Working with the Presidents

This Presidents Day, get the inside scoop on presidential history from SCA members at the source!

From Abe Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky to the White House in DC, SCA members help to interpret the legacies of US Presidents at National Parks and Historic Sites all over the country. Along the way, they’ve picked up some unexpected presidential stories and gained a new view of the nation’s Founding Fathers…

Abigail Pope-Brooks
SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador
National Parks of NY Harbor 
(New York, New York)

What’s your favorite site within the National Parks of New York Harbor?

The National Parks of New York Harbor include ten different National Park sites around NYC. But it all started at Federal Hall, home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive offices of the United States.

 

What’s the best part of your day at Federal Hall?

Federal Hall is right across the street from the Stock Exchange in Manhattan’s Financial District.  At lunchtime, tourists and Wall Street workers come to sit side-by-side on the steps of the memorial to eat lunch, chat, and take pictures with the statue of President Washington. I love seeing so many people from different walks of life using and enjoying this public space – a perfect example of the “melting pot” of this country.

What’s the most unusual reaction you’ve received from a visitor to your site?

Visitors are always surprised to learn that President Washington took his oath of office right here at Federal Hall (not in Washington DC). The Bible he used to swear his oath of office is still here on display.

 

Mike Holmes
SCA Interpretation Intern
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site 
(Hodgenville, Kentucky)

What’s your favorite part of your day at the Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site?

I love showing visitors the Lincoln Cabin and sharing the story of Lincoln’s childhood and family struggles. The Cabin is a unique space where visitors can step into Lincoln’s early life and find inspiration in his story.

 

What’s the most unusual reaction you’ve received from a visitor to your site?

The one-room log cabin where Lincoln was born was less than 300 square feet. A visitor to the Lincoln Cabin once commented, “Gee, I wonder where they put the TV, right?”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned about President Lincoln since starting your SCA position?

President Lincoln is always pictured as a lone figure, and I never knew that he had an older sister and a younger brother. Thinking back to my time growing up, I can’t help but wonder how Abe got along with his siblings!

 

Ayomide Sekiteri
SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador
National Mall & Memorial Parks 
(Washington, DC)

What’s your favorite Presidential Memorial on the National Mall?

One presidential memorial unknown to many people is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The design of the memorial is unique – it takes you on a maze-like journey through each term of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency and the history of the Great Depression. The memorial is filled with quotes, statues, intense imagery, and symbolism. Everyone should visit it!

What’s the best part of your position at the National Mall & Memorial Parks?

My favorite part of my position as an SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador is making connections with visitors and volunteers. Whenever I get to speak with the public about the importance of our public lands, that is a good day!

What’s the most unusual reaction you’ve received from a visitor to your site?

During the Pope’s visit to the National Mall, I was in charge of recycling efforts. I decided to spice up the task by creating a dance and musical jingle as I passed out recycling bags – and surprisingly, visitors started to clap and cheer me on!

 

Kathleen O’Leary
SCA Visitor Services Intern
John Fitzgerald Kennedy 
National Historic Site 
(Brookline, Massachusetts)

What’s your favorite park of your day at the JFK National Historic Site?

My favorite part of my position is interpreting JFK’s life and legacy to visitors – especially the small personal details. For Halloween I got to dress as a Kennedy Campaign Girl and really make history come alive.

What’s the most unusual reaction you’ve received from a visitor to your site?

I’m always surprised at how much President Kennedy still resonates with so many people. Visitors will often cry at the end of my tours. Seeing the space where Jack Kennedy was born and then remembering his assassination is powerful and emotional. One of my favorite Kennedy quotes was spoken by Jack’s brother Ted at the 1980 Democratic Convention: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned about President Kennedy since starting your SCA position?

The coolest facts I’ve learned about JFK are the things that make him more human and more real. For example, he grew up in his older brother’s shadow. Jack was never supposed to be president – that was Joe Jr.’s role. Jack often messed up, but it is these mistakes that make him most appealing. JFK’s popularity rankings were the highest during his presidency when he apologized and accepted the blame for the Bay of Pigs.

 

Diandré Watkins & Kyle Yarusso

SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors
President’s Park
(Washington, DC)

 

 

What’s your favorite part of your position at President’s Park?

DIANDRÈ: National Events are my favorite! Since starting my position as an SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador, I have helped with the Fall White House Garden tours, the Holy See of Pope Francis, the National Christmas Tree Lighting, and the Pathways of Peace. This spring, I am looking forward to working the White House Easter Egg Roll!

KYLE: I love being a part of so many special events. Large events come with an amazing level of excitement and energy. Helping to coordinate volunteer support for these events is an honor and a privilege.

What’s the most unusual reaction you’ve received from a visitor to your site?

DIANDRÈ: People call the park with all kinds of questions.  Once, I answered the phone and a lady asked me what was Obama’s favorite flavor of cake – she wanted to bake him a cake and send it to the White House!

KYLE: Most visitors are unaware that the White House is part of the National Park Service system – and that the President and First Family live inside a National Park!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned since starting your SCA position?

DIANDRÈ: I learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president whose mother was able to vote for him for president. I think that’s really something. Although Obama’s mom didn’t live to see her son in the White House, I’m sure she would have been proud to cast her vote! 

KYLE: Before I started my SCA position I never realized all the different functions of the White House. The White House serves as home, office, museum, national stage, and national park – and it’s amazing to realize that all these things go on simultaneously!

 

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