TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping received a football, a personalized jersey and instruction on America’s most popular sport during a tour of a Washington statple high school.
Xi came to Lincoln High School in Tacoma on Wednesday afternoon, the most public stop in his three-day visit to Washington state before he heads to the White House later this week.
Two players presented Xi with a football. Later, two captains of the team presented Xi with a white uniform with a No. 1 and his name “Xi” in yellow letters on the back.
Xi had presents of his own, giving the school books about China, a ping pong table and balls, and inviting 100 students to be his guests in China.
Mushawn Knowles, 17, who plays safety for the Lincoln Abes, was one of the teens who presented the jersey to Xi.
“I’m excited to show him what we’re about,” Knowles said earlier. “I’m really excited to experience someone who has so much power and influence. And hopefully we can have influence on him to love football.”
Xi walked into the gym as the football players were practicing. Former NFL player and 1992 Lincoln High graduate Lawyer Milloy explained the 7-on-7 drills to the president.
“It was a real honor,” Milloy said. “It is a tremendous deal that he’s even in the U.S.”
Not everyone was thrilled about Xi’s visit. Dozens of protesters were scattered along streets outside the high school in the hours before Xi’s arrival. Some carried signs, while others waved the flag of South Vietnam, objecting to what they see as Chinese aggression.
Xi first visited Tacoma, Washington, 22 years ago while striking a sister city relationship between the port city and Fuzhou, China, where he was a regional leader.
After visiting the gym, Xi entered the auditorium to the marching band and raucous cheers at the high school where about three-quarters of the students are minorities.
Xi, sitting between his wife and the high school principal, heard the choir sing “What a Wonderful World” and then gave remarks on stage.
He said he was overwhelmed by the warm reception and recalled fond memories of his last visit to Tacoma.
“Indeed there is a strong bond between me and the city of Tacoma,” he said.
Xi received a standing ovation and gasps when he extended an invitation for 100 Lincoln students to come to China.
Dan Voelpel, a school spokesman, said teachers have incorporated China into their lessons. Teachers and administrators all wanted to show Xi what a typical urban American school looks like.
“This was just a magical day for Lincoln,” said Principal Pat Erwin.
Lincoln High was selected in part because of the sister-cities agreement as well as an exchange agreement signed in 2008 between teachers at Lincoln and their counterparts in Fuzhou.
Tacoma, a city of about 205,000 residents, has strong trade ties with China and Hong Kong, which did a total of $21.9 billion in trade with the Port of Tacoma last year and rank as the city’s top trading partners.