Thursday, March 20, 2014

‘Kiwi by heart’

A woman who describes herself as “an American by birth, but a Kiwi by heart” was made an Honorary Member of the Order of New Zealand today [VIDEO] for her work in helping to preserve our national emblem, the kiwi.

Kathy Brader has been at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Bird House since 1986. That zoo was the first institution outside of New Zealand to hatch a kiwi, something only five zoos outside of New Zealand have ever done successfully. Under Brader, the Zoo successfully hatched and raised six kiwi.

Brader is also given credit for her role in creating the United States’ only “Meet a Kiwi” program at the National Zoo, which allows visitors to observe kiwi up close. When Nigel and went to National Zoo with Jason many years ago, we happened to be there when the “Meet a Kiwi” was taking place, which was kind of a surreal experience. And, yes, we joked that people could meet us.

Her recognition is only honorary because some US citizens are barred from accepting foreign honours and titles under Article 1, section 9, Clause 8 of the US Constitution, which says in part: “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” National Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, is administered by the US federal government, which means this constitutional ban applies to its employees, particularly senior staff.

Interestingly, there’s no ban on private US citizens accepting a foreign title as long as they don’t swear allegiance to a foreign power, which can in some circumstances cost a person their US citizenship. In 1810, the 11th Congress passed and submitted to the states what would have been the 13th Amendment, called the Titles of Nobility Amendment (TONA). It would have stripped US citizenship from any citizen who accepted a title of nobility from a foreign country. The amendment wasn’t ratified by enough US states to become part of the Constitution, however, since it had no expiry date, it technically could still be added, unlikely as that is.

It’s actually common for countries to bestow honorary versions of their awards to foreigners. It probably has to do with not stepping on the toes of other countries, or something.

In any case, being honorary doesn’t make it any less of a big deal, really. It also sounds like it was worthy recognition.

Photo of Kathy Brader above is by Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, 2008. It's released under a Creative Commons License.

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