Today, Presidents Day in the United States, is a nice hook to link a succession of American Presidents – from George Washington to Barack Obama – to Morocco, and, by extension, to the American Legation in Tangier, home of TALIM.
Of all American Presidents who have interacted with their Moroccan counterparts, it is probably George Washington's correspondence with Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah, resulting in one of America's longest standing treaties, that is the most significant.
Washington was the first (portrait from EarlyAmerica.com). But other Presidents are linked to the Legation and to Morocco.
We want to see Theodore Roosevelt's rifle, presented to the Cherif of Wazzan. One of the latter's relatives living here in Tangier has, and it would be wonderful to see (I might even hope to display) this token of Presidential friendship.
Then there's James Monroe, who received the gift of this building in 1821 from Sultan Moulay Slimane. After the building came the famous lions, a gift to Andrew Jackson in 1833.
In our central staircase, thanks to a donation from the Tangier-linked Forbes family, there is the hand written American Consulate General Tangier announcement, dated 28 April 1865, of the "lamentable news of the death by assassination of Abraham Lincoln."
Further on, there is a Moroccan poster from the late 1950s, showing Dwight Eisenhower and King Mohammed V, who led Morocco's return to independence.
And then there is Franklin Roosevelt, who appears in numerous photos taken in Casablanca, during the conference of that name in January 1943, after the successful American-led landings in Vichy-occupied North Africa of November 1942, Operation Torch. Roosevelt met with Mohammed V, who little more than a decade later resumed his rightful place on the throne of an independent Morocco. There's a great photo on the Legation website showing the Tangier American Legation staff greeting the King on his return from exile.
I have often been asked if any American President has been to the Legation. To my knowledge, the answer is no. But it need not remain unvisited forever.
Here's a thought: even if Cairo won the "sweepstakes" for the first Presidential speech in the Arab/Muslim world by then newly-inaugurated President Obama (despite a Moroccan movement to petition that it be made here), there's still a chance to get President Obama to Tangier and the Legation.
In 2021. What, you say, 2021? Isn't that well after a first or even second term?
But Former Presidents are still called Mr. President. And I say, with his family ties to Africa, what better person to lead an American delegation in 2021 to this continent's first country to recognize the United States, whose Sultan intervened with American authorities to free Muslim slaves in the antebellum South, and whose first modern King was honored for his role in protecting Moroccan Jews from Nazi persecution?
All of these stories have their place within the Legation's historic walls. Which will celebrate its Bicentennial in 2021. It's only ten years away.
Obama in Tangier, in 2021. Who will head the Committee to Draft the President?
Happy Presidents Day.