- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

DUTCH TREAT

Four hundred years after they explored the Hudson River, the Dutch are laying claim once again to their role in the founding of America, as Renee Jones-Bos, the vivacious ambassador of the Netherlands, leads a charm offensive to remind Americans of their Dutch heritage.

“The Netherlands has the longest, friendliest relation with the United States than any other nation,” she said at the annual awards dinner of the Netherland-America Foundation.

“Four hundred years is a long time, and it is worth celebrating. We share a freedom of spirit, an entrepreneurial spirit and open mindedness,” she said.

The relationship began in 1609 when English navigator Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch East India Co., explored the river that later bore his name. In the 1620s, the company established a colony called New Amsterdam, buying the area from the Manhattan Indians for about 60 Dutch guilders. The English renamed the town New York, after capturing it in 1664 in the lead-up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, 1665-1667.

During the American Revolution, the Dutch were the first to salute an American ship flying the new flag with 13 red-and-white stripes (the stars were added later). On Nov. 16, 1776, the American commercial ship, the Andrew Doria, sailed into the Dutch colonial port on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius. The ship fired a customary salute, and the commander of Fort Orange on the island returned the courtesy.

In 1782, the Netherlands became the first nation to grant diplomatic recognition to the new United States, and John Adams, then the U.S. ambassador in The Hague, secured a loan of 5 million guilders to save his country, which was nearly bankrupt after seven years of struggle for independence.

“It took John Adams a long time to secure the loan because the Dutch were stingy,” Mrs. Jones-Bos said.

The ambassador noted that her government also “came to the rescue” of New Orleans after the devastating Hurricane Katrina by helping with Dutch experience gained over centuries of living in a land below sea level protected by dikes. Dutch soldiers are also fighting alongside American troops in Afghanistan.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, who also spoke at the banquet, also referred to Adams’ mission to the Netherlands.

“The Dutch gave John Adams a pretty good interest rate of about 5 percent,” he said.

Mr. Van Hollen, co-chairman of the House Netherlands caucus, noted that he has proposed a resolution honoring 400 years of Dutch-American history.

The foundation also honored three business executives for their work to promote Dutch-American relations with awards named for former U.S. ambassadors to the Netherlands. John A. Fentener van Vlissingen received the K. Terry Dornbush Award; Arkadi Kuhlmann received the C. Howard Wilkins Jr. Award; and Albert P.L. Stroucken received the J. William Middendorf II Award.

In New York, the Netherlands is holding a yearlong celebration that includes a replica of Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon.

U.S. ENVOY MOCKED

Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper mocked U.S. Ambassador James McGee, as the American diplomat prepared to leave the southern African nation after years of supporting democracy and opposing authoritarian President Robert Mugabe.

“Thank heavens, McGee is going!” the Herald newspaper, the mouthpiece of Mr. Mugabe’s political party, screamed in a headline Wednesday.

The newspaper also taunted Mr. McGee for his service as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War as a “black man who fought … White America’s war.”

Mr. McGee was a strong supporter of Zimbabwean democracy since arriving in the country in 2007.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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