Dealing with the technology of the day is part of the President’s job description, but some have looked to the future more resolutely than others. Today being President’s Day, here are five Commanders in Chief who gave their geek constituents stuff to actually geek out about.
John F. Kennedy: “We choose to go to the Moon,” he told the nation, and that’s just what we did. With a helpful push from Cold War paranoia, Kennedy kickstarted our fledgling space program and in 1962 announced the ambitious goal of putting a man on the moon before the decade’s end. After seven years of frenzied innovation and tireless engineering, the dream became a reality.[imgclear]
Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson’s belief in the power of technology extended far beyond Presidential policy. He invented an improved plow himself and was the architect of a navy with leaner gunships. He ran the nation’s first patent office as Secretary of State and his home at Monticello was packed with experimental furniture and unique gizmos. There were few aspects of his life that weren’t informed by his idealistic belief in the power of ideas.[imgclear]
Dwight Eisenhower: In addition to making nuclear dominance a national priority, Eisenhower oversaw the creation of the National System of Interstate and defence Highways, a vast network of state-to-state roadways that have shaped the country economically and culturally. The freeways helped accomodate an increasingly automobile-dependent society but were also posited as an essential infrastructure for matters of national defence.[imgclear]
Ronald Reagan: Though Reagan’s Strategic defence Initiative, a system of space-based weapons designed to protect the United States from nuclear attack, was criticized as being unrealistic – an early proposal called for nuke-powered x-ray laser satellites – it did set the stage for researching and funding defence technologies that are essential today. And how can you not secretly geek out on a Presidential project known to most of the country as “Star Wars”.[imgclear]
Jimmy Carter: After an oil crisis in 1977, Carter formed the Department of Energy to oversee energy-related policy and research as well as the management of the nation’s nuclear weapons. The department now funds more scientific research than any other federal agency. Prior to his presidency, Carter served as a submariner in the US Navy, working with nuclear-powered subs before he was honorably discharged. Nuclear-powered subs!