- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

RICHMOND — Queen Elizabeth II marked her arrival in the United States yesterday by praising the country’s cultural achievements since it began as the English settlement known as Jamestown 400 years ago.

“With the benefit of hindsight, we can see in that event the origins of a singular endeavor: the building of a great nation, founded on the eternal values of democracy and equality based on the rule of law and the promotion of freedom,” the queen said in her first speech to a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly at the state Capitol.

The queen, who 50 years ago visited Jamestown — the country’s first permanent English settlement — also acknowledged the difficult social challenges created by colonization.

“Human progress rarely comes without cost,” she said. “And those early years in Jamestown, when three great civilizations came together for the first time — Western European, Native American and African — released a train of events which continues to have a profound social impact, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom and Europe.”

But in the face of increasing diversity and accompanying social problems, the queen said, the United States sets an example for the rest of the world.

“The ‘melting pot’ metaphor captures one of the great strengths of your country and is an inspiration to others around the world as we face the continuing social challenges ahead.”

The queen’s visit to Richmond is part of a six-day tour of the UnitedStates, including a visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg today, the Kentucky Derby tomorrow and stops in the District and Maryland on Monday and Tuesday.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, yesterday accompanied his wife to a brief reception in the Executive Mansion with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Virginia first lady Anne Holton.

On a cool, drizzly day more typical for London than springtime in Virginia, Mr. Kaine and his wife led the queen and prince on a short walking tour of Capitol Square, along a path flagged by excited guests and visitors.

The party was followed by an entourage of security and staff who collected bouquets of flowers from the crowd.

Dressed in a lilac coat with pink trim, a matching pink hat with lilac trim and white gloves, the 81-year-old queen politely smiled and waved at the hundreds of people — some of whom waited for hours in the rain — sprawled across the Capitol lawn.

“I hope I look like that when I’m her age,” Richmond resident Marty Parrish said to her son. “Her lipstick matches her hat. That is so cool.”

The queen and prince met with representatives from Virginia’s eight American Indian tribes, who performed a ritual dance before the royal party toured the Capitol.

The royal couple walked slowly from room to room, and the queen spoke with construction workers who recently finished a $104.5 million renovation to the 219-year-old Capitol.

In the Rotunda, the queen stopped to talk with 100-year-old Oliver W. Hill, a civil rights lawyer whose work helped lead to the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public schools.

Two girls, granddaughters of House Speaker William J. Howell, Fredericksburg Republican, presented the queen with small bouquets.

When the queen and Mr. Kaine entered the chambers of the General Assembly — the oldest continuous lawmaking body in the country, which traces its roots to the House of Burgesses in 1619 — lawmakers cheered and drummed on their desks.

The queen also was scheduled to meet yesterday with survivors of the shooting at Virginia Tech, where a student killed 32 persons and himself last month.

“As a state and as a nation, you are still coming to terms with the dreadful events at Virginia Tech,” the queen said in her speech to legislators. “My heart goes out to the students, friends and families of all those killed, and to the many others who have been affected. … On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, I extend my deepest sympathies at this time of such grief and sorrow.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Kaine told reporters that the visit couldn’t come at a better time.

“What we saw in the aftermath of [the shooting] is the community really coming together,” he said, adding that his goal is to showcase Virginians with the same sense of unity. “This is a moment that brings Virginia together.”

Mr. Kaine told reporters yesterday evening that the event went off “with precision like clockwork.”

However, he was briefly alarmed when, upon approaching the foot of the Capitol’s portico steps, the queen turned to him and said jokingly, “You want me to climb all those steps?”

The queen’s most recent visit to the U.S. was in May 1991.

The royal couple arrived at the Richmond airport midafternoon, hours after people started lining up at Capitol Square for “Virginia’s Royal Welcome,” which began with a music festival featuring live performances from bluegrass, gospel, jazz and blues artists from across the state.

The weather didn’t keep people from staking out prime lawn space hours before the queen’s scheduled arrival.

Betsy Marks was among the hundreds of people sitting on blankets in their Sunday best.

Mrs. Marks, of Ashland, Va., wore a British flag tucked into her black-and-white straw hat. She hoped to catch a glimpse of the queen in person but was content just being there.

“It’s an honor just to be a part of it,” Mrs. Marks said. “We’ll be able to see her on the Jumbotron at least.”

Donning a black hat and black leather gloves trimmed with fur, B.J. Garr-Workman arrived at Capitol Square at 8 a.m.

Miss Garr-Workman leaned against a railing as close as she could get to the queen’s path without winning a VIP spot closer to the walkway.

“It’s history,” the Charlottesville resident said. “It’s something we’ll tell our grandchildren.”

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