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. Gunner

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. "Sun-tzu, Chinese General and military strategist 400 BC"

    Sometimes good for got, sometimes good for naught. Either way wash your hands.

    July 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
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