Posted By P & L Blog

Many Americans know that Thomas Jefferson spoke five languages and could write in several more, but did you know that:

- James Garfield, the 20th president, was not only multilingual, he was also ambidextrous.  He could write in Greek with one hand while writing in Latin with the other.

 - Dutch-speaker Martin Van Buren was the first president who was born a U.S. citizen (his predecessors had been born British citizens). He is the only president who spoke English as a second language and he spoke Dutch at home with his wife.

- First Lady Elizabeth Monroe spoke only French at home.

- Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou, collaborated on the first English translation of a 16th century work on mining and used both the old Latin and German translated versions as sources.  The multilingual Hoovers were said to speak Mandarin in the White House when they didn’t want to be overheard. 

When Jackie Kennedy campaigned for her husband’s re-election to the Senate in 1958, she gave speeches in Italian, French, and Spanish to.  For JFK’s presidential run in 1960, she recorded a campaign spot for her husband in Spanish.  You can see the campaign spot here: 

How do you think she did?

Posted By P & L Blog
Herbert Hoover


A few months ago we wrote about multilingual occupants of the White House.  In honor of Presidents' Day, we're updating that post with new information.  Do you know who was the first candidate to campaign in Spanish?  


  • Dutch-speaker Martin van Buren was the first president to be born as a U. S. citizen (all previous presidents had been born British citizens).  He is the only president to speak English as a second language, and he and his wife spoke Dutch at home.


  • FDR was the first president to give a radio address in a foreign language. In a broadcast in French, he appealed to the citizens of France to oppose the Nazi occupation.  He also spoke German and wrote letters to his mother in German when he was a boy.


  • First lady Elizabeth Monroe spoke only French at home.


  • James Garfield was not only multilingual, he was also ambidextrous.  He could write in Greek with one hand while writing in Latin with the other.  He was the first presidential candidate to campaign in Spanish.


  • Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou, spoke Mandarin in the White House when they didn't want their conversations to be overheard.


  • Jackie Kennedy gave campaign speeches in French, Italian, and Spanish during her husband's bid for re-election in 1958.  When he ran for president, she recorded a campaign spot in Spanish:

Posted By P & L Blog


Proposed amendment number one reads:


"English is the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Official actions which bind or commit the government shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. The Metro Council may make specific exceptions to protect public health and safety. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law."

The proposed charter amendment is...

Bad for business
Nashville boasts 76 companies with some level of foreign investment. Those companies employ 7,660 Nashvillians and generated more than $19.6 billion in sales last year. At a time when Nashville is enjoying tremendous success recruiting international companies, the English-only effort sends a negative and inaccurate message to the world.

Japanese investment alone in Tennessee exceeded $9.4 billion in 2004, creating 40,000 jobs. Business recruiting efforts for Japanese companies and others often require our economic development officers to communicate in a different language. That would become illegal.

Bad for Nashville's tourism industry
Tourism is a $4 billion industry in Nashville. The hospitality industry ranks second behind healthcare in terms of size and contribution to Nashville's economy. Every visitor to Nashville not only spends money here, but they pay taxes. In fact, last year, sales tax revenue from visitor spending contributed $78 million to Nashville's tax coffers.

Tourism is important to Nashville, and international visitors comprise one of the fastest growing tourist segments. Last year, Nashville hosted more than 300,000 visitors from foreign countries, who averaged three days in Nashville and spent more than $150/day. As a result, those visitors contributed more than $135 million to Nashville's economy, providing jobs for our citizens and contributing taxes to Metro's revenue stream that otherwise would have to come from our property and sales taxes.

A waste of taxpayer dollars
If passed, this amendment will apply to a handful of actual services, but will require thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend it against challenges that it is unconstitutional. 

Iit would be illegal for the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development to communicate in German to representatives of Volkswagen.

English is already the "official and legal language" of Tennessee, and Nashville. Our city does not need to change its own constitution for that to be true.

Immigrants know better than anyone the importance of learning English. They also know that the faster they learn English, the faster they can assimilate into the society. If the concern is that immigrants are not learning English quickly enough, we should create more opportunities for them to learn.

Inconsistent with our values as a city
Nashville has been named the "Friendliest City in America" because we extend ourselves to our guests. This amendment does not reflect who we are.

This info came from




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