Drought and the Presidency

Putting together a lecture for tomorrow for UNM Water Resources Program students on “drought” –  how we define, measure, and think about it – I noticed that Donald Trump, during a visit to North Dakota, seems to have brought up the issue, to wit:

I’ll take “Presidential comments on drought” for a thousand, Alex!

In bringing you to view the incidents most deserving attention which have occurred since your last session, I regret to have to state that … an unusual drought has prevailed in the Middle and Western States…. I am happy, however, to have it in my power to assure you … that the produce of the year, though less abundant than usual, will not only be amply sufficient for home consumption, but afford a large surplus for the supply of the wants of other nations.

That’s James Madison in his Third Annual Message to Congress, December 7, 1819, in the first recorded reference to drought (down the rabbit hole!) in the UCSB archive of stuff presidents wrote and said.

Not surprisingly, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a great deal to say about drought (think “dust bowl”), and Barack Obama in the waning days of his presidency celebrated the end of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series drought.

As we’ll discuss in tomorrow’s class, it is a word weighted with many meanings.

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