In 1952, a dog changed the course of a presidential election. Today, on September 23, we not only mark this occasion, we commemorate all of America’s greatest political pooches by celebrating National Dogs in Politics Day.
On September 23, 1952, Richard Nixon used television (still in its infancy) to speak directly to 60 million viewers — the largest audience at the time. Dubbed the “Checkers Speech,” Nixon refuted charges that he had abused campaign contributions. By alluding to his children and the family dog, a black and white cocker spaniel named Checkers; Nixon touched a public nerve, making him seem more personable. Nixon was able to gain the public’s trust, downplay the charges and stay on the Eisenhower ticket as vice president.
The speech revolutionized how politicians connect with voters, helped usher in a new era in political speech-making and showed how television could be effectively used in politics. And it was Checkers who started it all, reminding us that dogs have lived in the White House just as long as presidents. Let’s remember those loyal canines on National Dogs in Politics Day.
National Dogs in Politics Day Activities
Read the "Checkers" speech
Regarded as a turning point in American political oratory, the "Checkers" speech demonstrates how easily attention can be diverted from one topic or issue to another. After a single speech, Nixon once again had the trust of the public. Orators, political science and journalism students as well as historians continue to study the "Checkers" speech today.
Learn about a few delegate doggies
While President Trump has no pets, virtually every president before him has brought a loving companion into the White House. George Washington had a gang of foxhounds, coonhounds and greyhounds. Teddy Roosevelt had a small zoo of animals, including several dogs. President Lyndon B. Johnson had two beagles named Him and Her.
Dress up your dog
Get creative by making a quick costume for your pup. You can go old school with a monocle and top hat, or give it an 80's suit a la Ronald Reagan. Take some photos, share it on social media with the appropriate hashtags and let the laughter ensue.
Why We Love National Dogs in Politics Day
The public loves a good presidential puppy
For decades, the press has had a field day reporting on the types of dogs presidents bring into the White House and what it could possibly say about their character. President George Bush owned two Scottish Terriers, while President Barack Obama favored Portuguese Water Dogs. We’ll leave the analysis up to you.
It lightens a heavy topic
Your grandmother always told you to stay away from talking politics or religion at the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean the dogs are out of play. Keeping pets in the mix of conversation can keep the mood light, allowing you to have civil discussions with no risk of mashed potatoes flying across the table!
Dogs have always played a part in American politics
Dogs have been an integral part of shaping American politics, especially during wartime. In virtually every war in which America has been involved, dogs have been part of our winning missions.