Greetings, all. What an exciting week we have had watching the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge undertake numerous engagements in New York City! I have been avidly following Twitter and Facebook during these appearances, and wish to offer my gratitude to all of our community that have posted about their experiences. New York holds a special place in my heart, and I have loved being able to see the city through the eyes of new visitors and the royal correspondents.
As New York City is an important place to me (the reasons why to follow), the engagement in which I was personally most interested was William and Catherine’s visit on December 9th to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. While I am generally very admiring of the grace and poise Kate conveys during engagements, I must admit that this engagement has left me feeling quite unhappy…even somewhat cynical! I hope to use this post to address my concerns regarding this engagement and to open a debate as to the appropriateness of the Cambridges’ visit to the 9/11 Memorial and the ability of our community to both praise and criticize Will and Kate.
Was it appropriate for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum during their trip to New York City?
I’m not so sure. I think it is important to note that William and Catherine’s trip in this instance is not an official Royal tour, but is instead primarily a fundraising trip for their charitable organizations. I have no issue with their traveling to fundraise for their charities – they do a remarkable service for their chosen causes, both in raising funds and raising awareness. But I do question whether they should have visited the 9/11 Memorial in the midst of this fundraising.
The emphasis on raising funds and raising awareness for wildlife conservation has been made abundantly clear in the many appointments William and Kate had on Sunday and Monday. A brief recap: Soon after their arrival in the city on Sunday evening, William and Kate attended a dinner for the American Friends of the Royal Foundation, which is the American branch of their Royal Foundation that supports wildlife conservation, youth, and veterans affairs. On Monday, William journeyed to Washington, D.C. and discussed wildlife conservation with President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the Right Honorable William Hague at the World Bank. Later that day, he and Kate attended a reception for wildlife conservation in New York City and then attended an NBA game to highlight their partnership. During William’s sojourn in D.C., Kate visited a child development center in Harlem, and then a lunch at the British Consul General’s residence.
The Duke and Duchess’s visit to the 9/11 Memorial took place on Tuesday morning – or, the morning after their attendance at a Brooklyn Nets game – timing which, to me, is most unfortunate. On social media, #RoyalVisitUSA was the fifth highest trending topic on Twitter on Monday night during the NBA game. Numerous tweets about where Will and Kate would sit, if they would meet Jay Z and Beyonce, if they would be on the Kiss Cam, seeing them on the Jumbotron, and then seeing them eat popcorn. It was a lovely engagement – exciting for royal fans, vibrant and full of energy. By Tuesday morning, Twitter continued to be abuzz with pictures from the NBA game (and frantic scolding to LeBron James for daring to put a hand on Kate’s shoulder), but much less attention was paid to the upcoming visit to the 9/11 Memorial. In fact, #RoyalVisitUSA wasn’t trending at all on Tuesday morning. What does this say about the priorities of this visit to New York City? Now, to be fair, this speaks volumes regarding what our social media culture values and does not reflect the values of William and Catherine. However, I do believe that both Will and Kate (and most certainly their PR team) are perceptive enough to guess what would captivate the media’s attention.
Were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge respectful of the memorial when they visited?
Yes, they were…for the most part. They paid their respects to the men, women, and children who died on that day and left a lovely bouquet of white roses. After that, they toured the museum, and viewed photographs and the names of those who perished. Did Kate look solemn and lovely? Yes. Did she photograph well? Yes. Do I question Kate’s choice to wear a shocking pink coat to a memorial? YES. I understand the argument that the color brings cheer to a somber scene, however think that other colors (Red for sacrifice? White for mourning? Royal blue for sadness?) would have also provided a visual punch and been vastly more appropriate. Further, most concerningly, the entire visit to the memorial took less than 30 minutes. As of now, I am unable to find another engagement during their trip to New York City that took less time than the visit to the memorial, let alone another engagement to any memorial in any other country or the United Kingdom that was so short.
What could/should they have done?
I think William and Kate had two options here. First, similar to a visit made in 2005 by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall as well as a visit in 2009 by Prince Harry, they could have visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as their first engagement of the trip, thereby ensuring that the focus of the media at that time would be on the memorial. Further, the 9/11 Museum is a thought-provoking and heart-breaking place in which they could have spent a couple of hours viewing the exhibits, exploring the site as a whole, and speaking to members of the New York City Fire Department, New York City Police Department, or even to family members of the deceased. It could also have been combined, as the Queen did on her visit in 2010, with a visit to the British Memorial Garden that remembers the British citizens lost on September 11th.
A second option would have been to not visit the 9/11 Museum at all on this trip. Instead, they could have issued a press release, sent out prior to the trip, in which they explain their rationale behind choosing not to visit the site. Such a statement would demonstrate their thoughtful approach to the engagements that they undertake, and their awareness of when such an engagement is most appropriate. In the statement, they could have emphasized their desire to see the site and honor the fallen, as well as their hopes to return to New York City.
Why do I care?
The Duke and Duchess’s visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was close to my heart because I am a New Yorker. I was born and raised in Manhattan, and even though I don’t live there currently, I still consider New York to be my home. I think like a New Yorker, I walk like a New Yorker, and (much to my husband’s amusement) I even drive like a New Yorker. Further, this engagement mattered to me because not only am I a New Yorker, but I am also a witness to the terror attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The attacks took place right outside my college dorm window. I was there as the city reeled from the tragedy, and through the months and years it took to pick up the pieces. I am also a Clinical Psychologist that specializes in grief and loss, and thus am keenly aware of the impact memorials have on those who lost someone or on those who survived.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks, 67 of whom were British citizens. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum serves to remember and honor those who died and to recognize those who survived. It also serves as tomb for the unidentified remains of over 1100 people. I believe that such monumental loss deserves to recognized appropriately, and not overshadowed by a basketball game or expensive gala dinners. I’m in no way questioning their right to visit the memorial. It is an important site in the history of New York City and of the United States, and I appreciate that they paid their respects to the many who died that day. Unfortunately, the entire engagement felt rushed and poorly thought-out, and I am left disappointed.
What are your thoughts?
I realize that, at this point, much discussion has focused on the Duchess’s sartorial choices at her visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. But what are your thoughts on the appropriateness of the visit overall? Were they right to go? Or should they have chosen not to go, and perhaps send a press release with a rationale as to why visiting on this trip is not a good idea? As always, please focus comments on these issues, not personal attacks.