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The White House Historical Association (WHHA) offers many different resources for students working on National History Day projects.

This is an engraving of King Kalakaua of Hawaii visiting President Ulysses S. Grant on December 15, 1874. Both men greet each other with a small bow in the Blue Room.

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

Project Starters

The 2022 NHD Theme is Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. Trying to decide on a topic? Check out a few White House history topic ideas:

  • The White House State Dinner: A State Dinner honoring a visiting head of government or a reigning monarch has long been one of the most glamorous White House affairs – but the State Dinner is also a great diplomatic tool. President Grant held the first State Dinner in 1874; in the years since, the State Dinner has become a hallmark of peaceful relations between the United States and foreign leaders. Guests lists, seating arrangements, entertainment programming, décor, and most importantly the menu are all carefully planned to ensure the most engaging – and enjoyable – evening.
  • The President as Chief Diplomat: The President isn’t just Commander-in-Chief, but also the United States’ Chief Diplomat. State Dinners, foreign tours, high-profile global summits, and relaxed negotiations at presidential retreats like Camp David are all parts of the complex ways the president can help shape and guide American diplomacy. Many presidents have acted as global peacemakers, finding solutions to debates, and bringing nations and people closer to peace.
  • Native American Delegations and Diplomacy at the White House: For over two centuries and during almost every presidential administration, Native American delegates visited the White House to advocate and preserve tribal sovereignty, oppose land cessions, negotiate wartime alliances, protect cultural rights and resources, and demand that the federal government adhere to the terms of its treaty agreements. The makings of Native American diplomacy and federal policy ultimately took shape at the White House, on land taken from Indigenous peoples.
  • Protest at the White House: Amendment I to the United States Constitution ensures, among other things, that the public has the right to peaceably assemble. For over a century, the White House has been a stage and audience for public protest. Some protests, like those against the Vietnam War, advocated for President Lyndon B. Johnson to embrace diplomacy and end the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. However, President Richard Nixon convinced the South Vietnamese representatives to hold on a treaty until he assumed office. All sides agreed to peace in 1973 and the protests at the White House helped showcase public opinion in favor of diplomacy rather than war.
  • Blair House: Blair House, the president’s official guest residence, was purchased by the State Department in 1942 with the intention of providing a designated space for foreign dignitaries and visiting heads of state that frequently wanted to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the country mobilized for World War II. Blair House continues to foster diplomacy today as visiting heads of state still use that residence when visiting the president. Its proximity to the White House helps make state visits run smoothly.

Resources

There are many more NHD topics to research with connection to White House history. Explore these within our online resources:

  • Classroom Resource Packets – covering 30 different topics including:
    • Roles of the President
    • Protest at the White House
    • War and the White House
    • The White House Neighborhood
    • Space Exploration and the White House
    • Technology and the White House
    • White House China
    • Roles of the First Lady
  • Short Resource Videos – quick and compelling visual narratives of White House history.
  • The 1600 Sessions Podcast – contains interviews and stories from historians and former White House staff.
  • WHHA Digital Library - provides a wealth of primary source images from many different presidential administrations.

View a project from one of the 2021 White House History Prize winners — Yuku Kusanagi from Singapore American School in Singapore, SA. Yuku’s exhibit is titled, “Lafayette Park: A Critical Platform for Communicating First Amendment Rights.”

View the Project Here

White House History Prize

The White House Historical Association also sponsors a prize at the National Contest.

The prize is given for an outstanding project that documents and analyzes White House history through such subjects as individual presidents, first ladies, residence staff, White House art and architecture, or important events that took place in the White House.

Two awards are given each year – one for each division (Junior and Senior). These winners can be in any category and come from either a group or individual project.

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