As you are aware, the President took quite a bit of heat last month from British and U.S. media outlets, when it was reported that he gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown a set of American movies on DVD, as the official gift of his state visit. It turned out that the DVDs were not compatible with British DVD players, and worse, that the Prime Minister had a vision problem that would make the gifts even more distasteful.
Gordon Brown gave President Obama a pen holder carved from the timbers of the anti-slave ship HMS Gannet, whose sister ship supplied the wood used to make the Oval Office Resolute desk. The Prime Minister also gave the President a first edition biography of Churchill by Martin Gilbert. Gifts that can only be described as “priceless.”
So, after this hullabaloo, surely Hillary Clinton’s State Department would consult with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on the gifts they would bring Queen Elizabeth II. Surely, they would be very special for such an important world figure who was meeting her eleventh U.S. President at Buckingham Palace. So what did he give her?
He gave her a video iPod complete with photos of her trip to America in 2007 and a songbook signed by Richard Rogers. This is not an April Fool’s Day joke. The President gave the Queen of England an iPod. We are still waiting word on whether he made her a playlist.
Putting aside the fact that this gift very well could’ve been bought at the Duty Free shop at Heathrow Airport, it raises so many other questions. Does the Queen already own an iPod, given they have been widely and cheaply available for nearly a decade? The answer is yes. She bought one in 2005, which was widely reported in the British press. Another question that one wonders is whether or not she would enjoy looking at photos of herself while traveling around London?
But more importantly, what do these symbolic gifts from the Obamas tell us about how they view the world and diplomacy? What signal are they trying to send by shopping for heads of state at Target, Duty Free or the White House gift shop?
So we have started a new contest at the Foundry. Either leave a comment below, on our Facebook page, or twitter us what you would’ve given the Queen of England as a present if you were the President of the United States. The best answer will receive a special present (not an iPod!) courtesy of the Heritage Foundation. Winner will be announced on Friday.