June 27th, 2012
08:59 AM ET

When a handshake is not just a handshake

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shook hands Wednesday with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in a historic gesture marking an advance in the peace process around British rule of Northern Ireland.

The handshake comes 14 years after the end of a conflict that claimed about 3,500 lives and illustrates one example of when a handshake is more than just a handshake.

A few other handy examples in the history books:

• In 1972, on his trip to China, U.S. President Richard Nixon shook hands with Mao Zedong, in a first step toward better relations between the two countries.

• Thirteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, U.S. President Ronald Reagan did the same with another Communist leader: Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. The two leaders were seeking common ground on arms reduction and other issues.

• Then, there was a historic moment in 1990. South African President F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shook hands in an iconic moment on the path to end apartheid.

• And finally: Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat famously shook hands at the White House in 1993. The two were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in Mideast peace negotiations.

What do you think? What are other instances throughout history when a handshake was more than a handshake? Share your comments below.

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Topics: Diplomacy

soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Ted Striker

    No Gorbachev and Reagan??

    June 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • basketcase

      You're not too good at the whole reading thing, are you...

      June 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  2. Jim

    Donald Rumsfeld/Saddam Hussein, 1983.

    June 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
    • Bunk Moreland

      Hahaha. Long lasting friendship

      June 29, 2012 at 1:46 am | Reply
  3. Doug

    Ribbentrop (representing Hitler) and Stalin (for Germany-USSR non-aggression treaty), 1939: http://www.answers.com/topic/joachim-von-ribbentrop

    June 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
    • emma

      Wasn't Ribbentrop schutping Wallis Simpson when he was posted in London? Now that would be a memorable 'handshake'...

      June 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  4. AlexShch

    What do I think? We live in a much angrier World right now that 15 years ago.

    When he became prime minister in 1992, Yitzhak Rabin had reputation of a soldier and a patriot. No way a pacifist or something of this sort. When he shook hands with Arafat, not everybody in Israel liked it, but overall it was accepted with the hope and expectation of quick ending of permanent stand off with Palestinians. When Yitzhak Rabin was killed, it was true shock for Israel and great sadness, especially knowing that he was killed by an Israeli.

    When Ariel Sharon became prime minister in 2001, he was regarded as an extremest by very many. Then guess what? By today's standards Ariel Sharon is nothing but a Dove of Piece, while Yitzhak Rabin is mostly remembered as almost like a traitor by too many. Even his killer is often viewed as a hero and martyr... Unfortunately the whole spectrum of views moved to one side.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Reply
    • Rajesh Patel

      Who gives an F about these characters. They are nothing but pimples on an elephant's butt.

      June 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  5. Chang Ming Ling

    Count your fingers after you shake hands with a hindu indian. Better not to shake hands at all.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  6. palintwit

    I won't shake hands with baggers or with birthers because they usually have poop between their fingers.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  7. Beanandginger

    I would submit to you that the first person to slap five on someone else was historic. It officially marked the moment when enthusiasm of sports would begin to transcend racial barriers.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  8. Emigdio

    Torgau, Germany
    April 26, 1945.

    2nd Lt. Robertson of the U.S. 1st Army with Lt. Silvashko of the Red Army.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  9. Brian

    Abe Lincoln meets a number of freed slaves in the White House and shakes their hands. Lincoln was the first President to official meet African Americans in the White House which he did often including people like Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  10. Miss Gardener

    Clinton and Castro

    June 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  11. Candlewycke

    The handshakes exchanged by Jewish Concentration camp survivors and the GI's who liberated them from the Nazis.

    The handshake between Gen. US Grant and Gen. Robert E. Lee that ended the US Civil war. That one handshake showed that belligerents could still come together in mutual respect and admiration. That one handshake probably did more to pave the way for a relatively peaceful transition back to a state on civil peace than any legislation ever could.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  12. ShakeIt

    More noteworthy handshakes:
    Apollo – Soyuz handshake
    Channel Tunnel handshake
    Stanley – Livingstone handshake "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
    MacArthur – Truman handshake (protocol called for saluting the Commander in Chief)
    McKinley – Czolgosz handshake (who shot the President while gripping him in a handshake)
    Judas – Jesus kiss (when Judas betrays him, I think that counts since a kiss was the equivalent of a handshake in that time/place)

    June 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  13. DoubleSecretPalinTwit

    McCain & Palin Ha Ha Ha!!!!!!!!!1

    June 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  14. Robear in Ojai

    Handshakes nowadays are just fake photo-op moments for the media and propaganda. When I see those guys hug & embrace, then I'll know it's real.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  15. Daniel

    There once was an Arkansas teenager by the name of Bill Clinton meeting JFK in 1963.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  16. Sher Dil Shirazi

    india's Shastri died in 1966 after shaking hands with pakistan's president Khan being so scared

    June 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • Sher Dil Shirazi

      shastri was a pu$$y typical of hindus

      June 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
      • Larry Rubin

        I'll second that. Been to india and seen the double faced indians in action. don't trust them

        June 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  17. Jojo

    The last time Yurhand shook Mydick was pretty memorable, too....

    June 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  18. Rick Springfield

    Not going far enough in the very philosophy of the handshake. The most famous handshake I can imagine I am aware is the one between Zacharias Moussaoui and then president William Jefferson Clinton. It was the "handshake" of electronic communications between the two as Moussaoui was a student at the University of Oklahoma in November 2000. He laid out the full 9/11 plans in messages sent to White House accounts. Clinton later said he knew about those messages but they did not have a timeline. He said he could not act on terrorist threats that were not dated. He said people threatened to do bad things all the time. Moussaoui's threats turned out to be 100 percent correct because he said there would be airliners hijacked and flown into targets in NYC and D.C. Clinton said that warning alone was not enough to change any current US law at the time. So after 9/11/01, those messages became some of the most important emails ever sent.

    June 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  19. charles bowen


    June 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  20. MENON

    The most poignant handshake I can recall is between Dr. Bruce Banner and Nick Fury. It pretty much established The Avengers.

    June 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  21. J. Foster Dulles

    The biggest mistake I ever made and that was gigantic, was to refuse to shake hands with the Chinese Foreign Minister Chou En-Lai back in 1954 in Geneva. I was wrong then but then again, I didn't know any better! I hope that history will forgive me.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Don't feel bad, J. Foster. Most of us were pretty much brainwashed in those days against Communism. Learning is the opposite of ignorance but unfotunately, most people are still afflicted with the latter!

      June 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Reply
    • Patrick-2

      I too remember that 1954 incident in Geneva, Switzerland. We all learn from our mistakes except for the ignorant politicians in Washington. They only watch out for themselves and will do whatever the MIC tells them to do!

      June 28, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
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