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President George W. Bush congratulates United States citizens celebrating their 80th birthdays, but British octogenarians have to survive 20 years more before they qualify to receive a message from their Queen (who is an octogenarian herself), unless their 60th (diamond) wedding anniversary occurs earlier.

The President's Greetings Office is also happy to send messages to mark "important events" such as a wedding, arrival of a baby (provided the birth occurred during the George W. Bush Administration); an Eagle Scout Award or a Girl Scout Gold Award, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or equivalent occasion, and a 50th (golden) wedding anniversary.

The Queen used to send a message to people who had a multiple birth of at least three children, but that event occurs so often these days that she no longer does so.

It's easier than you may think to arrange for the President or the Queen to send a message to yourself or one of your friends with the necessary qualifications.

"The White House Greetings Office handles as many requests as possible, in accordance with a set of long-standing guidelines," says the presidential website. "Please submit greeting requests by FAX, mail, or web mail."

Citizens of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or any other country of which Queen Elizabeth II is head of state can receive a message from Her Majesty just as easily. The UK Citizens' Advice Bureau lists this routine:

For birthdays, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) arranges for a message to be sent to anyone of the appropriate age who is receiving a retirement pension, Pension Credit or income support.

An officer from the local social security office will visit to confirm the person's age and will then pass the information to Buckingham Palace, if the person has no objection. Alternatively, an application form can be obtained directly from Buckingham Palace.

For wedding anniversaries, an application form can be obtained directly from Buckingham Palace.

Application forms can be obtained by writing or telephoning The Anniversaries Office at Buckingham Palace and should be returned, no sooner than three weeks in advance of the celebration date, to The Anniversaries Office, Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA. Tel: 020 7930 48320



My crotchety Uncle Charlie was oddly jubilant the day I called to wish him a Happy 85th Birthday. "You'll never guess who I got a card from," he gloated.

As it happened, I knew. I had arranged for the president of the United States to send Charlie a personal birthday card. But I wasn't about to spoil Charlie's fun by telling him that I was responsible for his sudden burst of importance.

Up until this birthday card from then-President Clinton, Charlie's only claim to political fame was shaking hands once with a Florida Congressman who later was indicted for taking bribes. To Charlie, the guy was and would always be "Patriot of the Twentieth Century" - all because of a handshake.

- From U.S. humorist Frank Kaiser's hilarious Suddenly Senior newsletter.

We can only hope that Uncle Charlie isn't one of Frank Kaiser's million readers.

Former US President George H W Bush celebrated his 80th birthday on June 13 by making a tandem parachute jump in his home state of Texas. He had planned to skydive alone, but officials decided high winds and low clouds made conditions too dangerous for him to make a solo jump. Instead, he was harnessed to US Army Golden Knight Sgt. Bryan Schnell.

Did the White House Greetings Office send him a birthday message from his son?



Story first posted August 2004

Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

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