George W. Bush in Albania. JFK in Cameroon. Abe Lincoln in Mexico. Mental Floss' Scott Allen catalogues the world's most surprising presidential statues
1. George W. Bush — Albania
Bush will always be welcome in the Albanian town of Fushe-Kruje, which erected a statue of the former president to commemorate his June 2007 visit. "If I had the final say, I would very much like a three-meter statue, probably in bronze, that captures his trademark way of walking with energy," Fushe-Kruje's mayor, Ismet Mavriqi, told reporters in a phone interview. In addition to the square where the statue was erected, Bush's name adorns a street and a café in Fushe-Kruje, and the places he stopped during his 2007 visit, including a bakery, have become national landmarks.
2. Harry S. Truman — Greece
In 1963, a statue of Truman was erected in Athens to honor the military and financial aid provided to Greece under the Truman Doctrine after World War II. The Greek government used some of that support to fend off communist insurgents during the civil war of 1946-49.
The 12-foot bronze statue has been a popular target of protesters since it was first erected in a downtown Athens square. In 1970, nine Greeks were sentenced for planning to set off time bombs at several locations in and around Athens, one of which was the site of the Truman statue. A successfully detonated bomb blew the statue off its pedestal in 1986, and 20 years later, anti-war protesters toppled the statue yet again.
3. Dwight D. Eisenhower — England
Eisenhower is one of several former U.S. presidents who have been honored with statues in London. Eisenhower's statue stands in Grosvenor Square, outside of the U.S. Embassy, and across the street from the buildings that he occupied as commander-in-chief of the Allied Force and then Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II.
The statue was dedicated in 1989 by U.S. Ambassador Charles Price and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. One of the two quotes on the statue's pedestal is from Eisenhower's first Inaugural Address: "The faith we hold belongs not to us alone but to the free of all the world."
4. John F. Kennedy — Cameroon
A bronze bust of Kennedy was unveiled on Kennedy Avenue in Cameroon in 2007 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps' arrival in the country. According to the Cameroon Tribune, the statue has been a target of vandalism. "The head of the statue is gradually being scraped off and the right eye almost damaged."
5. Bill Clinton — Kosovo
In early November 2009, Clinton attended the unveiling of an 11-foot bronze statue of himself along a boulevard in Kosovo that bears his name. Thousands of ethnic Albanians attended the ceremony for Clinton, who is regarded as a national hero for launching NATO's campaign to drive Yugoslavian troops out of Kosovo in 1999. The statue depicts Clinton with his left arm raised holding a portfolio bearing his name and the date when that air campaign began — March 24, 1999. "I never expected that anywhere, someone would make such a big statue of me," said Clinton, who was making his first trip to Kosovo since it declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
6. Abraham Lincoln — Mexico (among others)
Lincoln's legacy is among the greatest of any former U.S. president in the international community. There are multiple statues of Lincoln in Mexico, including one that was a gift from President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. In return, the Mexican government presented a statue of former president of Mexico Benito Juarez to the United States in 1969. There's also a statue of Lincoln in Havana, Cuba, outside a foreign language school bearing the 16th president's name.
7. Rutherford B. Hayes — Paraguay
In her 2007 Mental Floss cover story "All the Presidents' Secrets," senior editor Jenny Drapkin explained Paraguay's obsession with our 19th president: The country is littered with Hayes memorials — from statues to schools to streets named in his honor. There's even a city in Paraguay called Villa Hayes, which lies in the middle of a province called Presidente Hayes, which is roughly the size of South Carolina. What did Rutherford do to deserve all this? From 1864 to 1870, Paraguay was engaged in one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the Americas — the War of the Triple Alliance. Facing the combined forces of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, the people of Paraguay were mercilessly defeated. Two-thirds of the country's population died. But even after the war ended, Argentina and Paraguay continued to scuffle over the Chaco, a huge tract of land in the southwest region of Paraguay. Unable to come to a resolution, diplomats from both countries traveled to Washington, D.C., so that President Hayes could arbitrate the debate. As you've probably guessed, Hayes decided in favor of Paraguay — and he's been a national hero ever since. Once every 50 years, Villa Hayes hosts a huge festival in his honor. The next one is in 2028, so mark your calendars.
8. Barack Obama — China
In advance of Obama's 2009 visit to China, Beijing artist Liu Bolin created one of the most interesting monuments to a U.S. president ever created — a statue that shoots fire. Bolin's statue features tiny holes through which gas ignites every couple of minutes. "He's so hot right now, so I wanted to translate that through my work," Bolin told reporters. Bolin acknowledged that some might misinterpret his work as offensive, but he said his piece "represents energy and life that Obama has given to the world."
— Scott Allen
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