Rear Admiral Michael Giorgione presented a lecture on his book Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan on January 29, 2020. This is the follow-up presentation to his November 28, 2018 event at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Inside Camp David details first-ever insider accounts into life at this intensely private and secret hideaway used by presidents and their families for over 75 years. It allows the First Family to relax, and escape from the incessant gaze of the media and the public. It has also hosted decades of family gatherings and high-level summits with foreign leaders to foster diplomacy.
Combining fascinating interviews with commanders and historic photographs, Giorgione reveals the intimate connection felt by the First Families with Camp David. Also attending the lecture was Commander Joe Camp, and his wife Nancy. Joe Camp was the Camp David Commanding Officer for President George H.W. Bush.
From 1999 to 2001, Rear Admiral Michael Giorgione, CEC, USN (Ret.) served as the Commanding Officer at Camp David for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He served 29 years on active duty in the United States Navy Engineer Corps, and also worked under the White House Military Office (WHMO).
Michael Giorgione’s lecture presented several themes from his book including: the history of Camp David; how Presidents have used it; personal anecdotes into the operation of Camp David; and sharing what it was like to raise a young family at Camp David. Giorgione illustrates both what Camp David is like when the president is there, but for the first-time ever, also brings to life what it is like when they are not there.
A little known fact of Camp David is that the Commanding Officer and family live year-round on-site. When Giorgione became Commanding Officer, his wife and daughters gave him a notebook so that he could write down stories from their time there. These stories, thoughts, and reflections would later become the foundation of Inside Camp David, which he would start writing 16 years after leaving.
Retelling the beginnings of the Presidential Retreat, Giorgione recalls its origins. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked his staff to find a location nearby that he could go to get away from the media, public, and Washington, D.C. Of the locations presented, in July 1942 he selected a Catoctin Mountains cabin retreat near Thurmont, Maryland. He first called it Shangri-La, for the fictional paradise from the book Lost Horizons by James Hilton.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the location its current name of Camp David. He wanted to change the name because he felt Shangri-La was pretentious, and renamed it after his father and grandson, whom were both named “David”. He also renamed the main lodge “Aspen” which was the state tree of Colorado, the home state of his wife Mamie, and since then all of the buildings at Camp David have been named after trees.
Throughout the lecture, Giorgione also brought Camp David’s history to the present through photos, starting from Roosevelt’s time. He shared a photo of Roosevelt fishing with Winston Churchill. Ronald Reagan utilized Camp David the most of all Presidents, while Harry Truman utilized it the least amongst the Presidents, as he preferred to use his home in Key West, Florida.
Giorgione also presented photos of President Gerald R. Ford and his family at Camp David.