Obama needs to pay closer attention to international protocol

December 9, 2009 — by Roy Bisht and Parul Singh

If you were going to visit the Queen of England, what would you give her as a present? Certainly, something fancy and expensive; dignified and beautiful. President Obama chose to give the Queen an iPod during his recent visit.

Of course, an iPod is not complete without music, so Obama’s staff graciously stuffed the device with copyrighted MP3s. This makes the Queen eligible to be sued by the RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America. Some consider this an extension of Obama’s present.

The Obama family has made multiple slip-ups with international protocol during his first year in office. Adding insult to injury, Michelle Obama put her hand on the Queen of England’s back as a friendly gesture. It is common knowledge that the Queen is not to be touched in any way, even as part of a friendly gesture. While these are minor offenses, the Obama family should not expect a Christmas card from the royal family any time soon.

Obama and his administration are the face of this country, and while it may be difficult to keep track of the hundred-or-so appropriate bows and hand gestures, Obama should at least “Wikipedia” the country before mangling its mores.

After all, it is the president’s job to familiarize himself with the cultures of the many countries that he visits.

For example, in Japan he attempted to show trust and friendship by bowing to Emperor Akihito. Rather than the traditionally elegant bow, Obama lurched forward in a jarring motion that slightly resembled a bow, and just for good measure, added a handshake to the mix.

This shows that Obama did not take the time and effort to learn the customs. Instead of attempting to do both at the same time Obama should have just stuck to what he knows. Perhaps it may be best for Obama to stick to the old-fashioned handshake.

Additionally, in March of this year, when the secretary of state Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a “reset button,” a prop intended to symbolize a resetting of U.S-Russia relations, the Russian word for reset was spelled wrong on the button.

During Obama’s campaign, he was criticized by his opponents for his lack of international experience. In addition, he is one of the youngest presidents ever to be elected to office. Judgin by these events, it seems as if his opponents’ misgivings were true as Obama is lacking in experience with international affairs.

Although these slip-ups are relatively minor compared to other issues on the president’s plate, it would benefit him greatly to pay more attention to international protocol in order to maintain his imageā€”and that of the country he leads.

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