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About the Author:
Hugh Sidey was born in Greenfield, Iowa, in 1927. He joined the Life magazine staff in 1955 and began covering the White House in 1957. He has been writing the column The Presidency for Time since 1966. Sidey has served as the president of the White House Historical Association since 1998.
The drama of our times was written through the actions of these men and shown in their faces and their movements, and here you see them in a new way, both through the text and the remarkable collection of photographs.
I've written new essays about each of the presidents -- with, hopefully, my perceptions enriched by time and lengthening experience around the White House, which, by the way, reached its 200th birthday November 2000. I've been able to correct the record here and there and straighten some things out that got a bit bent in the hurry of keeping a ledger of a world that rushes on.
But I have a special feeling for the old columns, which I pulled out of history and bring to readers again. They were the sights and sounds of the moment. There was little time to triangulate or reassess or invoke hindsight. They were raw history on the move, that first draft that journalists write which, quite naturally, is corrected down the line. But in that first draft there is an excitement and a freshness and a wonder that is often rubbed off when historians take hold. Those columns were written in automobiles in motorcades, in Moscow hotel rooms where some hidden lens was surely looking over my shoulder.
You can sit at my elbow in Palm Beach and hear John Kennedy tell about his Vienna Summit with Nikita Khrushchev in 196l. I hope that I caught the wonder of witnessing Richard Nixon marching gingerly through China in 1972. I still feel the excitement, the awe of those days so far beyond our known world of that time, such as Nixon trying to use chopsticks.
The wind was howling at 60 mph when I reported on George Bush at the Malta summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989. Bush got trapped on his ship because of the high seas, and the summit was pushed back a day. One night in 2000 Bill Clinton wandered through his White House living quarters, talking about the history that had unfolded there, searching for his place in this national caravan. It moves on now. But here is a glimpse of these last 50 years. (Hugh Sidey)