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Mount Vernon Hosts French President Sarkozy


Historic Mount Vernon To Host French President Sarkozy

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy comes to Washington November 6, President Bush will host the French leader at historic Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George Washington.

It will be the first time in six years that a French president has made an official visit to the United States, and the stage for the meeting is symbolic because it was at Mount Vernon that the French hero of the American War of Independence, the Marquis de Lafayette, established a strong and lasting relationship with America's first president.

Lafayette visited Mount Vernon several times between 1784 and 1825, but the French connection to the new nation had been strong since the young aristocrat joined General Washington's army to help lead America's revolutionary fight against the British. The marquis named his son George Washington Lafayette.

Today Mount Vernon continues to be a significant meeting place for U.S. presidents and visiting dignitaries. President Bush chose Mount Vernon as the place to hold meetings with Sarkozy to reaffirm the "deep historical bonds" shared by the two countries, according to the White House.

Although Sarkozy visited the president at the Bush family home in Maine this summer, this will be his first visit to Washington since taking office in May. After dinner at the White House on November 6, the two leaders will travel to Mount Vernon November 7 to discuss working together to strengthen security and democracy in Afghanistan and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Talks also are scheduled to include Middle East peace efforts, ending the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and fostering democratic change in Burma.

"We are most definitely entering a dynamic new era in U.S.-France relations, one that is full of potential and positive energy," said R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. under secretary for political affairs, in remarks in Paris on October 31. "From a global perspective, we have no more vital ally on the great issues of our time - climate change, Darfur, Burma, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq - than France."

VIRGINIA ESTATE HAS PROUD DIPLOMATIC HISTORY

The last head of state to join an American president for a meeting at Mount Vernon was the late King Hussein of Jordan, who met with President George H. W. Bush in 1989.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy hosted a state dinner in honor of President Ayub Khan of Pakistan at Mount Vernon.

Craftspeople finish a table for Mount Vernon in time for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit. (Photo courtesy Kindel Furniture)"We feel a special satisfaction because you are our guest tonight and because we feel that what Mount Vernon stands for is understood by you," President Kennedy said at the dinner. "Mount Vernon means to us not merely a beautiful home, but it also is, we hope, the symbol of the United States."

Queen Elizabeth made a ceremonial visit to Mount Vernon in 1991, and Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, visited there in April as the guest of Laura Bush, who told the Japanese first lady that Mount Vernon is her "favorite place."

In time for the historic meeting with President Sarkozy, a Michigan furniture company crafted and delivered a custom-designed mahogany conference table to Mount Vernon.

"Mount Vernon asked for our assistance in creating a meeting table for visiting dignitaries that was a worthy complement to the estate's other furniture," said Jonathan Smith, president of Kindel Furniture Company, which is licensed to produce furniture with Mount Vernon.

"The project took on even more significance when we were told by Mount Vernon that it is scheduled to be used as the meeting table for President Bush and French President Sarkozy."

More than 100 craftspeople built the Duncan Phyfe mahogany table, which measures 7 meters long and 1 meter wide. Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854), a Scottish-born American furniture maker in the 19th century, was part of a long tradition of woodworking in the United States.

Phyfe also introduced the French Empire style to American furniture makers. Mount Vernon and the White House contain several pieces of Duncan Phyfe furniture.

Kindel Furniture donated the $30,000 table to Mount Vernon. The company's craftspeople spent three months designing and building the table, using a 24-step hand-rubbed finishing process.

"Because our furniture is so labor intensive, literally 100 of our employees can say they worked on a table that was fit for our president," Smith said.

Additional information about George Washington's historic estate, including a traveling exhibition on George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, is available on the Mount Vernon Web site.

The full text of Burns' remarks is available on the State Department Web site.


ENDS

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