A toddler was the adorable culprit behind a national security breach at the White House this week.
On Tuesday, a little boy crawled between the gaps in the fence on the north side of the White House. His parents watched from the other side of the gate on Pennsylvania Avenue, unable to follow after their son.
When the boy, who was not named, squeezed through the gate and onto the White House lawn, it immediately set off an alarm that alerted the Secret Service. However, officers quickly determined the pint-sized visitor was no threat.
The chief of communications for the Secret Service, Anthony Guglielmi, explained the situation to the media.
“The Secret Service Uniformed Division today encountered a curious young visitor along the White House north fence line who briefly entered White House ground,” Guglielmi said in a statement, CNN reported. “The White House security systems instantly triggered Secret Service officers and the toddler and parents were quickly reunited.”
News of the incident spread quickly on social media, with some joking that it was time to baby-proof the White House gates … and, in fact, this isn’t the first time that a little kid has managed to squeeze between the gaps in the fence. In 2014, the same thing happened when former President Barack Obama was in office. In that incident, the toddler’s daring act led to a delay in Obama’s planned address to the nation.
The White House grounds and the White House itself used to be widely open to the public. This was considered a key part of American democracy: Lawmakers and presidents like Thomas Jefferson wanted every citizen to be free to walk into what was then often referred to as “The People’s House.” The affectionally-named People’s House was meant to be a democratic hub, not an exclusive palace reserved for those who ruled America.
This phrase was first used to refer to the White House back in the 1820s. The Twitter account @WhiteHouseHistory explains below:
In early 1827, Congress was debating appropriations for the President’s House, “to furnish it in a manner suitable for the ends for which it was erected, being not the President’s house, but the People’s House, erected by their order and for their dignity.”
— White House History (@WhiteHouseHstry) June 12, 2019
Due to security concerns, public access to the White House was revoked in the 1940s during World War II. Right now, if you want to visit the White House, you must be part of a tour arranged via a member of Congress.
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