From mass shootings to debates about mask mandates there has been little to truly smile about in the headlines. But then I read something that did that very thing for me. The smile simply needs to be shared.
President Richard Nixon will always be remembered for the opening to China, an enormous international relations success that truly changed the world. One of the offshoots of that policy move was when First Lady Pat Nixon made what she surely thought was a light-hearted conversation.
She was sitting beside Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai at a banquet in Beijing. As dinner began, she noticed at her place a small tin of Chinese cigarettes bearing the logo of two giant pandas.
“Aren’t they cute?” she said as she picked up the tin. “I love them.”
Zhou replied: “I’ll give you some.”
“Cigarettes?” she asked.
“No,” Zhou said. “Pandas.”
Thus began, on Feb. 21, 1972, what would become the 50-year love affair between Washington and the giant panda.
The “cake” was made from frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane and it lasted about 15 minutes once giant panda mama Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji got hold of it.
The National Zoo’s most famous tenants had an enthusiastic breakfast Saturday in front of adoring crowds as the zoo celebrated 50 years of its iconic panda exchange agreement with the Chinese government.
Xiao Qi Ji’s father Tian Tian largely sat out the morning festivities, munching bamboo in a neighboring enclosure with the sounds of his chomping clearly audible during a statement by Chinese ambassador Qin Gang. The ambassador praised the bears as “a symbol of the friendship” between the nations.
Pandas are almost entirely solitary by nature, and in the wild Tian Tian would probably never even meet his child. He received a similar cake for lunch.
With the absolutely dreadful news coming from Ukraine due to Russian aggression and savagery there must be moments of uplift and tranquility. The amazing and beautiful panda bears have supplied not only diplomatic purposes but also smiles at the times we need them most.
And so it goes.