HisBit: The Resolute Desk

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Like many of our nation’s treasures, it was built in England. From the Mayflower to the founders, our roots run across the shore to Europe. Even the Lady who stands in America’s harbor, arrived with a French accent. Like her, the Resolute Desk is made more and not less American by it’s heritage.

It began life as a ship in Her Majesty’s Navy, and was part of an artic rescue mission.  It served admirably, until the icy waters stranded her, forcing Captain and crew to part company. Later, an American ship rescued it, returning her to America.  

At a time when our two countries were politically at odds, a Senator from Virginia, James Murray Mason, proposed a bill. His idea was to purchase the boat, repair it, and send it to England as a gift. Soon the talk of war ceased, many crediting the Resolute in the process.

When old ships die, they usually are only remembered in paintings and history books, but not the Resolute. At least three desks, not two, were made from its timbers. One to the widow of Henry Grinnell, a man connected with the rescue mission. Another for Queen Victoria, and a third for an American. 

That man was President Rutherford B. Hayes as a gift for America’s kindness. With the exception of four Presidents, it has been used ever since. The decisions of World War II were made on the back of this timber immigrant. Both the pens of Kennedy and Reagan turned bills into law on it. Finally, September 11, 2001 and all the hard days that followed have been helmed at this desk.

Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, the majority of America’s executives found this desk up for the job. The reason may have something to do with it’s name. Resolute means admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. It certainly proved it in it’s pedigree, and like so many other wonderful gifts, has added to our country’s rich history.

The Resolute desk is uniquely American. She is as much a part of our history as any other immigrant who who traveled across the world to make our land their land. I believe that, the great melting pot we are so blessed to partake in, is still the greatest country in the world.  

The artic ship that became an Ambassador, and later a truly Executive assistant knows courses can change. Waters will be tough to navigate, storms will rise, but they will also fall. One decision on its surface alters history, showing us that you and I can do the same. We know, that if we are resolute in our convictions, no obstacle can stand in our way.

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