Mr. President, get your feet off my desk
In 1854, H.M.S. Resolute was floating in the arctic after being abandoned by Edward Belcher.
Belcher was a British officer who commanded a squadron of ships that was in search of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer who had left almost 10 years earlier in search of the Northwest Passage. After two years of searching, four of Belcher’s five ships became stuck in the ice and he ordered their abandonment. The Captain of Resolute, Henry Kellet, protested the order. Two of the ships were able to break free of the ice, but Belcher still ordered them to be abandoned.
After returning home, Belcher faced court-martial, as was standard procedure when commanders lost their ships. He, along with the captains of the abandoned ships, were acquitted, but Belcher was scorned and was never given another command.
In the course of a year, the Resolute floated 1,200 miles from its location of abandonment, until she was found by none-other-than an American whaling ship named George Henry which was under the command of James Buddington. Buddington split his crew and sailed Resolute back to New London, Conn.
Less than 100 years after the colonies had thrown off the shackles of British imperialism, relations between the two sovereign states still weren’t good. There was a chance for a third war to break out between them. Congress passed legislation to purchase and refurbish Resolute. She was then sailed back to Britain and presented directly to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The talk of war ceased.
Franklin’s wife wanted to use Resolute to continue the search for her husband, but the British Navy didn’t want to expend any more time or energy looking for an 11-year-old lost expedition. The Navy was so protective of the newly refitted Resolute, they wouldn’t even let Lady Franklin take the ship out on a privately funded search. She sat in home waters until 1879, when she was dismantled. Queen Victoria had many of the timbers of the ship made into desks, one of which was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes. The Queen also had a similar one made for herself.
Needless to say, this is an iconic desk, and it probably the most famous desk in the nation. Franklin Roosevelt had a door installed on the desk to prevent people from seeing his wheelchair. Many years later, John Kennedy Jr. would be photographed while peeking his head out of that door.
Not all the Presidents have used the Resolute Desk. It was actually Kennedy that brought it back into the Oval Office. President George H. W. Bush preferred another desk to the Resolute.
President Barack Obama isn’t a stupid man. He knows of the desk’s rich history. So why does he insist on finding new ways to put his feet on it?
President Obama isn’t the only president to have placed his feet on the Resolute Desk, but his is by far the most well documented. In one photo, the president can be seen standing on one leg while placing the other firmly on the top of the desk, propped up like Captain Morgan in a rum commercial.
I don’t think the President understands this isn’t his desk. We’re simply letting him use it.
This isn’t about politics; this is about respect for the nation and its people. Sure, presidents should be able to take leisurely stances or whatever stance they want, but not on my furniture.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve put my feet on a work desk. However, if I was asked to take my feet off the desk by my editor, I would. I also wouldn’t let anyone photograph me with my feet on a desk.
Like I said, this goes beyond policy, it’s about personality. I don’t want a president, red or blue, who feels the need to convey to the American public that he’s in charge by putting his feet on priceless antiques. Keep in mind, these moments where presidents are photographed with their feet on the desk aren’t private moments. They know they’re being photographed and they know these photographs will be used for publication.
So, in three years when I’m electing a new president, the number one question on my mind will be, “Is this candidate the type of person who needs to be seen as the cool President or is this the candidate who is already confident and doesn’t need to prove it?
In a room full of politicians, the one who can hide the nature of their job the most makes the best President.