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It’s not really a surprise that confusion is often found around National Checkers Day, because this day actually doesn’t have anything to do with the popular board game! Rather, the day commemorates the famous ‘Checkers Speech’ that was made by Richard M. Nixon in 1952 after he received an adorable Cocker Spaniel while he sought election to become the Vice President of the United States. 

History of National Checkers Day

In the United States, politicians are banned from taking donations for their own use. So, when vice presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon was accused of this by rivals, like many others seeking election, he faced allegations that he had misused donations for election expenses and siphoned these off for his personal use.

Rather than shy away from these allegations, Nixon decided to address these head-on during a 30-minute TV debate which was held on September 23, 1952. Watched by approximately 60 million Americans, this live speech turned into a huge showing of support for the candidate.

However, as it turned out, it was not Nixon’s use of financial details that led to this speech becoming one of the most celebrated in US history. Instead, in a strange and heart-tugging turn of events, it was the introduction of Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel, to the public which made it memorable. Voters were won over when Mr. Nixon told them about his children’s love for their furry family member, Checkers.

“Our little girl named it Checkers and, you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.”

National Checkers Day is sometimes called “Dogs in Politics Day”. This title offers a nod to the idea that this vice presidential candidate seemed to evade accusations by simply showing cute children with their puppy. And the general voting population of the United States was willing to go along with it.

But, no matter what, that’s no reason not to have a game or two of checkers – and it would probably offer some fun times to this day as well!

How to Celebrate National Checkers Day

Folks who are interested in politics, those who are avid fans of Richard M. Nixon, or people who just really enjoy a nice Cocker Spaniel, might want to consider some of these ideas for observing National Checkers Day:

Listen to or Read the Checkers Speech

Take some time on National Checkers Day to understand the history of the day a little better by listening to or reading a copy of the Checkers Speech, also known as the Fund Speech. As the running mate on the ticket of Republican presidential candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nixon’s place on the ticket was threatened by accusations of abuse of political funds. So he took to the airwaves and made a thirty minute television speech that can still be viewed today from a variety of sources, including The History Channel or YouTube. 

Discuss the Checkers Speech

Even those who find the actions of Richard Nixon to be fairly sketchy might want to take advantage of National Checkers Day by using it as an opportunity for education and growth. Teachers and professors in history classes or political subjects might want to take advantage of this day to show the Checkers Speech to their students and then host a discussion or a debate around the topic of how popular opinion can be easily swayed away from accusations with a smokescreen of cute babies and puppies.

Learn About First Dogs

Because the wife of the US President is called the “First Lady”, it stands to reason that the canine pet of the family would be called the “First Dog”. In the case of Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel, the dog didn’t actually make it to living in the White House. Sadly, he passed away in 1964, a few years before Mr. Nixon was elected president in 1969.

Many other presidents, in fact the majority of them, have had dogs in the White House, starting with George Washington’s three American Foxhounds: Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan. The recently beloved “Bo” Obama, a Portuguese Water Dog, lived in the White House and passed away in 2021.

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