Was it Appropriate for President Obama to bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia?

On 02 April during the G-20 Summit in London leaders from around the world were present to include US President Barack Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. It was also the first time for President Obama to meet with many of the world leaders. During his meeting and introduction to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, President Obama chose to what some believe was to bow before him. Whether he “bowed” or “nodded” I am surprised by the controversy the perception of this gesture caused.

Perhaps I take a simpler view than many but I believe that with the Obama Administration we have a new leadership which is candid and less caught up on pomp and protocol. In my view, Obama and his wife are approachable. They will do what they feel is natural and appropriate for them in circumstances of protocol and etiquette. To those who are against the thought of Obama bowing or nodding to the King, do you really want him to not be natural? Rather than saying the President should bow to no one due to his position perhaps instead his gesture actually illustrates the confidence he has in himself and his position and that he certainly does not feel threatened or demeaned simply because he chose to bow or nod.

Bowing is very common and typical in Asia, particularly so in Japan. It is a gesture of respect. But what is the etiquette per se on bowing? This blurb is from the Washington Times on the etiquette of bowing: “No Americans of any station are required to bow to royalty. It is one of the pillars of American exceptionalism that our country rejected traditional caste divisions. Article I Section 9 of the Constitution forbids titles of nobility and stipulates that no officeholder or government employee may “accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without the consent of Congress. Judith Martin wrote in her Miss Manners column in 2001 that bowing “is not an ordinary bit of foreign etiquette one might adopt out of courtesy when traveling. … Americans do not properly bow to any royalty. We show respect for other countries’ leaders the same way we do to our own.”

So I guess you all need to watch the video and share your view. Did he bow or nod? Was it appropriate or inappropriate and why? Did it hinder or enhance the US-Saudi relationship?

And as you can see, President Obama’s actions can cause some individuals to get really heated up!


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