KEY WEST (CBSMiami) – Descendants of five former United States presidents sat down President’s Day weekend to speak about the challenges of maintaining private lives during and after the presidency, in Key West.
The Saturday presentation, entitled “Out of the Fishbowl, Back to the Pond,” featured Truman’s grandson Clifton Truman Daniel, Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan Ford Bales, Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda Johnson Robb, Richard Nixon’s nephew Donald A. Nixon and Herbert Hoover’s great-granddaughter Margaret Hoover.
The quintet chatted in front of an audience gathered in the gardens of the Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum, Truman’s one-time Key West vacation residence.
Bales, who was a high-school and college student during her father’s 1974-77 White House tenure, stressed the need to establish an identity separate from his.
“Continuing his legacy is wonderful and I’m honored to do it,” Bales said, “but there are some days that I just want to be me.”
She recalled beginning a photography career while her father was president, working as an Associated Press part-time photojournalist and seeking a shot of Elvis Presley on a Colorado vacation.
“The only time he went out was to go snowmobiling at night,” said Bales, who said she primed her Secret Service agents to alert her when Presley left his condo. “Having Secret Service agents … helps you do your job sometimes.”
Panelists also focused on lifelong issues “first children” face in preserving both their individuality and their families’ presidential heritage.
Robb, who got married during her father’s 1963-69 term, spoke of “that constant yin and yang between respecting what they did and doing your own thing” and said she knew the first line of her eventual obituary would read, “Daughter of …”
Robb also said she hopes current presidential daughters Sasha and Malia Obama are enjoying their White House years and will take good memories with them when they leave.
“I think they’re going to have the same issue that all of us have — being their own person,” Bales added. “I’m sure they will trip and fall a few times, as we all have, but that’s okay.”
Truman spent 11 working vacations at Key West’s Little White House during his 1945-1953 administration.
“My grandfather said presidents shouldn’t have descendants, because they’ll spend their lives being expected to live up to them,” Daniel said.
The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.