Unusual Gifts Given to President Obama and Hilary Clinton by Foreign Leaders

Monday, April 29, 2013
Rug presented to President Obama by Prime Minister Cameron

The gifts bestowed by foreign leaders on President Barack Obama, his family and other federal officials in 2011 reveal that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France loves to give away luggage, British Prime Minister David Cameron has kitschy taste in rugs, and Poland makes some pretty good video games.


All this—and more—can be gleaned from the annual report released last week by the State Department Office of Protocol detailing the many gifts from foreign leaders to executive branch officials. Pursuant to the Constitution, such gifts may be accepted only with Congressional approval, and under federal law, officials may accept most gifts worth less than $335, but must give more valuable gifts to the National Archives or General Services Administration or pay for their market value. In 2011, Obama and his family were given gifts by foreign leaders with a total value of $243,970.96.


Among the more notable entries in 2011 were the following:


President Nicolas Sarkozy, who gave the Obamas more than $41,000 worth of gifts in 2011, presented them with at least nine bags, including a large, black Hermes golf accessory bag worth about $7,750; a black leather “Neo Igor” Louis Vuitton men's business bag with luggage tag attached and embossed with “B.O.” ($2,310); a Hermes orange cotton canvas travel case; a black Hermes golf travel bag with canvas cover and carrying strap; an orange reusable grocery tote bag with a large white dandelion on the side; a Lancel black leather folding toiletry bag; a Lancel black leather “Gra-Valise Petit Voyage” suitcase; a Lancel brown and orange embroidered leather purse; and a Christian Dior black leather clutch purse.


Sarkozy also gave Obama a Lacoste white classic men's polo shirt, a limited-edition “HOPE” fountain pen  and, in a possible nod to the President's on-and-off cigarette habit, a Ligne 8 lighter from S.T. Dupont. 


Prime Minister David Cameron, apparently with a design assist from his wife Samantha, gave Obama a 48” x 70” hanging rug of the Union Jack, decorated with a superimposed eagle, American flags, flowers and a few odd butterflies, made by The Rug Company and enclosed in a canvas bag with teal and orange designs. The Camerons also presented the Obamas with silver Links Sweetie Bracelets and, ever thoughtful, a 13-inch bone-shaped chew toy with the U.K. flag for Bo, the Obama family dog.


Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and her husband gave the Obamas an autographed photo of themselves.  Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and her husband did the same.


On the plus side, Obama also got at least two fine, hand-woven rugs from Afghanistan: one from ambassador Eklil Hakimi that is red with blue trim and white tassels, and another from President Hamid Karzai that is mostly tan, black, brown, and green geometric patterns. 


Perhaps appealing to the President's known admiration for Abraham Lincoln, President Hu Jintao of China gave Obama a four-foot tall bronze statue of the sixteenth president by the artist Yuan Xikun, valued at $9,800.


Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland, sought to impress the President with a homegrown video game titled “Witcher 2,” which is based on Slavic legend and a series of novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher 2 gift box included three golden Witcher 2 coins, a Witcher 2 book, Witcher 2 stickers, Witcher 2 make your own aircraft, an ivory-colored bust of Witcher 2 character Gwynbleioo, a DVD box set of Witcher 2, bonus DVD, Game DVD, Game Guide and more.


But the single most valuable gift appears to have come from President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, who presented Obama with a 14” blue mask sculpture by Daum, valued at $52,695.


Echoing his boss's penchant for bag-giving, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé gave then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a Navy blue quilted calfskin Dior handbag valued at $2,400. Clinton also received a $3,400 silver bowl and a $7,425 gold coin and silk scarf from the Sultan of Oman, a $3,200 strand of pearls from Chen Zhili, president of the All-China Women's Federation, artwork and clothing from President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan worth $2,850, and an emerald and diamond necklace worth $7,834 from Mrs. Thandiwe Banda, first lady of Zambia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Clinton a 68-CD collection of symphony orchestra music, along with 4 DVDs and a framed newspaper article about Clinton’s visit to Germany.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Gifts to Federal Employees From Foreign Government Sources Reported to Employing Agencies in Calendar Year 2011 (State Department Office of the Chief of Protocol) (pdf)

David Cameron's $1,400 Rlug for Barack Obama (by Jon Swaine, The Telegraph)


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