Famous handshakes that changed the course of history

Handshakes between political enemies can have an immediate effect on the political climate around them and can change a country experiencing domestic political crisis or countries with historic enmity. We take a look at six of these memorable handshakes.

Uhuru and Raila

On March 9, 2018, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga met for the first time after a divisive election last year, which Mr Odinga boycotted and which Mr Kenyatta won with more than 98 percent of the vote.

They emerged together and shook hands later. The handshake literally united Kenyans, the shilling stabilised and a hope for a new Kenya was felt across the country.

The two leaders said the political differences that have divided more than four Kenyan generations “must now come to an end.”

The  duo formed a 14-member advisory committee to work towards uniting the country and reforming public institutions.

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in

On 27 April, 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in met at the border between the two countries. Kim and Moon shook hands and held talks alone without their aides.

The two leaders agreed to work towards a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and an end to Korean war. The two Koreas have been in war for 68 years, technically.
Kim Jong Un becomes the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea for nearly 70 years. His visit signaled a new era in the Korean peninsula and created a hope for reunification.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro

On April 10, 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro shake hands before the inauguration of the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, a symbolically charged gesture as the pair seek to restore ties between the Cold War foes.

Yasser Arafat and Yitzahk Rabin


In 1993, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Lrime Minister Yitzhk Rabin shook hands for the first time after signing the first Oslo Accord. Standing between them is U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong

On February 22,1972, Chinese communist Chairman Mao Zedong welcomed U.S. President Richard Nixon at the Forbidden City in Beijing. The historic meeting ended a 25-year freeze on diplomatic relations between the ideologically opposed nations.

Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin

In September 1987, following the Camp David Accords, which were also overseen by President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat joined once again in the spring of the following year.

Their handshake signified an agreement on the peace treaty resulting from the Accords, which stipulated that Egypt would recognize Israel’s statehood while Israel would withdraw its occupying forces from the Sinai peninsula.

2,612 thoughts on “Famous handshakes that changed the course of history

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