Gone are the days when France would splurge on gifts for its old ally America, and ship the Statue of Liberty across the Atlantic as a grand gesture of friendship. Emmanuel Macron, who accompanied by his wife Brigitte arrived in Washington, DC, today (Apr. 23) to visit Donald Trump and his wife Melania, brought a much simpler cadeau: An oak sapling.
Kind of like that time in 1912 when Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki gave Washington, DC, 3,000 cherry trees—except this time there’s only one tree, and it’s a spindly one at that.
The tree was actually a thoughtful present: It came from Belleau Wood, northeast of Paris, the site of a 1918 World War I battle. Macron must know that Trump loves World War I—Trump’s favorite book, after all, is All Quiet on The Western Front.
The tree may not look as impressive as the history it embodies, but it certainly delivered one excellent photo op:
First of all: The tree is tiny—a sapling. There is no chance whatsoever that this tree was around the battlefield 100 years ago. This is at best the great-great-great-grandsapling of a tree that was minding its own business somewhere in France during World War I, and whose pollen eventually reached Belleau Wood, generating a baby tree which the president of France abducted to impress his American World-War-I-loving friend.
Not only is it tiny, but it looks, well, dead. Thankfully, it’s not, because the diplomatic connotations of gifting a dead tree sound frightening. Though remarkably bare, upon closer inspection the tree’s branches show buds, so hopefully there will be some leaves soon—that is, unless Macron and Trump mess it up with whatever it is they are doing with those shovels.
It’s unclear whether either man has tried to plant a tree before, but neither looks particularly at ease doing so, in their suits and coats, despite Macron’s valid attempt at vigorously embracing the shovel. In all fairness, it would be hard for anyone to look comfortable while planting a pre-planted tree in the middle of the White House’s lawn—all while turning their backs on a faraway crowd, a gathering of press photographers under (and on top of) a large tree, and an Air Force helicopter, for good measure.
And let’s not forget: Trump is a proud germaphobe—so he actually makes it look a lot more comfortable than it must have been. He must have liked the present.
The first lady looked pleased, too. Melania Trump is gracefully standing there, with her heels on the lawn like it’s no superhuman balance trick. Her appearance is transformed by the contentment. There is a serene calm to her expression, and she doesn’t look like she is posing, but rather enjoying a moment with what must be her favorite type of plants, if her scary Christmas decorations taught us anything: Bare, dead-looking ones.
Skilled or otherwise, the two presidents actually did plant the tree. They were visibly pleased with it, and stood by for more photos.
(It looks pretty terrible.)