Welcome to Graceland
|Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (L) does an Elvis Presley imitation during a visit to Graceland, on June 30, 2006. From L-R are: Koizumi, Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, and President Bush. (Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)|
This was the phrase of the day last Friday, when President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Memphis, Tennessee. The pair became the first sitting world leaders to tour Graceland, the home of rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley. The music legend died in 1977.
The trip marked the end of the Japanese leader's visit. Koizumi, who will step down from his position in September, is a serious fan of "the King." It was President Bush who suggested a visit to Graceland with the Prime Minister, whose birthday—January 8—is the same as Elvis's.
The flight to Memphis aboard Air Force One was pure Elvis, from the music to the movies and the menu, which featured Elvis's favorite snack—a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.
As a member of the press pool—the group of reporters covering the event—I got a firsthand look at the action of the day. Crowds lined the streets, shouting to the leaders, as President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi proceeded to Graceland.
"It's like a dream," said Koizumi.
When President Bush mentioned the Prime Minister's singing voice, a member of the press shouted, "Sing us something!"
Instantly, Koizumi launched into a medley of Elvis songs, including the classic "Love Me Tender." Then, Bush and Koizumi took off for a tour, led by Elvis's widow, Priscilla Presley, and his daughter, Lisa Marie. One hour later, the two world leaders came out and spoke with the press about their experience in Graceland.
"I knew he loved Elvis," said President Bush. "I didn't realize how much he loved Elvis."
A Surprise Visit
Next on the schedule was lunch at Rendezvous, a popular barbecue restaurant. Before reaching the restaurant, though, the motorcade made a surprise stop at the National Civil Rights Museum. Civil rights leader Benjamin L. Hooks, who led the tour, was at the dentist when he got a call from the White House. The tour included a visit to the place (next to the museum) where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
After the surprise detour, we made our way to the restaurant, where President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi had lunch with prominent businessmen and other officials. Afterward, President Bush left on Air Force One. Prime Minister Koizumi, however, stayed behind a little while longer before saying goodbye to Memphis.
Have your students read today's news story, and then have them answer the following questions.
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Welcome to Graceland (July 5, 2006)
RELATED WEB SITES
All About Elvis
Learn more about the king of rock 'n' roll at this Web site. Play games and check out the jukebox to hear some of the songs that made Elvis "the King."