoration and early on before they started any of this, he took reporters on a tour of the upstairs. they had run steal rods to hold it up while they got everybody out.
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my grandparents, paintings, the pictures, they got everybody out, but my mother had to live like that for days, a week, ducking in and out. my grandfather took a group of reporters and photographers upstairs to show them how bad it was. a new york times photographer remembered that grandpa stopped outside his bathroom on the second floor and one of those steel rods had been run next to the toilet. grandpa looked back at reporters this thingou know scares me. i'm going to be sitting here one night, hit the plunger and wind up in the state dining room. [laughter] mr. daniel: and i am pretty sure the band will play "hail to the chief" as i come through the ceiling. [laughter] mr. daniel: they wound up gutting the white house from inside out. they had these steel towers on the inside of the white house.
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this picture always reminds me of a story that was told to me a couple of years ago. the dog, liberty, was very pregnant when they were in the white house. liberty had her own room on the third floor. she also had a babysitter, a handler to watch her, a professional. one day the professional had a conflict and wanted to go out. the professional turned to president ford and said, can you handle this? and president ford said yes. she had to go to the bathroom a lot. she was very pregnant and had to go out more often. president ford said yes, i can handle it, how will i know? the handler said, she will come over in the middle of the night and let you know. he said all right. everybody went to bed and sure enough, not long, here comes liberty. president ford got out of bed, put on his slippers, went out
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the back of the house and let liberty do her business on the south lawn. when she was finished, he went back in house, the door closed behind him. none of the doors leading of the stairwell would open. he was trapped in the stairs in the white house. [laughter] mr. daniel: the secret service had apparently not been looking at the cameras at the time so they did not know he was in there. president ford and the poor pregnant dog went up and down the stairs for a while, trying all of the doors to get back in the white house. finally the secret service, they must've had a heart attack, they looked up and said oh my god. they went and got the president out of that. putting all of those internal stairwells in. i like this photo for two reasons. i will go with president lincoln first. you see that shadowy figure? obviously somebody was standing there and moved.
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i found this online once as evidence that it was the ghost of abraham lincoln. [laughter] mr. daniel: the reasoning being is that that is the spot under mr. lincoln's bedroom. apparently when they removed the floor, he just fell down through the floor and he is waiting to go back up. [laughter] mr. daniel: i love the internet. more importantly, you see the truck and bulldozer. when they got to this phase and construction, they wanted to knock out the stone walls to get these in and my grandfather would not let them touch a stone on the outside of the white house. they eventually dug down deep enough to where they had a tunnel that went under the outside walls and up, but at first he made them take those bulldozers and trucks apart and carry them in piece by piece.
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they tried to use a lot of stuff. they had a lot of wood left over in the figured they offset the cost by selling pieces of the white house as souvenirs. the even have little boxes to make souvenir kits. they even have suggestions, you can make a nice gavel. what i love is in the lower right, the number seven brick could be cleaned up to make and even prettier number seven brick. [laughter] mr. daniel: i don't think this made them a lot of money. they did not offset the cost of rebuilding the white house but they tried. some of the souvenirs were nicer than others. remember i sure do you the picture of a two-story light cord. this is the desk without the tarp over it, that is original white house wood. it was on my grandparents second floor. the carpenters made it for him.
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they also made the cabinet in a corner nearby. you can see in the shadow there, there is a filing cabinet. when i was 12 years old, i got on the roof of the house through the attic. i took my 10-year-old brother and my 40-something-year-old mother with me. the secret service had a heart attack, my grandmother had a heart attack, she ordered us all off the roof and she locks the attic and hid the key. three months after she died, the parks service called my mother and said, do you know where the key to the attic is, and my mother said, hell no, she hid it from me. [laughter] mr. daniel: it was in that filing cabinet, taped to the back of a drawer. further evidence of my grandparents' care with money, there is no wallpaper behind that cupboard. [laughter]
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mr. daniel: we're not going to move it, we are just going to paper around it, it will be fine. [laughter] mr. daniel: if my grandparents come back, i am a dead man. [laughter] mr. daniel: they start rebuilding the white house, putting entrance hall back together, they start putting the state dining room back together, and the west sitting home with a big crack, i was in there at seven years old. my parents did not tell me that my grandfather had been president of the united states. i found out in school. [laughter] mr. daniel: thank god it was first grade and not high school. [laughter] mr. daniel: teacher walks up to me and says, wasn't your grandfather president? i said, i don't know. i'll ask. [laughter]
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mr. daniel: my mother was telling this story well into my 50's. i walked home that night come i walked up to my mother, put my hands on my hips and said, mom, did you know -- [laughter] mr. daniel: she looked at me sadly and said yes. just remember something, any little boy's grandfather can be president of the united states. don't let it go to your head. [laughter] mr. daniel: it didn't, it went right over my head. i had no idea. i was six, i had no idea what it meant. my daughter amy, when she was six years old, we were trying to watch something together. i landed on a biography of my grandfather, and i said that man was the 33rd president of the united states, your great-grandfather. she said, go back, you passed nickelodeon. [laughter]
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mr. daniel: the west sitting hall was where at the age of seven i met president and mrs. johnson the morning after their inauguration. my mother had come for the inauguration, we stayed at blair house and we went over to have breakfast with the johnsons. we had a 10:00 train back to new york. we had a train and my father looked at his watch and said, we have to catch that train. president johnson said, relax. the train will wait. [laughter] mr. daniel: my father said, for you. [laughter] mr. daniel: president johnson says, sit-down, have another cup of coffee, you have time. dad did. he sat down. he got lost in the conversation, looked at his watch and bolted to his feet. we ran out of the white house, dove into the car. it was 10:00. we were done. we were cooked.
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the train was gone. we went to union station and the driver surprised my parents by not pulling into the front he pulled into the back on a train platform. there were two people on the platform, one guy had a baggage cart and the other was a conductor with his watch out. dad started running, he threw the bags at the guy with the cart. the conductor said, slow down, you have plenty of time. the white house called. president johnson had stopped the train. [laughter] mr. daniel: he was right after all. [laughter] mr. daniel: my father and i have different reactions. my dad said, why did he not tell me? my reaction was wow. that's when it hit me, president of the united states. that's when i learned what it was like having a grandfather who is president. here they are rehanging that dangerous chandelier. there are my grandparents on the first day back.
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that is mr. fields, the chief butler behind my grandmother there. and there is the east room as it looked after the restoration. i was in the east room, i guess i was 10 or 11 years old. my grandparents and the johnsons were close. my grandfather had tried several times during his administration to get health care passed and could not. president johnson got it done and signed the medicare bill on the stage at the truman presidential library in missouri with my grandparents and gave them card number one and card number two. so they were close. there was only one small glitch, lady bird johnson called my grandmother in 1966 or 1967 and said mrs. truman, we would like to rehanging -- rehang your official portrait but we can't find it. my grandmother said, that is because it is on my wall. [laughter]
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mr. daniel: mrs. johnson said, you can't do that, that belongs to the american people. my grandmother said, like hell it does. it is a picture of me, it is on my wall. [laughter] mr. daniel: so the artist painted two copies. one is in the truman library, the other is in the white house collection. the original is still on my grandmother's wall. [laughter] mr. daniel: there is the restored grand stair. i will leave you with one more white house story, a more recent story. president bush's last christmas party in 2008 in the white house, they invited me to light the menorah with a grandson of the first president of israel. he and i went to practice this. we were doing this at the foot
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of the grand staircase. i keep knocking water off your, i need to stop that. at the foot of the grand staircase, everyone in the entrance hall. we had a little instruction upfront from a rabbi to tell us how to do this correctly. this was mostly for me, the episcopalian, to do this right. but he gave us instruction and at the end of showing us how to do this, he moistened his fingers and put out the candle. and he said, why are you doing it that way? the rabbi said i never blowout flame of life with the breath of life. and he said, oh. but the rabbi said, do what you want. it is ok. don't stress about it. so he said ok. we sat down, the thing got started, here comes the president and first lady. we go up to do the lighting. everything goes just great.
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and he pulls the candle back from the menorah. and i could see his mind working. president and mrs. bush are in the front row. that rabbi is out there somewhere. and he is thinking, i should do what the rabbi told me. so he reaches up, doesn't moistened his fingers. [laughter] mr. daniel: so the end of that ceremony was muffled cursing. [laughter] mr. daniel: he got back to his seat, and mrs. bush was lovely. mrs. bush leaned across and said, are you all right? and he said yes. the president leaned across and said, a little souvenir of the white house there! [laughter] mr. daniel: it was all i could do to keep from laughing out loud.
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the last slide, the diplomatic reception room, this was taken in the kennedy era. at the end of this christmas party, president and mrs. bush went to stand in front of the fireplace and take their pictures with all of us. i am sure some of you know how this routine goes, you lineup, get a drink, you wait, you go through several marine officers, you go in front of the president and first lady and shake hands before going to the party of stairs. -- upstairs. this was not long after that iranian journalist has thrown a shoe at the present. my wife told me before i went to washington, she said don't you dare make any shoe jokes. i said all right. i got up to the young marine officer standing somewhere in here making sure we all behaved ourselves and took our turn. he was smiling, everybody in a good mood, it was christmas, president bush was on his way
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out in a very good mood. just like my grandfather was, it is over. i told the young officer, my wife told me i cannot make any shoe jokes. should i? the young marine smiled at me and said, oh, yes sir. [laughter] mr. daniel: i immediately did not trust him. i know he is a marine officer, but he looked like he was going to get me in trouble. i thought, i don't know. i went over. it was my turn, i shook hands with president bush and mrs. bush and i said, my wife told me that i was not allowed to make any shoe jokes and the president smiled and said go ahead, everybody else did. [laughter] mr. daniel: that is the end of my presentation. [applause] mr. daniel: thank you.
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we have 10 minutes or so for questions. i realize i ask this at my peril, but go ahead. yes? >> [indiscernible] mr. daniel: wow. grandpa, i think so, not to the wrong degree. one of his heroes was a man from rome, called on to protect it from invaders twice. they offered him the laurel wreath and he said no, i have done my job, time to go home. my grandfather viewed the presidency as a set of tools to do the best he could.
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he often said, special interest groups, everybody has their own lobbyist, senators, congressmen, but most of the people in the united states have one lobbyist, and that is the president. so he did the best he could but he was happy to put the tools away. being president did not change him. it made him better, if anything, but it did not change him. and he went home afterward. a reporter asked him after he got off the train in kansas city, is the first thing you're going to do in retirement? grandfather said, take the suitcases up to the attic. [laughter] mr. daniel: you're getting along answer to this. there were some things he would not do in retirement. my grandmother got after him and said the grass was long. he said, i hate yardwork. she said, yes, but you are not president anymore. he said all right, he did not do it. she nags him, he did not do it.
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finally he went outside, got the mower, turned it on, my grandmother looked outside and nearly died. it was sunday morning. everybody in town is going to church, passing the house. here is the ex-president pointedly not going to church, cutting the grass instead and waving at everybody to make sure they saw him. she ran out there and cut off the mower and said, don't you ever do that again. and he said, ok. [laughter] mr. daniel: when i get back from one of these things, i tell my wife, it was great. she will say, good, here's the toilet brush. go upstairs and clean. [laughter] >> when you mentioned president truman enjoying the piano, and
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it made me think of this famous photo where he was playing the piano. was that in the white house? mr. daniel: no, he was vice president, that was at the uso. he was playing for the troops and lauren bacall was there and it was apparently her agent's idea, he boosted her onto the piano. grandpa's smile dimmed a little bit because he knew somewhere out there, mrs. truman was watching. [laughter] mr. daniel: and mrs. truman told him that night, it was a tense moment between them, she said, i don't think you should play the piano in public anymore. [laughter] mr. daniel: but they met in sunday school when they were children and he never looked at another woman.
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she ignored him for the first 20 years or so. he was smitten. he was very careful. even in the oval office when he had a secretary doing dictation or anything, he kept the door wide open. he was very conscious of his marriage vows. yes? >> you mentioned the assassination attempt at blair house. i should recall this, but i don't. was the president or any of the first him -- family in blair house at the time? you mentioned the anecdote about mowing the grass. was there no security provided for former presidents in the 1950's and 1960's? mr. daniel: in the first question, grandpa was in blair house, not only was he there, when he heard the gunfire, he stuck his head out the window. secret service had to yell at him to put it back in. so he did -- making light of a serious incident, but yes he was home.
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i do not think my grandmother and mother were. but he was. and no, the ex-presidents did not have secret service protection until after john f. kennedy was assassinated. grandpa had no secret service until 1964. anybody could walk up to the house. the secret service put a fence around it. it was unlocked. i tell this story a lot. a man's car broke down from my grandparents home in the early 1950's. he did not know where he was, there was no sign on it in the 1950's saying truman home. he walked up the front steps and rang the doorbell and grandpa answered. the man said, my car has broken down, do you have a phone? grandpa said come on in. the guy went in and called a local garage. the garage said it will take 15 or 20 minutes to get there.
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he hung up the phone and said thank you, i'll go wait in my car. grandpa said no, you can stay here. they sat in the living room and talked for 15 or 20 minutes. finally the wrecker pulled up, the man said thank you for the hospitality. grandpa said, you're welcome, i hope it doesn't cost you too much. the man walked up the front door and got halfway down the steps and stopped. then he turned back and look at my grandfather, and said, i hope this, not take offense at but you look a hell of a lot like that son of a bitch harry truman. [laughter] mr. daniel: apparently grandpa just smiled at him and said, i am that son of a bitch. [laughter] mr. daniel: thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
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[applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] conveningmmer, we are 200 presidential sites around come birthplaces, childhood homes, all coming to washington. three or four days of wonderful programming. inviting join us in
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speakers for a special evening at the kennedy center. morel be visiting with you about that. in front of all these witnesses. i would like to invite you to join us for a reception in the courtyard. toember the store is open get your truman seal token. thank you very much to all of you here. have a wonderful night. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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david cameron testifies about global security. unfoldsn, where history daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events aroundington, d.c., and the country.
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