It seems we’ve reached the point of being incredulous when we see the President of the United States walking around in public places. We’ve managed to assume that the President has to stay in his own White House bubble all day long due to the idea that no matter where he goes, he may be a target of someone. After President Obama was seen walking through the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this month, you could see all of the stigmas of the Presidency melt away as people passing by realized he was real. Some had to ask if he was an impersonator since there may be more of them out there now than ever for any prior President.
While President Obama was specifically walking through the National Mall to attend a function, is there more to it than we know? Is he setting a new precedent for the President to get outdoors during the day and away from the White House environment where the stress must be more intense than it’s ever been? Whether it was a little push and shove from Michelle Obama, the benefits of walking have already been well established in the medical industry. But walking outdoors goes beyond just being good exercise, even for the President.
There’s already a rich tradition of prior Presidents going out and about for exercise as noted above in The Washington Post. What they didn’t mention was one President who did a vigorous walk every morning as a way to clear his mind. Another one took his White House aides with him as an early version of the new trend in walking meetings.
Why the President’s Job Should Involve More Walking
You have to imagine that Presidents who were more closed in at the White House ultimately failed on numerous issues mainly because they couldn’t get outside to clear their minds. The White House is probably one of the worst environments for stress of any workplace in existence. You’re also bombarded with harsh realities of the world there that requires contemplation on a massive scale. Even if some Presidents might prefer to be in the privacy of the Oval Office while making complicated decisions, the idea of walking first thing in the morning has already been noted for helping the brain.
Whether former President Harry Truman realized that or not isn’t known. What the Washington Post didn’t mention above is that he took a daily brisk two-mile walk around the immediate neighborhood surrounding the White House. This was always at 5:00 a.m., almost as a form of boot camp. He even understood the concept of the Army using the 120-steps-per-minute pace when training troops and used this in his own walks.
Considering the monumental decisions Truman had to make during his Presidency, you can see why the walking might have done him good. Nevertheless, he was almost assassinated during one excursion and had to move to undisclosed locations afterward for the morning walks. The good news is that the location where President Obama walked is regularly scoped out by Secret Service to assure it’s safe. It very well could be his new territory for regular walking. And if he does it again, he should take his White House aides with him during cabinet meetings.
Presidents and the Walking Meeting Trend
President Teddy Roosevelt was known for taking his White House aides on more rugged hikes into local national parks. In many ways, this was the precursor to the walking meeting that many companies are starting to employ. This gives a chance to talk about critical issues out in the fresh air where everyone involved can clear their minds. Can you imagine what a White House cabinet meeting might be like while walking through the National Mall together? This might be impossible for some sensitive subjects in the event passers-by overhear anything, yet you have to wonder if Michelle Obama is already promoting the idea for more ordinary meetings.
If President Obama keeps the walking trend going in a place that’s assured to be safe, it may set a precedent for future Presidents to keep their minds fresh. You have to assume the President is thinking about it after making prior decisions that his critics think were wrongheaded. It may mean more Presidents in the future with better clarity of thought as future decisions in coming decades possibly become the most significant in human history.