Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

What Gifts Do Foreign Leaders Give The United States?

ARCHIVES
Does Gabon need someone to take away its credit card? States in darker blue spent more on U.S. presidential gifts. Does Gabon need someone to take away its credit card? States in darker blue spent more on U.S. presidential gifts. (Brian Fung)

Visiting a friend? It's only polite to bring a little something with you.

Heads of state aren't exempt from this unspoken rule, except that every present the White House accepts from other foreign dignitaries must be logged, tagged, and stored in official archives. (For the unfamiliar, there's an excellent "West Wing" episode about this.) Gift-giving is a routine part of diplomacy, but it also makes for interesting public data. 

On Thursday, President Obama released a list of all the gifts he accepted in 2011 on behalf of the United States. For each gift, the PDF names the donor country, a description of the gift, an estimate of its value and a reason why Obama accepted it (typically something having to do with not wanting to make a scene by rejecting the present, even if they were just boring old "Witcher 2" DVDs). Faced with all this government data, there was only one thing to do with it: plug everything into a spreadsheet and see which foreign leaders outspent each other to impress the most powerful man in the world. The heat map above ranks countries according to the total value of their 2011 gifts to Obama, with darker colors representing more generous states.

Judging by how often they appear on the list (16 times), former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni at first seemed to have an easy lead on everyone else. But in fact, France was only the third-most generous country to the United States by the value of its gifts ($42,144.86). Coming ahead of it was Brazil ($43,802.46), which seemed really fixated on giving Obama rare soccer jerseys. But the award for Most Lavish Foreign Dignitary goes to the president of Gabon.

Yes, you read that right. Gabon, the tiny West African nation with a population the size of Idaho's and a 2011 per-capita GDP of $16,000. That year, Gabon's Ali Bongo Ondimba gave a single gift to Obama, and it alone was worth $52,695 -- 20 percent more than the value of all of Brazil's gifts combined, and 25 percent more than all of France's gifts. What exactly did Ondimba present to the White House that was worth more than 132 iPads put together? Here's the relevant entry in the report:

Feeling a little left out? Fear not -- you, too, can make like a visiting dignitary. For the full dataset, click here.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.