George W. Bush, Harry S. Truman saw Williamsport during presidencies
The visit of the country’s current president later today is not the first time a commander-in-chief has stopped in the Susquehanna Valley.
Most recently, in 2001, then-president George W. Bush visited the area during the Little League World Series that year.
According to a newspaper story in the Sun-Gazette at that time, Bush was “portrayed by the White House and officials from Little League as being a sports lover and supporter of the good values of Little League.” In fact, the story noted that the first T-ball games held at the executive mansion were hosted by Bush earlier that year.
Although the trip to Little League was billed as non-political, the national press had contended that Bush had made a point to visit Pennsylvania, a state he had lost in his first presidential bid in 2000.
While Bush was at Little League, he was inducted into the Little League’s Hall of Excellence and also threw out the first ball for the championship game. The crowd that day was estimated at 42,000.
Accepting the award, the president reflected on his own baseball career, “Years ago when I was playing on those dusty Little League fields in Texas, I never dreamt I’d be the leader of the United States, and I surely never dreamt I’d be enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence.”
“At the airport and at the Howard J. Lamade Stadium, people came in drives to watch President George W. Bush arrived here in Air Force One, and then view the 55th Little League World Series,” the Sun-Gazette reported.
Laura Bush also accompanied her husband on the trip.
A presidential visit brings with it heightened security. During Bush’s visit, state police lined the road to the airport and secret service representatives and local first responders were on high alert. Traffic was re-routed and the airport was off-limit to anyone not having a reason to be there.
Photos of a smiling president sitting in the stands at Little League were spread across the pages on the Sun-Gazette. Little did he know that less than a month later this country would experience the most horrific terrorist attack on Sept. 11.
Prior to Bush travelling to this area, the last sitting president to stop in the city was Harry S. Truman in 1952. Truman was in the city for a 15-minute whistlestop campaigning for Adlai Stevenson’s presidential campaign which pitted him against Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
According to the Sun-Gazette, Truman said that Eisenhower, “the Republican candidate, ‘doesn’t know the facts’ in the current campaign, and urged the large crowd at the Pennsylvania Railroad station to study the record in Congress, then vote,”
The story went on to say, “Speaking in his usual down-to earth style, and occasionally leaning on the rostrum on the platform, the President lambasted the Republican Party. He declared that the GOP is controlled by lobby groups and said he thought the people knew it is not their party.”
“Mr. Truman said the Republicans are against Social Security, the minimum wage, the Wagner Act, full employment, public housing, federal aid to schools and hospitals, price controls and rent controls,” the article continued, echoing political speeches of the day.
Truman’s daughter, Margaret, also traveled with her father on the campaign trail and was introduced to the crowd by her father.