Can Queen Be More Than Figurehead?

Queen Elizabeth II went to New York this week, her third visit in almost 60 years as Britain's monarch. Host Scott Simon has a snapshot of the visit.

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Queen Elizabeth visited New York this week. Almost surprisingly, it was only her third visit. The age of 84, after almost 60 years on the throne, you might wonder if she'll ever be back. She paid respects to Ground Zero, where 67 Britons died in the attacks of September 11th and opened the British Garden in Hanover Square planted with azalea, foxglove, holly and yew, that is a memorial to all the victims. And she spoke to the U.N. General Assembly for the first time in 53 years just for eight minutes, nothing to impress Fidel Castro.

Great Britain is now a former empire, but Queen Elizabeth is still the figurehead of 54 countries that have been transformed, varying degrees of success, from colonies into independent states of the British Commonwealth. When people in 53 years from now look back on us, they will doubtless view many of our practices as old-fashioned, she told the assembled. But it is my hope that when judged by future generations our sincerity, our willingness to take a lead and our determination to do the right thing will stand the test of time.

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SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.

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