US Gifts to Foreign Individuals Reported

04.19.18 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The Obama Administration gave dozens of wrist watches to various foreign leaders in 2014.

A newly released State Department report to Congress lists all of the gifts presented by President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Vice President Biden, Mrs. Biden, and Secretary of State Kerry to foreign individuals.

The 32 page report reflects the fact that the presentation of gifts is a customary feature of personal encounters between US and foreign leaders, as is the recording and reporting of each gift.

Based on the descriptions in the report, most of the gifts seem generic and unimaginative, not reflecting any particularized esteem. The most common gift was a “custom men’s watch in a wooden presentation box with inscription plaque” with a reported value of $465.

One exception was a “custom seed chest… containing nine varieties of American seeds” (declared value $1964.87) that was presented to Pope Francis. Also noteworthy is a rare edition of a book about the 1893 World’s Congress of Religions that featured Swami Vivekananda and other luminaries (declared value $1375 — but now half that price on Amazon) that was given to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The report on gifts from the United States to foreign individuals in FY2014 was released under the Freedom of Information Act following a three-year processing delay.