President Donald Trump and first lady Melania welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte as honored guests this week for the administration’s first official state visit.
However, prior to the pomp and circumstance of Tuesday’s official state dinner, the Trumps and Macrons traveled the short distance on Monday from the White House in Washington, D.C., to Mt. Vernon in Virginia. Mt. Vernon, of course, is the preserved home of our nation’s first president, George Washington.
According to White House East Wing historian Jennifer Boswell Pickens, writing in The Daily Caller, the first lady — who oversaw all of the arrangements for the state visit — had a specific reason for scheduling a dinner at Mt. Vernon.
Likely due to her deep sense of respect for tradition, Melania Trump chose a dinner at Mt. Vernon with the Macrons as a way to highlight the deep and lengthy relationship between the U.S. and France, which dates back to the American Revolution.
President Washington was actually granted honorary French citizenship by the National Assembly of France in 1792, and his historic home is loaded with numerous gifts presented to him and first lady Martha by French dignitaries.
Chief among the collection are the many gifts from Marquis de Lafayette, who provided military advice and assistance to Washington’s rag-tag Continental Army during the Revolution and remained personal friends with the first president following the war.
One such gift was a key to the notorious Bastille prison in France, the storming of which served as an impetus to the French Revolution just a few short years after the American fight for independence.
Over the years, Mt. Vernon has played host to numerous presidents, including former President Ronald Reagan, who visited to commemorate Washington’s 250th birthday. Moreover, Mt. Vernon was the site of a state dinner hosted in 1961 by former President John Kennedy in honor of the president of Pakistan.
Former President George W. Bush also chose Mt. Vernon as the perfect location to host high-level talks between himself and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during which time Sarkozy noted the French people’s deep appreciation and love for Americans.
Melania Trump no doubt had the historical significance of Mt. Vernon as it relates to America’s long relationship with France in mind as she carefully planned out all of the details of the visit. Thankfully, that attention to history and tradition has not gone completely unnoticed.
Meanwhile, in a related sign of respectful sentiment for the relationship between the two nations, President Macron brought along a gift of his own for President Trump that hasn’t received quite the attention it should have.
According to Reuters, Macron brought with him a small oak sapling tree to be planted on the White House grounds. The sapling was been taken from the site of a monumental World War I battle in France where U.S. Marines fought ferociously and valiantly.
In the Battle of Belleau Wood, which occurred in the Ardennes Forest, the Marines helped French troops fend off a massive assault by German forces in the final year of that bloody war.
The location where the surviving Marines are believed to have gathered following that brutal battle is now marked with a fountain monument in honor of the sacrifice of the “Devil Dogs” who fought, bled and died in France. The transplanted sapling came from near where the fountain is located in order to further honor those troops.
Macron, no doubt aware of Trump’s deep affinity for the U.S. military — particularly the Marines — probably couldn’t have picked a better symbol by which to signify his country’s appreciation for the help it received then and at other points in history.
These signs of mutual respect and honor for the 200-plus years of ties that bind the U.S. and France together perfectly symbolize the two nations’ abiding friendship.
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