When Chennai played host to a U.S. Vice-President

Richard M. Nixon with C. Rajagopalachari and Sri Prakasa during a 1953 meeting.

Richard M. Nixon with C. Rajagopalachari and Sri Prakasa during a 1953 meeting.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Richard Nixon began his tour to the country in 1953 from the city

Chennai has never received the President of the United States of America, but has played host to a serving Vice-President once, in November 1953.

Richard M. Nixon, who served as Vice-President during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61), began his five-day tour to the country from Chennai.

Though Nixon, accompanied by his wife Patricia Ryan Nixon, stayed in the city for five hours, he had an important engagement — a meeting with the then Chief Minister of Madras, C. Rajagopalachari, at the Raj Bhavan. The discussion between the two leaders lasted 90 minutes, at the end of which Nixon said he had “benefited greatly” by the meeting. He went on to describe Rajaji as an “infinitely wise man,” according to a report published by The Hindu on November 30, 1953. When the two leaders emerged from the meeting, Sri Prakasa, the then Governor, remarked “quite a long talk it has been”. Nixon’s response was: “And, quite a nice talk too.” Rajaji’s take was humorous, as he said: “I think I was trying to govern the U.S. and Mr. Nixon trying to govern India.”

While the Chief Minister did not reveal much about the discussion to journalists, except saying that it was “just an after-lunch chat and was quite pleasant”. Nixon pointed out that they covered “a very broad range of subjects and not merely local problems.”

Patricia Nixon visited the YMCA Boys Town, Fort, where she spent an hour. Later, the American couple left for Bengaluru. Though Nixon, as President, came to India in 1969, he went only to New Delhi, where he spent less than a day.

Chennai had to wait for nearly 60 years for the visit a high-profile incumbent dignitary. In July 2011, Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, came to Chennai and attended a couple of events. At Fort St. George, she met the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

Two more prominent leaders visited Tamil Nadu in the last 20 years, after they demitted the constitutional offices. Bill Clinton, former President, visited Nagapattinam in May 2005 and Cuddalore in December 2006 to study experiences of tsunami-hit people.

In October 2010, Al Gore, who was Vice-President during the presidency of Mr. Clinton, came to Chennai to deliver a talk.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:28:53 AM |

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