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A president embraces the iron horse

Posted By ted On January 28, 2011 @ 12:00 am In Amtrak/Commuter,Amtrak/Commuter News,News,Washington | No Comments

In his state-of-the-union speech Jan. 26, President Obama mentioned the word “railroad” eight times — the most mentions of “railroad” in more than 30 years of state-of-the-union messages delivered by five different presidents.

Yes, there are those who keep count.

In fact, the Washington, D.C., public policy advocacy firm of Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell used their research skills to trace back to the turn of the 20th century¬†– more than 110 years ago — mention of the word “railroad” in state-of-the-union speeches.

As the table below indicates, railroads were a pretty common topic of statecraft prior to World War II, not the least of reasons being that they were the primary means of moving people and freight in America. That, of course, was before commercial air travel — especially jet aircraft — and Interstate highways. Indeed, Teddy Roosevelt said “railroad” a whopping 153 times in state-of-the-union speeches during his presidency (1901-1909).

The dearth of the word “railroad” in state-of-the-union speeches in the decades between Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and Jerry Ford (1974-1977) ended with Jimmy Carter (1977-1981). Carter mentioned “railroad” 26 times in state-of-the-union speeches — and for good reason. During Carter’s presidency, railroad deregulation was among the top domestic priorities of his administration. It was Carter who signed into law the Staggers Rail Act, largely deregulating railroads, in 1980.

Comes now iron-horse champion Obama, who, in word and deed, is looking to resurrect rail passenger service — more precisely, world-class 21st century high-speed rail service — as a principal alternative to commercial airlines and automobiles.

Below is a table, courtesy of Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell, breaking down the mention of the word “railroad” in state-of-the-union speeches since 1901.

 

President Total “Rail” Used
Barack Obama 8
George W. Bush 1
Bill Clinton 1
George H.W. Bush 1
Ronald Reagan 3
Jimmy Carter 26
Gerald Ford 2
Richard Nixon 0
Lyndon Johnson 1
John Kennedy 1
Dwight Eisenhower 0
Harry Truman 2
Franklin Roosevelt 3
Herbert Hoover 14
Calvin Coolidge 29
Warren Harding 32
Woodrow Wilson 37
William Taft 62
Teddy Roosevelt 153
TOTAL 376

 

To read more about what President Obama said about railroads in his state-of-the-union speech, click on the following link:

http://utu.org/2011/01/26/obama-all-aboard-for-high-speed-rail-6/


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