I still fondly remember my solitary bicycle ride through the countryside south of Amsterdam, several years ago. Perhaps it is because of the ordinariness of the day that I can easily visualize the sights and sensations of the place.
I was a couple of hours into one of those self-guided tours of Holland when I stopped to drink some water. The sky was dark grey in heavy overcast, the haze caused mist to accumulate on my skin and eyeglasses. Right in front of me was a large field of neon blue flowers. Then, I shivered partly because of the beautiful sight and partly because of the chill. This was the day I fell in love with the Netherlands. Writing about the experience, right now, makes me ache to return to that countryside.
The memory of the blue flowers and also the remembrance of the kind-hearted people I met around the city of Amsterdam, make today, Dutch American Friendship Day, a red-letter day on my calendar.
There have been 233 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations between our two nations. During the 200th year of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and the US, the Senate and the House of Representatives designated each April 19th as Dutch American Friendship Day.
The connection between the two nations pre-dates the English colonial period. If you remember your early American history, you might recall that the Pilgrim Fathers lived for several years in Leiden in South Holland before they sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts from the port of Delfshaven near Rotterdam.
Before the existence of New York City, was the settlement of New Amsterdam. During the Revolutionary War, the Dutch were allies of the Continental Army. They were one of the first sources of armaments for the revolutionaries.
Following US independence from Great Britain, the Dutch Republic (now The Netherlands) was the second nation to officially, diplomatically recognize the United States. (France was the first country.) Even before French recognition, the Province of Friesland along with the City of Amsterdam officially recognized the new American country. The very first Embassy building the United States owned was the Hôtel des Etats Unis in The Hague.
Six Presidents had some Dutch ancestry: Martin Van Buren, Warren G. Harding, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Some other famous Americans whose family trees are rooted in the Netherlands include: Thomas Edison, Humphrey Bogart, Gerard Kuiper, Eddy Van Halen, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Dick Van Dyke, Bruce Springsteen, and Walter Cronkite.
Why was April 19th chosen as the commemorative day? It was April 19, 1782 that future President John Adams was officially received by the “States General” in The Hague and recognized as “Minister Plenipotentiary. On that same day, the the Hôtel des Etats Unis was purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal to become the very first American Embassy.