In anticipation of the upcoming summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the White House unveiled a new commemorative challenge coin. The history of challenge coins in the U.S. military is long and full of tradition and honor.
Less than a month to Trump-Kim summit, White House Communications Agency (WHCA) releases its “trip coin.”
This is #74 of 250 made. pic.twitter.com/UTEJg1GyWv
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) May 21, 2018
But the summit is hardly a done deal. Kim threatened to back out last week unless the United States adjusted their expectations for the meeting. Trump is also reportedly worried about being taken advantage of by the North Korean dictator.
Kim already gained a level of legitimacy he did not have before just based on the coin design where he is referred to as “Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un” and place as an equal with Trump.
There’s now a White House Military Office coin for the upcoming Trump Kim Jong Un summit. The North Korean dictator is referred to as “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.” pic.twitter.com/tFAmE813Y1
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 21, 2018
Kim has a lot to gain regardless of the outcome, either by forcing a United States leader to bow to his terms or cancelling a meeting with him. Meanwhile Trump can lose face if the meeting does or does not occur.
Congratulations tin-pot dictators everywhere: not only will the United States fruitlessly negotiate with you, we will also emblazon your image in a coin and call you the “Supreme Leader” pic.twitter.com/czorOPYTzp
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) May 21, 2018
Despite mounting doubts about the summit actually happening, Trump’s communications agency chose to publicize the new coin. If the meeting, currently scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, falls through the coin could turn into an embarrassing reminder for the president; something people are quickly pointing out.
There’s no way a president pre-pressing a challenge coin to commemorate a not-yet-held summit with the North Koreans could ever go wrong https://t.co/r2YkgGyb3u
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) May 21, 2018
When you count your eggs and you have no Chik’in pic.twitter.com/EOHebbXWOu
— ALT- Immigration 🛂 (@ALT_uscis) May 22, 2018
That’s gotta be the ugliest challenge coin I’ve ever seen.
— Alt. U.S. Press Sec. (@AltUSPressSec) May 22, 2018
Are you kidding me?! This is just gross. Whose personality cult exactly is this summit legitimizing? This is un-American. Can’t imagine what Fox would say if any other POTUS did this. Wow. Just wow. https://t.co/rn79W4RWO9 via @voxdotcom
— Robert E Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly) May 22, 2018
However, this coin will not be the first stumble in the realm of challenge coins for Trump. His presidential coin design drew a lot of criticism.
See for example, Trump’s Presidential Challenge Coin, which combines gaudy-as-WTF aesthetics with vaulting self-regard: pic.twitter.com/ZsAi91ZE23
— Emily J Gertz (@ejgertz) May 21, 2018
Challenge coins issued by presidents began in the late 1990s with President Bill Clinton. Clinton displayed several racks of challenge coins, which had been given to him by U.S. service members, in the Oval Office. The challenge coins appear in the background of his official portrait which hangs in the White House.
Trump’s coin broke with tradition, deleting the presidential seal, the motto “E pluribus unum” and the thirteen arrows representing the thirteen original states. He replaced the national motto of the United States with his own campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, on both sides. The coin, instead of being round, featured a banner at the bottom allowing the coin to stand upright.
Custom dating back 20 years, presidential challenge coins traditionally been handed out to service members in commemoration of special achievements and milestones. President Trump’s coin, is unmistakably different from its predecessors.https://t.co/sOcbKWNILl
— Sarasota Mermaid (@SarasotaMermaid) May 22, 2018
But what is a challenge coin? Where did the tradition come from?