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Groundbreaking presidential travels


For more than a century, the U.S. president didn’t step foot outside the country’s borders. The first presidential foreign trip came in 1906, when Teddy Roosevelt went to Panama to inspect construction of the canal. Since then, presidents have traveled to dozens of countries the world over while in office or as president-elect. In honor of Presidents’ Day, we look at some of the most groundbreaking travels presidents have undertaken


Teddy Roosevelt, Yosemite

Roosevelt spent three days in May 1903 on a wilderness trip in Yosemite National Park with naturalist John Muir. Roosevelt said, “Of course of all the people in the world, he was the one with whom it was best worth while thus to see the Yosemite.” Muir convinced Roosevelt to add land to the park, and during Roosevelt’s time in office, he signed five national park creations into law, along with 18 national monuments and 150 national forests.


Lyndon Johnson, around the world

The memorial service for Australian prime minister Harold Holt, presumed drowned in a swimming accident in 1967, occasioned Johnson to go on a 26,959-mile odyssey over five days around Christmastime. Johnson stopped in California, Honolulu and Pago Pago before heading to Australia for the service. From there, he visited U.S. troops in Vietnam and Thailand, met with the president of Pakistan then flew to Rome for a meeting Pope Paul VI. Johnson, who logged more than 500,000 miles on Air Force One during his tenure, made it to Washington in time for Christmas Eve.


Richard Nixon, China

After a quarter century of severed diplomatic ties in the wake of China’s communist revolution, Nixon spent the last week of February 1972 in China, meeting with Chairman Mao and re-establishing relations between the countries. Nixon and his wife, Pat, visited Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. The trip, which included a peaceful settlement of the status of Taiwan, is considered the most important international trip any president has taken.


Barack Obama, Cuba

Obama’s 2016 visit to Cuba was the first by a sitting president since 1928. It marked the culmination of a thaw between the nations after decades of strained relations after the Castro regime took power in 1959, lasting through the Cold War and beyond. Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba for U.S. citizens, paving the way for a new wave of cultural exchange. The Trump administration has reimposed some restrictions, including stopping cruise ships from visiting Cuba, but many changes remain in place.


Donald Trump, North Korea

It was only a few steps as Trump met with Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea last year. Those few steps, though, made Trump the first U.S. president to set foot in North Korea. Kim, Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in met for nearly an hour in the Freedom House at the DMZ. Trump invited Kim to the White House, though no visit has been set.


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