First lady Michelle Obama marked the 100th anniversary of the gift of 3,020 Japanese cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. by planting a new tree along the Potomac River. Mrs. Obama was joined by Yoriko Fujisaki, wife of the ambassador of Japan to the United States, to commemorate the first two cherry blossom trees planted on March 27, 1912 by then-first lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador. The yearly blooming of the fragile pink and white blossoms around the Tidal Basin in the nation's capital has become a national event that attracts hundreds of thousands visitors from all over the world. As D.C. continues to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival, here is a list of other gifts from foreign countries that have been donated to the United States.
The Statue of Liberty may be one of the most iconic images of freedom and American independence in the United States, but Lady Liberty is actually not American at all. The statue, inspired by French politician Edouard Rene de Laboulaye and implemented by architect Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, is a representation of Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. Her face was modeled after the architect's mother, Charlotte Beysser Bartholdi. Lady Liberty, whose full name is "Liberty Enlightening the World" was financed by the French and sent to the United States in pieces in 1886. She now stands valiantly in New York Bay as an enduring symbol of universal freedom and independence.
The Resolute desk was given to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880 and is often used by U.S. presidents as the Oval Office desk. The desk, built from the timbers of the British Arctic Exploration ship Resolute, has a twin piece that the queen had made for herself, which resides in Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. Though Hayes used the desk in the White House, it was first lady Jackie Kennedy who first placed it in the Oval Office for President John F. Kennedy in 1961. In keeping up the tradition of those who came before him, President Obama currently uses the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.
Following President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972, the Chinese government gave two pandas, Ling-Ling ("Darling Little Girl" in Chinese) and Hsing-Hsing ("Shining Star"), to the U.S. to represent the growing relationship between the two countries. The pandas were donated to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and quickly became the toast of the town, attracting millions of visitors every year. Ling-Ling, the female half of the beloved panda pair, died suddenly in 1992 at the age of 23, the oldest of her kind living in captivity outside China. Hsing-Hsing, her mate, was euthanized by zookeepers due to kidney failure when he was 28. The entire nation grieved the passing of the fuzzy pair, fruits of Nixon's peacekeeping visit to China, showering the National Zoo with thousands of letters and artwork.
Composed of 49 French railroad box cars filled with tens of thousands of "gifts of gratitude" from French citizens, the Merci Train arrived in New York City on February 3, 1949. The gift represented a gesture of thanks to the Americans who sent relief supplies and foodstuffs to France in the aftermath of World War II on the "Friendship Train" of 1947. Each of the 48 American states at that time received one of the gift-filled box cars, while the 49th car was shared by Washington, D.C. and Hawaii. Today, 43 of the "Forty and Eight" boxcars remain on public display.
After the original ivory gavel shattered during a heated, late-night Senate session in 1954, the Republic of India offered to replace it. On Nov. 17, 1954, the vice president of India presented the U.S. with a new ivory, hourglass-shaped gavel, hoping the instrument would inspire senators to debate "with freedom from passion and prejudice." The replacement gavel is a replica of the original with the addition of a floral band carved around the center.
This 10-story monument commemorating the victims of the September 11 attacks, once named one of the world's ugliest statues in Foreign Policy magazine, was originally meant to stand in Jersey City, but city officials decided to plant it in nearby Bayonne instead. Though constructed in New Jersey, the structure, entitled "To The Struggle Against World Terrorism," was designed by Moscow Artist Zurab Teserteli and given as a gift to the States from Russia in 2006.
In 2002, the Lord Mayor of London, Michael Oliver, together with the Corporation of London presented this 650-pound bell to Wall Street's Trinity Church in New York City on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Its inscription reads, "To the greater glory of God and in recognition of the enduring links between the City of London and the city of New York. Forged in adversity – September 11, 2001." The "Bell of Hope," meant to symbolize not only hope but also the historic solidarity between the U.S. and Great Britain, was cast in the same foundry in the East End of London as was the historic Liberty Bell more than two and a half centuries ago.