Saturday, March 7, 2009

Presidential Gifts

I started this as a little blurb on Facebook, and after a couple of comments, I thought that I would expand on it more.

I know that the budget is tight right now, but surely we can get a decent gift that isn't from Office Depot whenever we are meeting with foreign dignitaries. Not only that, but shouldn't we make sure that we have the right translation. After reading this , I am curious as to what the State Department has been spending all of their money on. Was there nowhere that had a dictionary with the correct spelling? (To give them credit, the two words "overcharge" and "reset" have two letters difference).

Perhaps when we see Rosetta Stone commercials in the future, they won't mention the State Department using their product. Really, was there no one they could ask for what the right word is? I mean, no defectors or past Soviet premieres that are residing in the US?

One other thing with this, are we so amerocentric that we couldn't put the Russian word in Russian? I know that growing up when I was trying to teach myself Russian, I had to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Has Russia since romanized (use the western alphabet) to express their language? (A quick check to some Russian websites - no they were not mail order bride ones - found that they are indeed still using the Cyrillic alphabet). I knew they wouldn't do something like that, Russians have an enormous pride in their country and culture that they wouldn't abandon their language like that.

So I am curious, why the cheesy gift? We have pretty much showed the Russians two things. 1) We are too cheap to buy you a real gift. 2) Plus, we don't care enough to use spell check or even use your language. That led me to another cheesy gift we gave here . Huh? This is suppose to be our best ally. Even Pres Bush gave him a bomber jacket (not something Mr. Brown would wear, but something cool nonetheless) that can sit in a museum someday.

What would be really funny is if we gave these DVDs to PM Brown and they were for the USA region, not the UK/Europe region (different region DVDs do not necessarily play in each others DVD players). From these two examples I would say that Pres. Obama needs to seriously look for a concierge/gift selector (hopefully one who has paid his taxes).

I could do this job. And I would be willing to do it for only $100,000 a year (as long as I don't have to relocate to DC). My assignment would be to select gifts and facilitate the purchase of gifts to world leaders. Some may laugh at this, but gift giving is serious business in some cultures. The last thing we want to do is start a war over a box of See's candies (which I love, but some dignitaries might find that on the lower end of acceptability).

When I was younger I went to NYC with my uncle. He took me in to Tiffany's and Stueben Glass and mentioned that this is where we (the United States of America) buys gifts for world leaders. Yeah, I can see why we would spend our money there. In College Station, TX I went to the George Bush Presidential Library several times. They always had a display of gifts that were given to the president (they all actually belong to the people of the USA, the president doesn't get to keep them). The best were the jewel encrusted gold swords from Mali and other African nations we rarely hear of. Those guys KNOW how to give a good gift.

Can you imagine a meeting in the near future as we sit down with China and they pass across the table to us a 1/10 scale model of the Qin Shi Huang Di's Terra Cotta Army, each one individually hand painted. And in return, we slide a piece of wood from the Pottery Barn that says "Home is Where the Heart Is" (no offense to the Pottery Barn, I have been meaning to get something like this for our kitchen but haven't found the right one yet). Do we expect them to take us seriously after this?

China: "We will not buy anymore of your debt!"

US: "OK, just don't break the potpurri vase from Crabtree & Evelyn."

Surely, in the trillions that Obama is planning on spending, we can allocate a few more dollars to gifts. If not, please let me know that the US is too cheap to do it and I will buy them myself, just so we can keep our reputation.

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