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Tag: diplomacy

State Dinners at the White House

Today’s post comes from the National Archives Office of Presidential Libraries.

King David Kalakaua of Hawaii was the first head of state to be honored with a White House state dinner on December 12, 1874, by President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. In the years that have followed, state dinners have come to signify the utmost respect for visiting heads of state. Each state dinner is a historic event with the power to cement friendships with allies and foster cooperation.

8_GRF_State-Dinner-invitation-1976

Invitation to the state dinner for President Giscard d’Estaing of France, May17, 1976.

Months of meticulous planning go into a state dinner. The guest of honor’s country, culture, and favored preferences are thoroughly researched. The First Lady often chooses the décor and entertainment to highlight a certain aspect of American culture. Together, these considerations are translated into invitations, menus, guest lists, and entertainment. The results can be a form of diplomatic dialogue between the host and guest cultures.

In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford chose “light” as the theme for the state dinner honoring French President Giscard d’Estaing. The theme was inspired by France’s Bicentennial gift to the United States, a sound and light show staged at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Centerpieces were designed for each table using early American lighting items loaned from the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. These included a … [ Read all ]

On display: Siamese-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce

The Siamese-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce is on display from September 20 to October 31, 2013, (new extended display time!) in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Today’s post comes from education and exhibit specialist Michael Hussey.

The start of official diplomacy between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand) was marked by the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1833–the first treaty between the United States and an Asian nation.

The treaty scroll on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building.

The treaty scroll on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building.

In February 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent Edmund Roberts as his emissary to Southeast Asia to negotiate treaties of friendship and commerce with nations in the region, including Thailand—then referred to as Siam. Leaving Boston in March, 1832, aboard the U.S.S. Peacock, Roberts stopped in the Philippines, Macao, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Nearly a year later, Roberts was presented to the King of Thailand. On March 20, 1833, the two sides agreed to a Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Key sections of the agreement stipulated that “There shall be a perpetual Peace between the Magnificent King of Siam and the United States of America.”

Further, American trading vessels would be free to enter Thai ports “with their cargoes . . . and they shall have liberty to sell the same to any … [ Read all ]

The King and (Archives) I

Today’s post comes from Sam Anthony, special assistant to the Archivist of the United States.

When President Obama visited Thailand on Sunday, he brought a piece of the National Archives as a diplomatic gift.

In preparation for the President’s trip to Asia, the Protocol Office of the State Department asked for facsimiles of photographs of Presidents with Rama IX, also known as Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand. The King of Thailand is the longest serving head of state (since 1946) and longest reigning monarch in Thailand’s history.

The staff at the Presidential libraries searched their holdings and discovered that the King has met with six Presidents: Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. He’s also met with one of the First Ladies (Nancy Reagan). The National Archives Digitization Lab staff created high-quality facsimiles from digital scans of the photographs and delivered them to our colleagues at the State Department.

While facsimiles of our records are often taken to heads of state, sometimes the head of state comes to the National Archives. In 1960, King Adulyadej visited the National Archives Building (known as Archives I) and handled a facsimile of an 1833 treaty with Thailand (then Siam).

Pat Steffing, Dr. Grover, and King Adulyadej on July 1, 1960 (ARC 3493259)

In this photograph, National Archives staff member Pat Steffing is … [ Read all ]