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3 US Presidents' Thoughts on Plant-Based Living

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

The President of the United States of America. The head of state and head of government, directing the executive branch of the federal government, and the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces. The President is a title that carries with it prestige, responsibility, and weight.

While we remember the great accomplishments in the long line of US Presidents, we also remember their unique personalities and little-known contributions. Here are three examples of US Presidents that have embraced aspects of vegetarianism and veganism.

1. Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson strongly supported a plant-based diet and lifestyle.

Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States, from 1801-1809. He is best known as the principal writer of the Declaration of Independence, but as President, he also oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the First Barbary War.

However, American History textbooks often ignore Jefferson's reputation for being particular about food. As American Minister to France in the late 1700s, he was exposed to different cuisines, which led him to (illegally) import Piedmont rice to America, promote a love of Macaroni and Cheese, and become a wine connoisseur.

Most notably, though, was Jefferson's view of animal meat on the dinner table. In 1819, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that not as an aliment, so much as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet." Jefferson's love of vegetables was evident in his garden books, which described thousands of entries of varieties he grew in his vegetable gardens at Monticello.

A founder of the University of Virginia, Jefferson had a strong influence in creating the menu for its students. Mostly composed of fruit and vegetables, the only meat was a small helping during the mid-day meal.

Jefferson's diet, exercise regime, and reduced consumption of tobacco and alcohol are attributed to his long life of 84 years with relatively little illness.

2. Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton lives a vegan lifestyle and encourages others to do the same.

Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States, serving from 1993-2001. During his presidency, the United States saw the largest economic expansion during a period of peace. In 2000, the Congressional Budget Office reported a surplus of $236 billion. Following his presidency, Clinton endured several health complications due to diet, resulting in a quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004 and an emergency stent surgery in 2010. It was then that Clinton decided to embrace a vegan diet.

"I just decided that I was the high-risk person, and I didn't want to fool with this anymore. And I wanted to live to be a grandfather. So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival." -Bill Clinton

Today, Clinton is not 100% vegan. At the recommendation of his doctor, Clinton eats organic salmon once a week.

At 73 years old, Bill Clinton is the oldest person in his family for three generations. He attributes his longevity to his vegan diet and active lifestyle. In addition to clean eating, Clinton also walks two to three miles a day, outside whenever possible. He works out with weights, an exercise ball, and plays golf (without a golf cart, of course).

Clinton made a decision to change his life, and encourages others to do the same. "You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, and that of your family and your country."

3. Barack Obama

Barack Obama is a strong supporter of reducing meat consumption, both for better health and environmental stewardship.

Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States, serving from 2009-2017. Obama was known for signing in the Affordable Healthcare Act, enacting the 2009 economic stimulus package, advocating for gay/lesbian civil rights, and reforming foreign and immigration policy.

In 2017, at his first foreign appearance after leaving the Presidency, Obama addressed the Global Food Innovation in Milan. There, he addressed the correlation between the production of meat for consumption and global warming.

"Food has not been the focus of climate change discussions as much as it should have been. Part of the problem is that we haven’t publicized the impact of food production on greenhouse gas emissions... Most people aren’t as familiar with the impact of cows and methane. So part of the problem that we need to address is just lack of knowledge in the general public. Keep in mind how long it took to educate people around climate change, and we still have a lot of work to do.
We can make progress in educating the advanced world about the need to reduce, just for dietary reasons, the amount of meat that people consume at any given meal, particularly if it’s wasted... We’re seeing businesses in the United States trying to come up with efficient, smart ways in which people can have the convenience of fast food, but with the food being healthier, and as a consequence, less is wasted."

While Obama himself is not vegan, he speaks to the importance of reducing meat consumption, both for personal health and the environment.

If you have any Presidential anecdotes, we would love to hear them! Comment down below or contact us at Happy Presidents' Day!

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