Islander's Blog

Politically speaking

As the waning days of summer pass by, our thoughts turn to back-to-school shopping, the exodus of island visitors, and this year at least, presidential politics. The Democratic National Convention starts Monday in Denver, and a number of Nantucketers will be on hand, including NHS graduate Jennie Philbrick, who will be working her second DNC, having participated in the 2004 convention in Boston as well. Former ambassador to Portugal and high-level Democratic Party fundraiser Elizabeth Frawley Bagley (profile) will be there, as will former Bill Clinton advisor Nancy Soderberg, whose parents Lars and Nancy are long-time summer residents.

Tyler Young, who grew up on the island, will be attending the convention as part of the Sustainable Living Roadshow, a traveling caravan of educators and entertainers promoting environmentally-sound living strategies across the country. Young will travel with the group to the Republican Convention as well.

For an island its size, Nantucket has seen more than its fair share of U.S. presidents, starting in 1874 when Ulysses S. Grant stepped off the River Queen at Steamboat Wharf. It was the first time an incumbent U.S. president set foot on Nantucket soil. It would not be the last.

Eight sitting presidents and at least two former commanders-in-chief have visited the island, although two of them – Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy – never set foot on dry land.

President Bill Clinton – who made four trips to the island between 1999 and 2006 – was the first c to arrive on the island on Air Force One.

A number of former presidents, a handful of first ladies and even a first daughter have also visited the island over the years. Among them:

• Former President Richard Nixon was on the island with his close friends and confidants Bebe Rebozo and Robert H. Abplanalp. The trio appeared sitting in a boat in a photograph that made the front page of The New York Times.

• Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis made a number of trips to the island, often shopping at Nantucket Looms and Michael Kane’s lightship-basket shop. Among Kane’s other customers was Lady Bird Johnson.

• On Aug. 10, 1985 former first lady Nancy Reagan and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher arrived on the island around 7 a.m. aboard the Highlander, Steve Forbes’ 151-foot yacht. Reagan briefly greeted well-wishers on the dock before heading on a tour of the island with Thatcher, her husband Denis, Forbes and his wife Sabina. After dining on lobster for lunch, Thatcher and her husband took a speedboat ride while Reagan went shopping.

• On Sept. 5, 2001, while vacationing on the Vineyard, Chelsea Clinton took a trip to Nantucket by herself, making the rounds with her Stanford classmate and islander Mike Gaillard, who took her to the Bartender’s Ball.

• First Lady Laura Bush spent a two-day getaway on the island June 16 and 17, 2003, arriving on the 110-foot yacht Odalisque, doing some shopping downtown, visiting the Whaling Museum and dining at 21 Federal.

• Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush visited the island within four days of each other Aug. 14-17, 2005. The elder Bush made a brief appearance downtown Aug. 17 while shopping at Murray’s Toggery while on the island spending a few days with his close friend David Rubenstein, head of the influential Carlyle Group and an Abram’s Point summer resident. He bought six pairs of Nantucket Red pants, and said he and Rubenstein planned to do some fishing. Bush has stayed a number of times with Rubenstein, who has also hosted former president Jimmy Carter at Abram’s Point.

 Joshua Balling, I&M Managing Editor

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