Vermont: A history

Tucked away in the center of New England between New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Quebec, tiny Vermont, nicknamed the Green Mountain State, is the second least populated, and the sixth smallest by area of the fifty states that make up the United States, with a rich and varied history stretching back to the late Pleistocene period.

Native history

Vermont’s Native history started 12,900 years ago, when people called the Paleo-Indians first moved onto the land. Since these earliest occupations, Native communities have continually lived in Vermont. Native knowledge, experience, and traditions have deeply influenced many aspects of the state’s rich history.

Researchers estimate that the native population of New England numbered more than 90,000 before European settlers reached the land in the sixteenth century, among which were around 10,000 Abenaki living in what is today known as Vermont and New Hampshire.

Those Abenaki included an estimated 4,200 living in the Champlain Valley, a region around Lake Champlain in Vermont and New York, extending north slightly into Quebec,
and another 3,800 in the upper Connecticut River Valley, which stretches the entire length of New England.

Between 1534 and 1609, the Iroquois Mohawks drove many of the smaller native tribes out of the Champlain Valley region, later using the area as a hunting ground and warring with the remaining Abenaki.

Arrival of the French and British

The Lake Champlain area was named in the mid-17th century, when French explorer Samuel de Champlain found the region. De Champlain also gave the state its name, which originates from the French for Green Mountain (Verd Mont). It wasn’t until over a century later that the area became more formally known as Vermont.

By that time, in the mid-18th century, the state had become a British settlement, after victory in the French and Indian war, which pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, with each side supported by Native American allies and military units from the parent country.

In 1764, King George III established the boundary between New Hampshire and New York along the west bank of the Connecticut River. This meant that Albany County, New York, as it was then known, gained the land presently known as Vermont. This line became the modern boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont.

Thirteen years later, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants declared their land an independent republic, the Vermont Republic. For the first six months of the republic’s existence, the state was called New Connecticut. Later that year, the Constitution of Vermont was drawn up, the first in North America to provide for the abolition of slavery.

The Wars

During this period, the American rebels were fighting the American Revolutionary War against the British, with the state of Vermont playing a pivotal role in the fighting. Two of the key battles recognized as the turning point in the war, at Bennington and Saratoga, were fought in Vermont.

These battles represented the first major defeat of a British army, convincing the French that the American rebels were worthy of military aid. They were so important in fact, that August 16th, the anniversary of the battle, has since become known as Bennington Battle Day, and is a legal holiday in Vermont.

In 1791, Vermont joined the federal union as the fourteenth state, becoming the first to enter after the original thirteen colonies. In the early decades of the 19th century, there was an influx of French-Canadian immigration, boosting an already large population in Burlington.

When the American Civil War began in 1861, Vermont continued the military tradition it had established during the Revolutionary War by contributing a significant portion of its eligible men to the war effort. More than 28,100 Vermonters served in Vermont volunteer units, with a total of 1,832 killed or mortally wounded in battle.

Vermont today

During the two decades following the end of the Civil War in 1865, like much of the United States Vermont endured a period of instability, experiencing both economic expansion and contraction, and dramatic social change. Over the next century, the state would develop a reputation for embracing broadly left-wing politics.

Vermont has led the way in many areas of modern life. In 1940, the first monthly Social Security benefit check for the amount of $22.54 was issued to a Vermont resident. In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened their first Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop in a refurbished gas station in Burlington.

After narrowly supporting Republican George H. W. Bush in 1988, four years later Vermont voted Democratic for the first time since 1964, helping Bill Clinton to the Presidency. Vermont has voted Democratic in every subsequent presidential election, and since 2004 has been one of the party’s most loyal states.

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to introduce civil unions, and in 2009 was the first to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2018, Vermont became the first of the United States to legalize cannabis for recreational use by legislative action, and the ninth state in the United States to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Today, Vermont is still known for being politically-engaged, but is also recognized for its breathtakingly picturesque landscapes and endless scenic places to explore, exceptional food, safe cities, great schools, and down-to-earth residents.

Vermont: Business and economic development

As the second-least populated U.S. state, with the second-smallest GDP, in terms of business and economic development Vermont will always be David pushing to compete with bigger and more popular Goliaths. For a small state with a big personality, however, Vermont continues to punch above its weight in a number of key areas.

In 2020, Vermont became one of the few states in the nation to undertake a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS), which was completed with invaluable assistance and input from stakeholders around the state, and with guidance and funding from the U.S. Economic Development Authority.

The Vermont 2020 CEDS identifies twelve target business sectors with a strong likelihood of growing the state economy and enhancing the quality of life for its residents, suggesting projects and initiatives that can help each action area and sector grow, as well as anticipating future events and identifying tactics to help build resilience.

The Green Mountain State is already holding its own in economic development. Despite having a population below 650k, World Population Review rates Vermont in a first place tie with South Carolina and Utah for highest rate of employment (97.7%). The unemployment numbers in the state rank at #5, making up just 2.9% as of April 2021.

A number of business owners in the state argue that the rate of unemployment is actually too low, as they are lacking qualified skilled workers for their companies, specifically in the manufacturing industry. This has forced employers to cut back on hours and production, unable to find the help they require.

Birthplace of American manufacturing

As the birthplace of manufacturing in the United States, Vermont boasts a highly-skilled labor pool known for a strong work ethic and attention to craftsmanship. The state nurtures that workforce with a variety of specialized training programs aimed at employers.

Key to this approach is the Vermont Training Program (VTP), which partners with employers and training providers to train Vermont’s employees for the jobs of tomorrow, providing performance-based workforce grants for pre-employment training, and training for both new hires and incumbent workers.

Ranked in the top 20 states in the nation for education, businesses have continual access to new young talent from the 40,000 students spread across Vermont’s 25 highly-regarded colleges and universities, including the University of Vermont in Burlington, and renowned liberal arts school Middlebury College.

From famous ice cream making duo Ben & Jerry to all weather performance socks manufacturer Darn Tough, Vermont has a reputation for inspiring innovative products that deliver exceptional quality. These ingenious businesses foster a happy and productive workforce, making Vermont a melting pot of entrepreneurial talent.

Entrepreneurship

In 2012, Vermont was ranked 8th in the U.S. in the Index of Entrepreneurial Activity by the Kaufman Foundation, and is a hotbed of world-class R&D, sitting in first place nationally in patents filed per capita. This innovation can be seen in action at Burton Snowboards’ 3-D Rapid Prototyping facility.

Likewise, Keurig Green Mountain’s Beverage System R&D Campus in Waterbury is an impressive facility. Another home-grown Vermont product, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters made founder Robert Stiller a billionaire after becoming popular nationally when it was used in pods for Keurig coffee-makers.

Much of the state’s entrepreneurship and innovation feeds into its commitment to helping create a sustainable future both for Vermont and for the nation. Clean energy remains the biggest job creator across the U.S. energy sector, employing nearly three times as many workers as work in fossil fuel extraction and generation.

A continued focus on sustainability has seen Vermont rank consistently as the top state for clean energy jobs per capita, with more than 5% of all jobs employed by clean energy businesses, including the most solar jobs per capita since 2012.

The undisputed jewel in Vermont’s crown in terms of production is its renowned Grade A maple syrup. Vermont leads the nation in maple syrup production, with its almost 2 million gallons a year accounting for nearly half of the total U.S. syrup crop.

Agriculture

In 2000, around 3% of Vermont’s working population were involved in agriculture, which contributed 2.2% to the state’s domestic product. The primary source of agricultural income is dairy farming, which was preserved by state government legislation opposing housing development plans on relatively inexpensive land in the second half of the 20th century.

Around 900 farms producing more than $470m worth of milk each year make up roughly two-thirds of all the state’s agricultural produce. It’s little surprise then that Vermont’s most famous export is ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was founded in Burlington in 1978, and subsequently sold to Unilever for $326 million in 2000.

In 2019, two-thirds of all milk in New England was produced by Vermont dairies, with a significant portion of that number being shipped into the Boston market, prompting the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to certify that Vermont farms meet Massachusetts sanitary standards.

In 2009, the state boasted 543 organic farms, with 20% of its dairy farms and 23% of its vegetable farms included in that number. By 2016, Vermont’s 134,000 certified organic acres accounted for 11% of its total 1.25 million farm acres.

A growing part of Vermont’s economy is the manufacture and sale of artisan foods and novelty items, trading in part upon the Vermont brand, which the state manages and defends. These specialty exports include Cabot Cheese, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, as well as several microbreweries and ginseng growers.

Like the other 49 states in the United States, business owners in Vermont can take advantage
of the highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research or R&D with the potential for commercialization.

In addition to national funding, the state of Vermont offers local businesses an economic incentive for business recruitment, growth, and expansion. The Vermont Employment Growth Initiative (VEGI) provides a cash payment to businesses that have been authorized to earn the incentive and go on to meet performance requirements.

Strategic advantage

Boasting a unique combination of high economic growth, an engaged community and a strong education system, Vermont is an ideal place for international companies to do business. Located in the heart of New England, the state offers a strategic advantage to companies doing business with Montreal, Boston, and New York City.

Canada, the United Kingdom, and France are just a few of the countries investing in Vermont. Foreign associates account for over 12,000 jobs in the state, with this number continuing to grow as more companies discover why Vermont is the state to invest in.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and economies have had a particularly tough year, and Vermont is no exception. However, as of June 14th 2021, there are no longer any restrictions or requirements for businesses to follow. Vermont’s high vaccination rates mean the vast majority are protected from the virus and keep it from spreading to others.

This means that once again, as it has always been, Vermont is a great place to grow a business. Whether it is a business relocating from another state or wishing to build its beginnings in Vermont, there is a plethora of available market opportunities.

The Vermont Department of Economic Development (DED) is staffed with professionals ready and willing to assist new and expanding companies, working in conjunction with Regional Development Corporations (RDCs) and other strategic partners that together can cater for all business relocation and expansion needs.

Part of the DED’s role is to counsel businesses about the various resources that are available to facilitate employee training, workforce, market expansion, facilities growth, and relocation, as well as coordinating various available programs while collecting commentary from business leaders and reporting it to state leadership.

In addition to being consistently rated among the top three states in the nation for quality of life, health, safety, and education, more than anything, Vermont cultivates innovation. From major corporate headquarters to small companies with a global reach, Vermont’s economy is diverse, full of innovation and propelled by a world-class workforce.

Vermont: Our cities and towns

Montpelier

Stretching just under 160 miles in length between New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and 90 miles wide to the north at the Canadian border, quaint little Vermont is the second smallest state in the U.S., and has the nation’s smallest state capital in Montpelier, home to just over 1% of Vermonters.

Recording a population of 7,248 in 2020, Montpelier’s numbers have been declining for a decade, with its population reduced from 7,855 in 2010. Despite these low numbers however, the daytime population grows to approximately 21,000 people, with many people in surrounding areas commuting to the city limits for work.

Despite not even filling a spot in the top five biggest cities in the state, Montpelier represents the very best of Vermont. The city’s bustling business district is home to plenty of independently-owned shops that offer books, recordings, clothing, fine crafts and pastries, as well as great dining in an array of restaurants, cafes and delis.

Montpelier is the largest urban historic district in Vermont. Home to local theatre, live music and The Savoy arts cinema, it has been recognized as one of the 100 Best Small Arts Towns in the U.S. The impeccably restored Vermont Statehouse is one of the oldest and best preserved in the country, and is a source of immense pride for local residents.

Since the city’s establishment as capital in 1805, the primary business in Montpelier has been government. By the mid-19th century there was a growth in life and fire insurance. Montpelier is home to the New England Culinary Institute, the annual Green Mountain Film Festival, and the headquarters of several insurance companies.

The average household income in Montpelier is $85,017 per annum, and it has a poverty rate of 7.46%. The median rental costs in recent years has been $1,021 per month, and the median house value is $252,600. People living in Montpelier have a median age of 45 years, 42.8 years for males, and 47.5 years for females.

Burlington

The most well-known city in Vermont is by far its biggest. With a population of 43,063, the northern city of Burlington dwarfs its biggest rival in size, nearby Essex, by almost 100%. Despite its runaway lead at the top of Vermont’s rankings, Burlington is in fact the smallest city population-wise to also be the most-populous city in its state.

Unlike the state capital, Burlington’s population is growing, currently at a rate of 0.28% annually, having been recorded at 42,417 in the census of 2010. It’s current population is the highest the city has ever recorded. Spanning over 15 miles, the city has a population density of 4,178 people per square mile.

Vibrant, welcoming, and innovative, Burlington is a small, friendly city that consistently earns national awards. Home to a thriving arts scene, museums and educational opportunities, fantastic shopping, three colleges and a university, as well as a full range of four-season outdoor pursuits, Burlington has a lot to offer for residents and tourists alike.

Surrounded by historic buildings, the Church Street Marketplace hosts specialty shops and national retailers, restaurants and cultural venues, with outdoor cafes, street vendors, and entertainers keeping the city bustling into the night. Festivals are held year round, with events like the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival attracting visitors from throughout the northeast.

A short walk from Church Street is nearby Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers ferry crossings, excursion boats, and a 12.5-mile walking and bike path that connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry in summer. Bicycles, rollerblades, kayaks, and sailboats are all available for rent, and there are spectacular views across the lake.

The average household income in Burlington is $71,718 per annum, and it has a relatively high poverty rate of 26.42%. The median rental costs in recent years come to $1,213 per month, and the median house value is $284,500. Residents of Burlington have a median age of 26.8 years, 26.4 years for males, and 27.3 years for females.

Essex

Roughly 7 miles east of Burlington is the town of Essex, the second most populous area in the state, home to almost 21.5k people. In 2019, the median income of Essex households was $84,588, with just 5.2% of families living in poverty.

Job growth over the last year in Essex has been positive, with an increase of 0.6% and an average salary in the city of $73,530. The unemployment rate is well below the U.S. average of 6%, currently sitting at 2.4%.

In the southwestern part of the town of Essex is the village of Essex Junction, home to the state of Vermont’s busiest Amtrak station and its largest private employer, GlobalFoundries. The village was formed in 1892 to provide the villagers with services that the rest of the town didn’t want and were not prepared to pay for, such as sidewalks, water, and sewers.

After a 2006 a vote the town and village were merged temporarily. The merger was overthrown by a re-vote the following year, thereby preventing a new Town of Essex Junction from replacing the current Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction.

Essex is bordered by the Winooski River, with Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump in the background. The town is also home to The Harriet Farnsworth Powell Museum, housed in a former two-room schoolhouse, and displaying a collection of costumes, school items, and local memorabilia.

South Burlington

The third most populated area in Vermont, and its second largest city, is the city of South Burlington, with a population of 19,761. Growing at a rate of 0.64% annually, its population has increased impressively from 17,904 in 2010. Spanning more than 30 miles, South Burlington has a population density of 1,198 people per square mile.

The average household income in South Burlington is $95,248 with a poverty rate of 6.63%. The median rental cost in recent years is $1,401 per month, and the median house value is $307,500. Those living in South Burlington have a median age of 41.7 years, 38.9 years for males, and 43.6 years for females.

The economy in South Burlington is largely service-based, with 191 businesses in retail trade, 131 establishments in health care and assistance, and 116 in professional, scientific, and technical service industries. In 2015, South Burlington was first in the state for gross retail and use sales, making over $1.8bn.

Major employers in South Burlington include the Vermont National Guard, GE Healthcare, Ben & Jerry’s, Fairport Communications, Lane Press, and Halyard Brewing Co. The city boasts both Vermont’s largest mall, the University Mall, and its largest airport, Burlington International, and is home to CommutAir, a regional airline headquartered by the airport.

The city’s biggest modern change is the current City Center Initiative, a proposal to create a walkable downtown, in which the public is investing in infrastructure to support gathering spaces, mobility and economic vitality. The over 300-acre area targeted to be developed and redeveloped is zoned for mixed-use including residential, commercial, and cultural spaces.

The main components under design or construction by the city are a city hall, senior center and public library, streets, and parks. Two main streets, Market Street and Garden Street, will be constructed or reconstructed and fitted with bicycle and walking facilities, and lined with trees.

Colchester

Directly north of Burlington, on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain and to the west of the Green Mountains, is Colchester, the 4th most populated area in Vermont, and the second-most populated town after Essex. Home to 17,303 people, Colchester recorded a median household income of $71,090 in 2019.

Colchester is a unique combination of rural and suburban environments, with easy access to the lake, mountains, the city of Burlington, and even Canada. Popular recreational activities include biking and water sports. The town’s Bayside Activity Center is primarily used for recreation programs, providing access to Bayside Beach and the Bayside Park amenities.

Colchester is home to the Vermont National Guard, as well as Saint Michael’s College and the Vermont campuses of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Southern New Hampshire University. The top industries in the city are education, medical and manufacturing.

Colchester has received plenty of accolades in the past. In 2015, it was ranked number 100 on Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 Best Places to Live, and number 40 on Launch a Business and Money Magazine’s list of 50 Best Places to Live. Two years later, Money Magazine ranked the city number 86 in the top 100 places to live in America.

Vermont’s authentic downtowns and villages are widely recognized as the centerpiece of community life in the state, providing residents and visitors alike with architecture of historical significance as well as memorable shopping and dining experiences.

In these vibrant places, of which 23 have been given special recognition by the state, one can discover locally-owned retail businesses displaying everything from hardware to specialty goods, fine restaurants serving fresh, local food and craft libations that have attracted international accolades.

Vermont: Tourism & attractions

Tucked into the north-eastern US region of New England, with thousands of acres of Green Mountain terrain running through it, Vermont is known for its primarily forested natural landscape, as well as being home to more than a hundred 19th-century covered wooden bridges, and a major producer of maple syrup.

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the state, which receives over 13 million visitors each year and around $3bn in annual spending on lodging, food and drink, goods and services. The busiest time of year is the summer, when more than 5 million people arrive to enjoy Vermont’s wide-open spaces and diverse attractions.

Tourism is not reserved merely for summer however, and Vermont is visited year round, with world-renowned fall foliage enticing a flock of visitors to state byways every year to enjoy a spectacular change of seasons. In winter, Vermont’s world-class ski resorts make it the most popular spot in the north-east for skiing and riding.

One of the best places to visit is the northern town of Stowe. Located at the foot of 4,395 foot high Mt. Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state, and boasting a covered bridge, white-spired church, weathered barns, and ski trails down the mountainside, Stowe is a picture postcard image of Vermont.

Deep in the heart of the state’s snow belt, Stowe personifies the glory days of Vermont’s early ski industry. The heritage of the industry is on show in nearby Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, which has been dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the history of skiing and riding in Vermont since 1988.

Stowe Mountain Resort is still one of New England’s premier ski destinations, and the gondola that carries skiers in the winter takes sightseers to the summit for more views in the summer and fall.

With plenty to offer beyond skiing, Stowe has shops and boutiques, art galleries, dining, and lodging of all sorts available. The walk along the 5.3 mile Stowe Recreation Path, a paved multi-use route through meadows and woods alongside the river, provides exquisite views of Mt. Mansfield.

Beyond the resort, the road narrows to snake through Smugglers’ Notch, one of Vermont’s most engaging natural attractions. The road through this pass between Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak is so tight and narrow as it winds upward that at some curves only a single car can pass through the openings between giant boulders.

A short drive south down Route 89 is the state capital, Montpelier. Vibrant, engaged and neighborly, Downtown Montpelier is one of 23 designated historic downtowns, where visitors and residents find the distinctive local businesses, historic buildings, and rich cultural and social activities that form the state’s special sense of community.

In the center of the city, The Vermont Historical Society explores the state’s rich heritage, with the purpose of reaching a broad audience through outstanding collections, state-wide outreach, and dynamic programming, believing that an understanding of the past changes lives and builds better communities.

After the capital, Vermont’s most-populated city, Burlington, is another ‘must visit’ part of the state. In the heart of downtown Burlington, the marketplace in Church Street is a four-block long traffic-free space where visitors can find public events and lively street life, even in Vermont’s cold winters.

Along with the festivals scheduled throughout the year, Church Street is home to an abundance of sidewalk cafes, benches, and public artworks, and buildings filled with shops, restaurants, and boutiques.

Several blocks south, in Burlington’s vibrant south end neighborhood, is the renowned Lake Champlain Chocolates’ flagship store, nestled near the shores of Lake Champlain and Burlington’s renowned bike path. Located here for over 38 years, this Vermont family company creates premium chocolate that is truly unforgettable.

Thirty miles east of Burlington, the little town of Waterbury is home to another of Vermont’s most iconic brands. Unquestionably the most popular tourist attraction for children, the Ben & Jerry’s factory offers a 30-minute guided tour of the factory, giving visitors the chance to watch workers as they make and package ice cream.

Summer in Vermont sees the arrival of fair season, and there are few more well-known than the historic Champlain Valley fair in Essex. The first Fair opened as the Essex Fair in the 1910s, and grew so quickly over the first few years that a committee was formed with the intent of turning it into a ‘true county fair’ in 1921.

Today the fair is marketed by promoters as the ‘ten best days of summer’ and offers fun for the whole family, featuring a garden center, animal exhibits, vendors of both hard and soft goods, and a selection of delicious and exciting fair food stands.

South of Burlington, on the shores of Lake Champlain, is the suburb of Shelburne, home of a well-known farm, the Shelburne Orchards, and the Shelburne Museum, one of the nation’s most diverse museums of art, design and Americana.

Extending for 120 miles between Vermont and New York, with its northern tip in Canada, Lake Champlain lies mostly in Vermont, and draws visitors for its recreation, wildlife, and historical attractions. Much of the lake’s shoreline is undeveloped, a haven for wildlife and a playground for canoeists, kayakers, and sailors.

According to Samuel de Champlain, for whom the lake is named, a 20-foot serpent-like creature swims in the lake. His was the first, but certainly not the last, reported sighting of the creature now known as ‘Champy.’

North of Burlington is the town of Colchester, located on the shores of stunning Mallet’s Bay, where visitors can find the Island Line Trail or Colchester Causeway, a 14-mile rail trail located in northwest Vermont. It comprises the Burlington Bike Path, Colchester Park and the Allen Point Access Area.

In the north-east of the state, the small town of Danville is home to New England’s largest maze, the Great Vermont Corn Maze, a unique attraction with a maze covering 24 acres and constituting more than 2 hours of hiking, with miles of dirt trails lined with walls of corn.

Along Route 4 on the eastern state border is the town of Hartford and Quechee State Park, home to the Quechee Gorge. Vermont’s deepest gorge, Quechee was formed by glaciers about 13,000 years ago, and has continued to deepen by the constant action of the Ottauquechee River, flowing 165 feet below.

A trail leads through the woods beside the rim to the bottom of the gorge, where you can see the lower part of it from water level. Close to the gorge, also on Route 4, is the excellent Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, a nature center where injured raptor birds are rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

The institute’s new Forest Canopy Walk is fun for people of all ages and levels of ability, gaining elevation without stairs by following the land’s natural slop toward the Ottauquechee River. The Walk has a tree house, giant spider web 43 feet above the forest floor, educational interpretation, and local artwork.

Less than 20 miles south down the Connecticut River is the town of Windsor, where visitors can find the American Precision Museum, which combines the atmosphere of an original 19th century factory building with a world-class collection of historic machines.

The Museum is located in the Robbins & Lawrence Armory, a National Historic Landmark. In 1846, Samuel Robbins, Nicanor Kendall, and Richard Lawrence won a government contract for 10,000 rifles, and constructed this four-story brick building beside Mill Brook.

The southern town of Manchester has become a popular tourist destination over recent years. One of its prime locations is the Lincoln family home at Hildene, which represents a fine example of homes built as retreats for the families of wealthy magnates.

Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the 16th US president, first visited Manchester shortly before his father’s assassination, and later returned to build the Georgian Revival Hildene as his country estate. The home is furnished with a number of pieces from the Lincoln family, including the President’s famous stovepipe hat.

Further south still, at the very lowest tip of the state, is historic Bennington, home to the Bennington Battle Monument, a 306-foot-high obelisk, visible for miles around, that commemorates the 1777 battle fought about five miles west of Bennington during the Revolutionary War, which turned the tide against the British.

Regardless of the time of the visit, Vermont has attractions and destinations in spades in all four seasons, and no matter the weather, there’s always something to do for couples, groups or the whole family.

Trump: The influencer President

President Donald Trump-Executive-America

In 2016 I wrote an article about how then candidate Donald Trump had used the influence and reach of social media to bypass the media and create a movement of followers online and in the community. Since then President Trump has applied his social media acumen to foreign policy with shocking results. So what precedent has Trump set for the next generation of leaders?

On January 2017 the world witnessed the swearing-in of a billionaire real-estate mogul and reality TV star as President of the United States of America. Trump was the first President in the history of the United States to have neither served in the military or held political office.

Love him or loathe him, Donald Trump has had an enormous influence on the political and media landscape by utterly devastating the status quo. 

Pundits that derided Trump as a ‘celebrity president’ had failed to see the almost decade-long strategy he and his team implemented to grow his online following that propelled him into the political stratosphere. Take for example the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), a popular event for Republican presidential hopefuls held every year. With the exception of 2016, Trump has addressed the CPAC faithful every year since 2011, finetuning his messaging and growing his following among Republicans. It’s important to understand that it was during his first 2011 CPAC address that Trump first road-tested a version of the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan to rapturous applause from the audience. Less than five years later he’d use that same slogan to galvanise the Republican base and take the White House.

Since his first CPAC appearance, Trump, knowingly or unknowingly, has disseminated his key campaign messages by adopting the same social media playbook that many young so-called ‘social media influencers’ have used to build enormous followings. Those who can remember the early days of YouTube will remember how young, relatively inexperienced ‘YouTubers’ were able to use their social media platforms to directly engage their followers in ways that hadn’t been seen before – growing their influence and reach among many young people to such an extent that their fame began to rival some of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars.

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Donald Trump has had an enormous influence on the political and media landscape

By adapting this raw and direct method of engagement, Trump was able to completely flip the old, out-dated media business model on its head. Political pundits and opponents were left scrambling to adjust to this new form of direct messaging. Many of Trump’s GOP primary foes were still caught in the past. They were utilizing cookie cutter campaigns which bogged them down with the same romanticism of ‘West Wing’ style presidential campaigning that the public had come to view as manufactured and fake.

Trump on the other hand opted to use Twitter and phone-in media appearances on the morning shows to get his message out. Long-winded press statements were replaced by short, sharp and often grammatically incorrect tweets that cut to the point. Trump was communicating in the same way many Americans had become accustomed to in their day-to-day lives.

Before Trump, Barack Obama was hailed by the press as the first social media president. But was that true? Obama’s team were the primary drivers behind his digital strategy. Each Tweet or Facebook post was carefully crafted and vetted to ensure no particular electoral demographic was offended. This left Obama’s tweets sterile and unengaging. After becoming President, Obama rarely tweeted or posted directly to social media. Unless it was campaign season, most Americans could only hear from the President through mainstream media outlets or via scripted YouTube videos encouraging them to sign-up for a healthcare plan. Direct tweets from Obama became so infrequent that engagement via the @BarackObama and official @POTUS Twitter accounts fell off a cliff. Now compare that to the tweets coming from the aptly named @RealDonaldTrump account. For better or worse, I doubt anyone would argue those tweets aren’t authentic or real.

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Trump was the first President in the history of the United States to have neither served in the military or held political office

You can certainly debate the substance of the online messaging coming from Trump, but you cannot ignore that fact that he has set a new standard for leaders to directly engage with their followers. From Hollywood to Wall Street and Washington D.C., leaders are waking up to the new notion of ‘digital influencers’. Picking up where Trump left off, movie stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Will Smith and Kevin Hart have invested heavily in growing their online influence. Smith for instance has dived headfirst into social media by launching his own YouTube series to compete with the new breed of young internet influencers. To-date he has amassed over 6.6 million followers on YouTube alone. In the world of business, titans like Elon Musk and Gary Vaynerchuk have been able to leverage their own online influence to outpace their competitors and establish trust in the market.

We are now witnessing the rise of the political and industry influencer: individuals who use social media to build an audience of followers capable of being mobilised online and in the community to achieve an objective. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily endorsing the use of Twitter to conduct foreign policy. Trump’s untested foreign policy social media tactics are certainly a high-wire act with enormous consequences. However, ignoring the substance, the strategy he is implementing is sound. In today’s world of influencers, it isn’t hard to imagine an Oprah Winfrey or even Will Smith leveraging their online influence to leapfrog establishment politicians in order to run for high office.

Matt Versi is a communications and campaign advocacy consultant. Matt has worked across both the government and private sector advising political leaders, organizations and industry leaders on their communications and digital strategies, personal branding and content creation capabilities. Find out more by visiting impaq.media.

Destination Quebec City: Canada’s Eastern Wonder

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Situated deep in the heart of French Canada, Québec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. The city is the capital of Québec, the second most populous of the thirteen provinces and territories that make up Canada. It is also the second largest city in the province after Montreal, and the eleventh largest in the country. 

The economy in Québec City is going through something of a boom, with the city currently experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in decades. Such a thriving economy helps create exciting opportunities for businesses, key industries and entrepreneurship. The city’s prosperity helps contribute to a diversified economy throughout the province.

Québec City is strategically located in Eastern North America, making it an excellent location for business events and conferences. Nearby Jean Lesage International Airport, the eleventh-busiest in the country, is a world-class facility meeting the very highest industry standards, and providing an excellent experience for passengers.

Conveniently located in Old Québec, the Québec City Convention Centre is central in driving the city’s economic activity, welcoming over 200,000 national and international visitors for conferences and events each year. In 2006, the International Association of Congress Centres named it the Best Convention Centre in the World.

When visiting the city, Old Québec is the perfect place to kick off the trip. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this walled city on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river is filled with quaint, winding streets, towering fortresses and lavish castles, as well as a selection of charming cafés and antique shops.

Historic attractions such as the Citadel make the area a fascinating place to spend a few hours. The largest British-built fortress in North America, the Citadel took thirty years to construct and has been active since 1850. Equally impressive is the breathtaking Notre-Dame Basilica, one of the oldest cathedrals in North America and a favourite of visitors to the city.

Perhaps the best way to get started exploring the city is to take part in a walking tour with Tours Voir Québec, a dynamic and attentive tour company that has been welcoming tourists from across the world since 2004. Choose from a variety of fascinating tours including the Grand Tour, the Food Tour, and a river cruise around the city.

A visit to French Canada just wouldn’t be the same without experiencing the region’s love for ice hockey. The Québec Remparts team plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and can be watched at the impressive Videotron Centre near the city’s Lairet area, the seventh-largest indoor arena in Canada.

Equally important to sample is the region’s cuisine. If you go to Québec and don’t experience the uniquely French Canadian dish of poutine (fries, gravy and cheese), then you’ve certainly missed a trick. In Québec City, the traditional dish is tourtière, a meat pie best experienced at Aux Anciens Canadiens, a restaurant specialising in old-fashioned Quebecois cuisine.

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Hiver Auberge Saint Antoine

Our accommodation provider of choice when staying in Québec City is Auberge Saint-Antoine, providing farm-to-fork dining and luxury accommodation in the heart of historic Old Québec. Find out more at www.saint-antoine.com.

How General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) is affecting email marketing

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Marketing managers across the globe have been losing sleep since the introduction of the EU GDPR. But what is it, and how does it affect email marketing?

Ever since the European Union rolled out its email spam laws in May 2018, the General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) has been a focal point for businesses worldwide. The introduction has also created a plethora of dilemmas for many organisations: does their business have to comply? If so, how? Will compliance affect customer acquisition and retention?

Companies will have had to work tirelessly to ensure the transition to GDPR compliance was as smooth as possible, while also affecting the way their business is conducted within the European Union. Naturally, companies relying heavily on email marketing will be especially affected.

Until recently, email marketing was a simple-to-implement yet highly effective marketing strategy. Now that the GDPR has been rolled out, it’s an area requiring much more consideration.

How does the GDPR impact email marketing today?

While personal data protection laws were already in place, the EU has effectively updated these laws to further protect consumers from unwanted digital junk mail.

The overall reach of the GDPR is perhaps the most significant change to the previous laws. It’s not just EU-based organisations that the new laws apply to, but any company storing or processing personal data of any European citizen.

So, what constitutes personal data? The GDPR states a name, photograph, IP address, medical information, or indeed anything related to an individual is considered personal data. As registering for an email account often requires divulging a wealth of personal information, an email address is a prime example of the type of personal data the GDPR aims to protect.

How many emails are being circulated globally?

In March 2018, the Radicati Group estimated the number of active email accounts worldwide to be 3.8 billion, with over 281 billion emails sent daily. According to the research organisation’s calculations, the number of daily emails will rise to 333 billion within the next four years.

Just as most households regularly receive unwanted junk mail through the post, so too do our electronic inboxes. Statista.com state that 60% of emails sent in September 2017 were spam. Although anyone who occasionally checks their spam folder could testify to this statistic, this is a significant decrease from recent years. Statista found that 71% of emails received in April 2014 were caught by spam filters – meaning almost three-quarters of emails were unsolicited digital junk mail.

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That’s a lot of emails – and exactly the reason GDPR regulators have updated their spam laws. Since the update, businesses will now require the consent of their recipients or other legal means to send marketing emails.

The new rules now stipulate that even an email sent to a specified group of recipients from a personal account is considered email marketing.

With such stringent rules in place, it’s important for all business owners to understand how they may be affected. To help your business comply with the new GDPR rules, here are some of the processes you will need to implement.

1. Acquiring permission from previous subscribers

The most often asked question regarding new GDPR laws is whether subscribers obtained prior to 25th May 2018 can still be contacted.

The answer is twofold. If your subscribers chose to opt-in to your list, then you may continue to send email correspondence. However, if your subscribers were automatically opted in – through a purchased list, a pre-checked box, or other means – then you must obtain consent again.

Thankfully, regaining consent is as simple as asking your subscribers. In fact, seeking permission then storing a record is the basis of the GDPR. Consider running a ‘re-permission’ campaign to obtain permission from subscribers.

2. Obtaining new subscribers and email permissions

Most marketers assume that prospects who have submitted their email address can be added to a marketing campaign list. While this may have been common practice prior to 25th May, it is no longer allowed.

You cannot pre-tick a box to acquire an email address, nor can you simply hide your communication policy somewhere in your privacy statement. Since the new regulations came into force, prospects must now explicitly agree to receive marketing emails or newsletters from you.

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It’s up to you to ensure you’re GDPR-compliant

Perhaps due to its convenience and relatively low cost, email remains the marketing medium of choice for Business-to-Business companies. However, you must ensure you and your organisation comply with the GDPR rules or face a hefty fine for each breach of protocol.

Despite the recently updated regulations, email marketing is here to stay. While the GDPR may appear complex, there are steps you can take to make sure your email marketing campaigns comply with the new regulations:

  • Ensure marketing emails are only sent to subscribers who have explicitly chosen to opt-in
  • Direct a re-permission campaign to existing subscribers to regain their consent
  • Refrain from using automatic decision-making methods using your subscriber’s data
  • Make it easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe from your email lists
  • Provide a method for subscribers to manage their content options

It’s important to remember that the GDPR is about managing and providing content to people who explicitly choose to receive correspondence from you. This will almost certainly mean losing a portion of your subscribers who don’t open and read your emails – although, in marketing terms, these are the people you should be removing from your lists anyway. It’s the people that explicitly opt-in that you should be focusing on, to ensure your email marketing campaigns are productive.

While these new regulations may appear intimidating, complying to these rules will lead to improved open rates and higher overall revenue. Rather than being fearful of ensuring GDPR compliance, look forward to the resulting improvement in your email campaigns.

Senka Pupacic is the founder of Top 10 SEO: www.top10insydney.com.au.

Dr Richard Hames: The expanded now

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A world-renowned entrepreneur, strategic futurist, mentor and author, Richard Hames is amongst the world’s most influential thinkers, described by Forbes Asia as one of the smartest people on the planet. Dr Hames has successfully predicted a number of global events such as the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, and the Arab Spring. Dr Hames spoke recently with Executive America’s publisher Jesse Landry for the Landry.Audio podcast.

“There are a number of different kinds of futurist,” Dr Hames explains. “There are pop futurists, who look at patterns and trends, and try and predict what’s going to happen next year, or the year after. [Then] there are the academic futurists, who try to invent tools and methods for being better able to anticipate the future.”

Dr Hames’ profession falls into a third category, the strategic futurist. These futurists study deeper global patterns and trends across society, establishing how these underlying patterns create a different kind of society and attempting to make sense of these changes.

“What we do these days is to use AI to take a question – or a theme, a topic, an industry, something that’s in a state of change at the moment – and we ask the question of a propriety algorithm, who then scans hundreds of millions of documents that are available online to try and answer those questions or bring us information that’s relevant.”

The result is an information pack that provides the futurist with a starting point. That pack is sent out to around a hundred people, taken from a pool of nearly 3,000 trusted global sources, and bringing together feedback from a variety of industries and viewpoints.

“[These people] have a different lens on that kind of information. When we get that back, we then sort that into scenarios, we create different stories around different contexts, and input different kinds of possibilities. Then, we start making predictions about what the future could hold in each of those environments.”

This process allows the futurist to present a set of probabilities and possibilities, narrowed down to specific events or patterns that are likely to be influential. The problem remains, however, that experts and strategists tend to put little stock in these predictions.

“Conventionally, futurists haven’t been taken too seriously. Foresight isn’t regularly included in strategic planning. People find it difficult to put their minds around what might happen tomorrow, when all of their training and the emphasis they have to focus on is on today – it’s very myopic, very short term thinking.”

The result is that long term thinking in most walks of life is not generally undertaken with any degree of accuracy or quality. The lag in time that futurists deal with, sometimes a decade or a number of decades into the future, is not attended to sufficiently in many industries or by many strategic planners.

“From a quantum science point of view, there is no such thing as future. It’s really all now. What I’m trying to do is pull the deep future and the deep past into what I call the expanded now, where we can pretend to freeze time, so that we get a more expansive view of patterns and trends, and a deeper understanding of how society works and what probabilities therefore exist when those patterns interact in particular ways.”

One of Dr Hames’ most well-known predictions was the correct forecast of the GFC in 2008. This came about when he was asked to speak on the future of the global economy at a luncheon for Wall Street bankers in the United States. Research done in the lead up to this talk began to raise some concerns.”

“We started to identify a number of things. Then we started to connect the dots, and saw that the potential for collapse of the global economy hinged on just a few factors. So we put a slide together and brought those things to the attention of my audience in New York, and that went on the public record. That was about 3 years before Lehman Brothers went under.”

Since then, Dr Hames has continued to make bold and accurate predictions that have caught the attention of the watching world, including Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. There’s no denying there is an element of the macabre in many of these predictions, as Dr Hames suggests with his final remarks.

“We have noted the rise in pandemics, and the likelihood of pandemics,” he concludes. “The experts in the field are saying exactly the same as the experts in the field of warfare, that sooner or later a pandemic, like a nuclear accident, is absolutely likely. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter a when.”

Are you cut out to be a board director? Ask yourself these 7 questions

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There are millions of board directors in the world. Every company and organization has them. Let’s be honest, many of them deserve their seat at the table. They bring huge value. Unfortunately, many do not.

“Just because you think you can be a director, doesn’t mean you should.”

Before getting started on a boardroom career, there is one question that every potential director needs to ask themselves: “Am I director material?”

There is no simple way of telling whether you will cut it, but there are certain attributes and skills that those who make a successful go at it tend to have in common. To help you answer this simple, yet direct, question, I’ve broken the it down into seven questions.

Please don’t think you must tick every box to make it as a board director. In fact, you don’t even have to tick any boxes. There is not one way to measure your readiness but, if you are leaning towards the “correct” answers on most of the questions below, you’re going to be at an advantage when it comes to being an effective director. Good luck!

Question 1: Do you prefer to work alone or with others?

If you answered the latter, then congratulations, the boardroom could be for you. There is a bit of solo work in being a director (for example, your meeting preparation) but most of it is working as a team. Oh, and don’t expect the team environment to be plain sailing all the time. Hopefully, they’ll bring a diverse set of views and skills and this could lead to some healthy debates. To quote management expert and author Ken Blanchard: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Question 2: Do you have time to spare?

I haven’t met many who say they are not “busy”. I’ll admit to using the word. What impresses me are those that aren’t busy, or are trying not to be. This might sound harsh, but busy isn’t a badge of honour.

As a director your time commitment is not just board meetings. Your time includes sub-committees, planning days, networking events, stakeholder representation, training and building relationships.

Every board is different but assume, for a non-executive role, between 5-50 hours per month, with most boards needing an average commitment of 10-20 hours per month. If this is something you can spare, you are ready.

Question 3: Do you like to learn?

True, we are starting to see more and more young board directors but the majority are still senior. They could be forgiven for thinking that they know everything they need to know. Not anymore! We live in non-linear and dynamic times with increasing pressures from many more quarters. As a board director you cannot remain static. Yes, you’ll have skills that you bring to the table and you might even be top of your game. But, you also need to learn new skills to round out your role.

This isn’t just financial skills. Increasingly you need to be across customer-centric design and be up to date on the latest technology impacting your company (and soon your job). What are the latest marketing or HR trends? This makes it easier for you to ask good questions, provide the right level of support and remain relevant.

Question 4: Are you used to getting your own way?

Yes? Then get out of here. The boardroom is not the place for dictators. It is the place for influencers but as part of a team, you’ll often need to put your ego to one side and be open to having your mind changed, or to go with a majority view. There are too many egos in boardrooms, we don’t need anymore.

Question 5: Do difficult decisions impact you?

As a director, the buck stops with you. You must be willing to make tough choices and make decisions.

However, it is a bit of a trick question. If you think no is the best answer, then you perhaps do not care enough to be a director. If it’s yes, then perhaps you don’t have the steel to make the tough choices you’ll have to make. Boards often have to way up competing priorities and stakeholders. You cannot please everyone all the time when “acting in the best interests of the company”.

The ideal answer is “Yes, they impact me, but not for long”. This means you have a nice balance of mental toughness and empathy to handle the burdens of being a director and contributing to decisions that will affect many people. Balance is key. Try not to dwell on decisions, you’ll probably not have the time.

Question 6: Do you prefer to listen or talk?

This is a bit of a trick question. Listening is important as a director. Listening to management and their needs, listening to the views of your fellow directors, listening to the needs of your stakeholders (which extend beyond owners to your staff, customers and community). Yes, listening and analyzing what you hear is vital. But, so is talking. Having a view, when it’s qualified, is your job. Asking the right questions at the right time. Being considered, helpful, challenging yet supportive is the role of a director. Can you “communicate with two ears and one mouth”?

Question 7: Do you take pleasure from helping others?

Simple answer please. Yes! Being a board director is all about being in service to others. You’ll give your time and skills, often for no financial reward. The reward is the service.

Remember though, it’s not just others that gain from you being a director. You do too. You’ll learn new skills that will make you a better person, better employee, better director. You’ll meet new and interesting people and who knows where that will lead. You might get paid but if you don’t you’ll probably earn more elsewhere because of these new skills and relationships.

How did you do? As stated at the start there is no right and wrong way to be a director. There are rules that govern the job. There are also expectations that will vary from board to board.

Paul Smith is the Co-founder & CEO of Future Directors Institute, www.futuredirectors.com.au.

Peter Robinson: Writing for Reagan

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A research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Peter Robinson spent six years working in the White House in the 1980s as speechwriter for both George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. He was the man behind Reagan’s famous Berlin Wall speech, one of the most memorable in modern politics. In his interview show, Uncommon Knowledge, he has had the opportunity to speak with some of the most interesting people on the planet. Mr Robinson chatted recently with Executive America’s publisher Jesse Landry for the Landry.Audio podcast to discuss his time on the staff of the President of the United States.

“It’s not as if speech writing for a president is a civil service job,” Mr Robinson says, discussing the way he found himself with a position in the White House, “for which you train and go through regular entrance examinations and so forth. I got in on a fluke, and that is the way politics works.”

After graduating from Dartmouth and spending two years in the UK at Oxford, Mr Robinson needed a job. After writing to people he thought might be able to help him, he received a reply from journalist William F. Buckley Jr., who put him in contact with his son Christopher, the Vice President’s speechwriter.

“I presented myself to Christopher Buckley, in the summer of 1982. Totally unbeknownst to me, Christopher had put in his notice and was planning to leave in just two weeks, and his replacement, who had been lined up for some time, had just fallen through. So the Vice President’s office needed a speechwriter in a hurry, and I walked in the door.”

Mr Robinson was just twenty-five years old when he joined the White House staff, with a background in student journalism, having written on politics at both Dartmouth and Oxford. The Vice President’s office needed somebody with experience of handling professionals, and Mr Robinson fit the bill.

“I worked on [the Vice President’s] staff for a little less than two years, before these openings occurred on the President’s staff. Before the President’s staff hired me, they wanted to test me out for a couple of weeks. So there was a couple of weeks when I was writing for both the Vice President and the President, and that was a lot of work.” 

After getting hired by the President, Mr Robinson took his leave from working for VP George H. W. Bush, who he describes as “one of the nicest men I have ever known,” and began working for President Ronald Reagan. He describes Reagan as a man who, unlike his Vice President, was never satisfied with the status quo.

Mr Robinson remembers Reagan as a complicated man. At times he was genial and warm, attentive to others and determined to put people at ease, especially in the Oval Office. He did this by telling jokes and looking around the room, making everyone feel included. At the same time, there was a noticeable remoteness about the President. 

“I heard from a number of sources who knew him in the old days that he had one very close friend in Hollywood. In my experience, I could see only one person whom I would have considered a friend of Ronald Reagan’s, and that was a man who was briefly the National Security Advisor, Bill Clark.”

It appears Reagan only had two very close friends during his lifetime. It was his marriage to Nancy that represented the tightest relationship of his life, and the two were a self-sufficient unit. Politically, Reagan was aggressive. He thought things through carefully, reading in detail about certain ideologies, and had strong conservative convictions. 

“Reagan was just right for that moment,” he explains. “Reagan pushed, applied all kinds of pressures, on the Soviet Union, and broke it. You could say it tumbled in on itself, but even at that it was at least in large measure because of external pressures that Reagan, helped by Thatcher and others, applied.”

By the time Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, Reagan was already into his second term. After trying unsuccessfully to play the same old game of nuclear cat-and-mouse at a summit in Reykjavik, Gorbachev had to quickly concede that the Soviet Union needed to change.

Until its collapse in December 1991, the Soviet Union was a country formally committed to a worldwide communist revolution, with part of the country’s written documents mandating it to subvert other nations until communism triumphed everywhere. Mr Robinson is happy to see no sign of this attitude in today’s Russia.

When Reagan delivered his speech at the Berlin wall, written by Robinson, in which he used the famous words ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ he was telling the Soviet Union that they could no longer use half measures in their movement towards liberalization, upping the ante for the eventual fall of communism.

“Reagan loved giving speeches,” Mr Robinson says, “that was how he was President. Holding meetings, going around to members of congress – he would do that when his staff asked him to, but to him that was the price you had to pay for the central act of governance, which was moving the American people, explaining yourself to the American people.”

Reagan’s background in acting helped him maintain the highest level of public speaking. He was famous for saying, albeit tongue-in-cheek, that he couldn’t see how anyone could be President without having first been an actor. Mr Robinson remembers that he was a master of the technical aspects of public presentation.

“From the time he talked his way into a job as a radio announcer in his early-twenties, through the rest of his career, he was always addressing himself to ordinary Americans. There was a lot going on in his mind [when making a speech]. He would be smiling and waving and acknowledging the applause at the same time that he was in charge of the technical aspects of what was taking place. He was technically very, very adept.”