- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

President Bill Clinton didn’t get one.

President George W. Bush sure didn’t get one.

In fact, President Obama is the first U.S. president to receive a Zulu coconut hand-delivered by the president of the famed New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe.

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Another first for Mr. Obama.

The painted coconuts handed out by the historic black Zulu parade are among the most prized throws of the city’s Mardi Gras festival, and the Zulu members pass them out heedfully.

“I can’t think of any more specia person to give it to,” said Charles E. Hamilton, president of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, who handed the ornately decorated coconut to Mr. Obama at the White House.

“I never thought I’d see this day - a black president and to meet him and connect him with the city of New Orleans,” Mr. Hamilton said shortly before meeting the president Monday.

The long-distance throw - Mr. Hamilton and his wife, Zulu First Lady Patricia Wade Hamilton, traveled 26 hours by train from New Orleans to deliver the coconut - took on added significance because this year marked the 100th anniversary for the Zulu club.

The coconut was painted for Mr. Obama by Keith Eccles, an artist and art teacher at L.W. Higgins High School in New Orleans. The coconut was painted black and then covered with patterns in gold, red, white and blue, including an American flag symbol, Mr. Obama’s name and the krewe’s 100-year logo.

Mr. Eccles, who accompanied Mr. Hamilton to the White House, said the president taking time to accept the odd token of affection sends a strong message to his students in New Orleans.

“This has uplifted the entire school and people across New Orleans,” Mr. Eccles said. “This is much more than anyone could have expected.”

New Orleans is still recovering from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The lackluster federal response to the catastrophe was a major embarrassment for the Bush administration.

“Maybe we should have given President Bush a ‘goodbye’ coconut,” Mrs. Hamilton said.

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