Presidential Presents

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Prince Charles’s trip to the District, which included a short visit with President Obama at the White House.

This week Obama was in England returning the favor, and perhaps redeeming himself for some previous missteps in the diplomatic dance of presidential gift-giving.

Obama's second visit with the Queen
The Obamas had a second chance at royal gift-giving (Photo: Chris Jackson/AP)

Obama was criticized for his first gift to the Queen in 2009 – an iPod loaded with music, photos, and video of Her Majesty’s visit to D.C. and Virginia in 2007.

And let’s not even talk about the gift he gave to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown a few months earlier…

This time, his present had much more sentimental and historic significance.

It was a collection of photos and souvenirs from the visit to Washington by the Queen’s parents in 1939. It was the first time a reigning monarch had set foot in the U.S., invited by President Roosevelt on the eve of World War II.

Even Prince Charles must have been pleased with his presidential swag – a collection of historic seeds, plants, and honey from the well-cultivated gardens of Monticello, Mount Vernon, and the White House.  Spot on, considering his interest in gardening and agriculture, and the nature of his recent trip to D.C.

NPR ran an interesting piece on the potential pitfalls of presidential presents, noting that gift exchanges are a two-way street. Offerings from visiting heads of state can cause headaches for the National Archives, whose curators are obliged to keep most of these presents on behalf of the Executive Office.

Luckily, living creatures seem to be outside their mandate. The baby elephant Dzimbo, presented to President Eisenhower in 1959 by the leader of the Congo, was given to the National Zoo. (Unfortunately, Dzimbo met an untimely end in 1976, after a run-in with the much larger African elephant Nancy.)

Eisenhower and Dzimbo
Dzimbo was an appropriate but unwieldy gift for a Republican president. (AP/Byron Rollins)

Historic District definitely approves of President Obama’s most recent royal gift, including the album’s traditional leather binding. And yet, I can’t help but wonder if the Queen was secretly hoping that those photos came saved on a newly released iPad2.

And speaking of iPads, I finally had the opportunity to see Historic District on one. The formatting looks great, and it’s really a fun way to read the blog.

To ­­all of you out there reading this right now on your iPads, I’m royally jealous.

HD on iPad
Historic District as seen on the iPad

5 thoughts on “Presidential Presents

    • Yes, you do! Although ironically, I saved the final iPad screen shot on this blog incorrectly, so it appeared sideways on the iPad and messed up the formatting…still learning!

  1. I just found your article, which referenced mine from last May regarding Dzimbo and the National Zoo. Thank you for the reference and for sharing the photograph of the young elephant!

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