Although the holiday observed on the third Monday in February is known officially as Washington’s Birthday, many states across the nation observe President’s Day, a more inclusive commemoration of our former presidents. Traditionally, strong emphasis is placed on honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, due to the fact that the holiday falls near both men’s birthdays, while other Americans take the opportunity to celebrate all presidents. Since Auto Europe is a car rental broker, specializing in helping clients book rental cars in Europe, we thought President’s Day would be the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the most influential trips to Europe made by former U.S. Presidents.
John F. Kennedy | Berlin, Germany
Two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, President Kennedy paid a historic visit to Berlin to challenge Soviet oppression and offering words of hope to the people of this divided city. No other American politician to visit Germany had been met with such enthusiasm, and shortly after his death in November 1963, the square where he made his famous “Let Them Come to Berlin” speech, was officially renamed the John F. Kennedy Platz. Twenty-four years later, Ronald Reagan visited Berlin and gave his famous “tear down this Wall” speech. Like Kennedy before him, Reagan included several German phrases in his speech, emphasizing the point that he wanted to see an end to the division within the country. “You see, like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Es gibt nur ein Berlin.” (‘There is only one Berlin.’)
Serving as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, President Eisenhower frequently traveled abroad, visiting France, Great Britain and other European nations. One of the President’s most memorable contributions to foreign affairs was with Spain. The country’s strategic position in light of the Cold War led Eisenhower to build both trade and military agreements with the Spanish through the Pact of Madrid, ending Spain’s isolation after World War II. This pact ultimately launched the Spanish Miracle, which was an unprecedented period of economic development that arose during the 1960s. Nearly two million people were present for Eisenhower’s historic visit to Spain on December 21, 1959. This visit is often seen as the moment of consolidation of the Franco regime, and definitive proof that the dictator had indeed managed to emerge from the isolation the nation suffered after the defeat of the Axis in WWII.
Ronald Reagan | Normandy Region, France
On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan gave a moving tribute to a group of veterans, many of whom were actually present during the 1942 conflict and helped end WWII. The speech took place at the site of the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, symbolizing the daggers that were thrust into the top of the cliffs, and Reagan’s words were admirably directed to the men who put them there: “You were young the day you took these cliffs, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.” 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day and visitors from around the world are expected to travel to the region in order to pay their respects and learn more about the region’s pivotal role in history.
John F. Kennedy | Ireland
During the same week President Kennedy made his Berlin Speech, he also traveled to Ireland. A visit that was hailed as the “homecoming” of the first Catholic Irish-American in the Oval Office; some analysts even go far as saying that 1963 was the year that changed Ireland, mainly due to the few days JFK spent there. Although his time in Galway was short, the president addressed a crowd of nearly 100,000 that gathered in Eyre Square, that included hundreds of school children dressed in orange, green and white huddled together to create the illusion of a large Irish flag. In his speech, Kennedy emphasized the strong connections between the west of Ireland and the United States, and was then made a Freeman of the City.
Woodrow Wilson | Paris, France
Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. President to visit Europe while in office, and few trips in history would leave such a lasting impression on the world. Convening on January 18, 1919, the Paris Peace Conference was held in order to determine what would happen to the losers of the WWI. The President ultimately compromised on the treatment of Germany, which gave him the ability to push through the creation of his international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations. Wilson was also awarded the 1920 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring harmony to Europe.
President’s Day is also a great opportunity to get away for the long weekend, or start planning your next vacation. Auto Europe is able to help you arrange all aspects if your trip, and are proud to offer the best all-inclusive rates for European car rentals. Reservations can be made online using our secure, three-step booking engine, or call us toll-free at 1-888-223-5555.