Believe it or not, U.S. Presidents once upon a time came to Catholic University for the most mundane of events. When the cornerstone for Caldwell (then Divinity) Hall was laid in 1888, President Grover Cleveland was there. When the University formally opened a year later, President Benjamin Harrison showed up for the festivities, despite the downpour. Friends with Rector Thomas Conaty, William McKinley visited him at CUA in 1900.
Quite by accident, Theodore Roosevelt meandered over to the University grounds on his horse in 1905, though he seemed to enjoy chatting up some of the CUA’s first undergrads once he found himself on what we today call the quad. The less loquacious Calvin Coolidge showed up for the dedication of Mullen Library in 1924—there are no reports of “Silent Cal” being shushed by librarians.
Oddly enough, these presidents visited when anti-Catholicism in the U.S. was in full-swing. Catholics were generally reviled by most non-Catholic Americans until the election of 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected President (Kennedy came to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception when he was a Senator, but not as President). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: A Brief Meditation on Presidents, Popes, and Power on the Eve of Pope Francis’ Visit”