From the death of Osama bin Laden to impeachment scandals and the fall of the Berlin Wall, presidents of the United States have been witnesses to and part of history. Here's a look at some of the iconic photos that captured presidential moments ranging from the private and tender to moments when the nation and the world changed forever.
Born in May, 1917, John F. Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election. At 43, he was the youngest man elected president, bringing his young family with him to the White House. The image of Kennedy working at the Resolute desk while his son John Jr. plays underneath shows the youthful element of vigor that infused the presidency during Kennedy’s time in office.
Lyndon B. Johnson was born in 1908 in Texas. He joined Kennedy on the campaign trail in the 1960 race as his vice presidential candidate. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Johnson was sworn in as president. This memorable image shows Johnson taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One while Jacqueline Kennedy looks on.
In 1974, Richard Nixon became the first president in American history to resign from the nation’s highest office after the House Judiciary Committee approved an impeachment article against him. Defying the mood set by the resignation and the Watergate scandal, this photo shows Nixon saying goodbye to his staff members with a victorious salute.
After Nixon’s resignation, Vice President Gerald R. Ford succeeded him as President of the United States. Ford was born in Nebraska in 1913 and grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As president, Ford tried to heal the wounds left by the Watergate scandal, granting Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon” on Sept. 8, 1974 for all “offenses against the United States.”
James “Jimmy” Carter served as president during an era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation, and continuing tensions, which affected his popularity in the United States. Through foreign affairs, however, Carter worked to bring peace to the Middle East, forming the Camp David Accords in 1978 with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
President Ronald Regan took his vision of American progress, growth and optimism from Hollywood to the Oval Office, winning the presidency in 1980. Bringing his foreign policy theme of “peace through strength” to the divided city of Berlin in 1987, Reagan issued the famous call, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” in front of the Brandenburg Gate. In 1989 the wall fell, and the end of the Cold War followed soon after.
Coming to the presidency after serving as vice president to Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush was in office when the Soviet Union crumbled and the Cold War ended. His foreign policy triumph came when the 100-hour land battle of Desert Storm led to the defeat of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces. Throughout Bush’s presidency, he was never far from wife Barbara, who described herself in her official White House biography by saying, “I’m fair and I like children and I adore my husband.”
Born in 1946, Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, defeating incumbent George H.W. Bush. During his time in office, the U.S. saw its lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years and reduced welfare rolls. However, in 1998, Clinton became the second president to be impeached by the House of Representatives for personal indiscretions with a White House intern.
The image of President George W. Bush with a bullhorn amongst the debris of the fallen World Trade Center towers after the September 11 terrorist attacks became representative of Bush's push to spread freedom and to fight terror in the Middle East. Standing alongside firefighter Bob Beckwith, Bush promised New York that, “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” After building global coalitions, he helped remove violent regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the United States was not attacked again during his presidency.
After the May 1 announcement to the world that President Barack Obama had ordered a military mission targeting terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, the White House photograph of Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and member of the national security team awaiting updates in the Situation Room was released. The photograph shows the tension in the White House prior to receiving the news that the mission was a success and bin Laden was dead.