French Lick/West Baden Resort an Indiana Marvel

Earlier this week, the French Lick Resort served as host for the Association of State Chamber Professionals (ASCP) annual meeting. I had the privilege of being asked to attend the conference and speak on social media, so, while I had been to the casino before, this was my first opportunity to stay at the hotel as a guest and truly explore it.

As a fan of history — especially Indiana history — I believe both the French Lick and West Baden facilities serve as living monuments and tributes to the very best of Hoosier history and lore. In fact, I invite you to learn more about both French Lick and West Baden Springs via the resort’s web site and learn some pretty remarkable facts. For example, how many people know this site played such a significant role in FDR launching his candidacy for President in 1931?

What’s more, it should be noted that ASCP generally targets some of America’s most scenic destinations, with the past two meetings landing at Bar Harbor, Maine and Greenbrier, West Virginia. So I pretty overtly asked most of the colleagues I interacted with what they thought of French Lick. I received nary a negative remark, with "amazing" being the most consistent adjective used.

If you live in Indiana or the region and have yet to experience this, take a day or two and indulge in one of the state’s most ornate, yet endearing gems — not to mention an amazing golf destination and concert venue.

Abe Stands Tall on Tourist Trail

Don’t stop reading just because the word Washington appears in this post. We’re going to talk about fun things in our nation’s capital (and elsewhere), with no mention of current political issues or individuals.

My tourist tip of the year: take a bike ride during a visit to D.C. My family did just that earlier this month as part of an East Coast vacation. In a three-hour, nighttime guided bike ride, we learned more about and had time to reflect at all of the following: Washington Monument; White House; Lincoln Memorial; Jefferson Memorial; World War II, Korea and Vietnam War memorials; and a few other memorable spots. A little exercise and a lot of history in a short time period.

I come back to see a story on top presidential tourism spots in 2009. Abraham Lincoln leads the way, with Indiana contributing through visitors to one of his boyhood homes. Franklin Roosevelt and our first three presidents (Washington, Adams and Jefferson) were also high on the list. And there’s a few surprises.

Some highlights from the article:

According to figures collected by the National Parks Service , nearly 6.8 million people visited sites associated with Lincoln last year, including his memorial on the National Mall, Ford’s Theatre and childhood homes in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

In contrast was John F. Kennedy, who falls at the bottom of the list. His Massachusetts home drew only 16,000 visitors last year, mostly nearby residents and students on field trips. It’s only open part of the year and few people know about it, a National Parks Service rep explained. Many Kennedy enthusiasts pay their respects at the Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery, where he rests, or visit the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, his living memorial.

Those and several other popular spots like Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello are not managed by the NPS or included on this list. Among the lesser known entities:

Who knew that 162,000 people visited Herbert Hoover’s home in Iowa last year? That’s just shy of the entire population of Des Moines, Iowa’s largest city. The popularity of the place may have less to do Hoover’s presidency, which was darkened by the Great Depression, and more to do with modern-day marketing. 

The similarly situated James A. Garfield home in Lawnfield, Ohio, drew far fewer people. Just 17,000 people visited the site recently acquired by the National Parks Service, placing it second to last on the list. Though the Civil War general is a local celebrity in this Cleveland suburb, his national status was limited by the short length of his presidency. Garfield was assassinated six months after taking office.

Special programs, especially those timed to historical events, can make or break a site’s popularity. They even gave Lincoln a boost to the top. Though Lincoln has always been a popular draw — 900,000 people visited his memorial in 1936  — tourists flocked to Lincoln sites last year to celebrate his bicentennial.

The Adams family home in Massachusetts also drew relatively large crowds. Some 250,000 people visited the home of John Adams, who was overshadowed in life and in death by other founding fathers.

The Massachusetts birthplaces of both the second president and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, draws many New Englanders interested in the family’s history. Its location just nine miles from Boston and close to beachside vacation homes doesn’t hurt either.

Tourists are willing to go off the beaten path for one particular president, however. Seniors who lived through Roosevelt’s presidency comprise most of the visitors to his home 90 miles north of New York City.

"For so many in the World War II generation, FDR was their only president," the NPS spokesperson said.

10 Presidential Decisions that Changed the World

For those interested in public policy, The Huffington Post offers a quick list of 10 presidential decisions that changed history. See it here.

Many of these are expected, although it’s nice to see the unheralded, mutton chop rocking Chester Arthur receiving some propers, or "mad props" as they said in his day (I’m not the best student of history):

Arthur, an almost-forgotten president, deserves to be remembered for his efforts to sweep graft and corruption out of government service by instituting the first merit-based system for hiring public employees—a system which extends to all levels of government today.

Big Enough to Take It Away

The National Center for Policy Analysis recently dissected a Human Events column from Terence P. Jeffrey about America’s need for smaller government. You can read the entire piece here, but here’s the NCPA’s synopsis:

Up until the 1930s, the United States maintained a small federal government that mostly focused on the limited number of things the Constitution authorized it to do.  Americans were responsible for their own food, clothing and shelter, and believed in earning wealth.  What changed?  Well, in the 1930s, we didn’t have a welfare state, says Terence Jeffrey, editor of Human Events.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in 1930:

  • The federal government spent only 3.4 percent of gross domestic product, federal tax receipts equaled 4.2 percent of GDP and there was a federal budget surplus of 0.8 percent of GDP.

  • By 1940, with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his modern American welfare state, federal spending was 9.8 percent of GDP, federal tax receipts were 6.8 percent and the Treasury borrowed 3 percent of GDP to make up the difference.

  • The "human resources" part of the federal budget consumed 4.3 percent of GDP; in 2009, it will consume 13 percent. Continue reading

2008 Election Tidbits

A recent article in State Legislatures magazine, titled "The Perils of Success," outlines the respective battles going on at the state level throughout the country. I found the following passage to be most interesting:

The last time Democrats controlled more than 23 states was before the 1994 election, when Republicans walloped Democrats by seizing the majority in 21 chambers. Currently, Democrats have a 57 to 39 edge in control of individual chambers. There are two legislative bodies that have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats — the Oklahoma and Tennessee senates.

History suggests that success for either Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama will produce a coattail effect. Since the 1940 election of Franklin Roosevelt, the party winning the presidency has gained legislative seats in 11 of the 17 elections. That trend did not hold in 2004 when Republicans suffered a net loss of 25 seats despite George Bush’s reelection. On average, the party that wins the White House adds more than 125 legislative seats to its column.

Going into this election, there are 3,993 Democratic legislators — almost 55 percent of all seats held by the two major parties. There are 3,310 Republican legislators — 45 percent of the total. Only 21 legislators are independent or from other parties.

In Indiana, Democrats currently control the House by a slim 51-49 margin.