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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Prince Charles Embraces Philadelphia's History, Former Vice President Al Gore, last year's recipient, is expected to bestow the honor.

Prince Charles Embraces Philadelphia's History, Former Vice President Al Gore, last year's recipient, is expected to bestow the honor.
(AP) PHILADELPHIA Prince Charles and his wife Camilla mixed historic sightseeing with an inner-city art tour and gospel music Saturday in Philadelphia during their whirlwind three-day swing through the United States.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall mingled with well-wishers, accepting flowers and gifts and charming many in the various crowds that gathered to see them.
The prince used the trip to learn more about community programs that address urban renewal, youth development and the environment, causes dear to him and his 17 charitable foundations.
"I don't think he gets enough credit for all he's doing," Pennsylvania first lady Midge Rendell said after the prince spoke at a champagne reception at the National Constitution Center.
The prince proved a good sport in the face of ribbing about U.S. independence from Britain, declared in Philadelphia more than two centuries ago, and spent most of the reception working the crowd, talking with attendees about their various community projects.
"I'm enormously proud to be walking in my great-great-grandfather's footsteps," Prince Charles said, referring to the 1860 visit to Philadelphia by the future King Edward VII. His ancestor, at age 18, graced the same box at the Academy of Music where Charles and Camilla attended a white-tie gala Saturday night.
The prince also noted his parents' 1976 bicentennial visit to Philadelphia, and said he will remember the city for its "famously warm hospitality and famously cold weather."
In a noontime visit to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Charles and Camilla spoke with a group of fifth-graders about their research into the historic icon, and the duchess ran her hand along the bell's storied crack.
The students presented Camilla with a gift bag that included a water bottle with the logo of their public school.
"It's lovely," Camilla told the children.
Camilla wore a periwinkle dress and a brown tweed overcoat with faux fur cuffs and a brooch, along with pearls and pearl drop earrings. Prince Charles sported a navy suit with a red, blue and gold striped tie, and a dark overcoat.
The couple later visited an impoverished city neighborhood to hear gospel music and view a three-story mural that celebrates the virtues of reading, one of 2,700 created through the city's signature Mural Arts Program.
"They beautify the community and give the kids something positive to do," said Sheree Precious Washington, 42, who lives a block from the mural. She said, however, that the prince was not being shown the full picture of the troubled area, which she said is beset with drugs.
Gov. Ed Rendell congratulated Prince Charles for his work on such problems and for the amount of money he raised each year for his charities. The prince thanked Rendell but said the praise was overly generous -- he said he actually raises $200 million annually, not 200 million pounds, as the governor had said.
"I'm not sure what the exchange rate was this morning," Prince Charles quipped.
Well-wishers who stole a few words with the couple described them as warm and modest.
Sharon Thaler, 52, of Philadelphia, said the prince was surprised to learn that she had waited several hours in the cold for a chance to see him outside Independence Hall.
"'In that case, I hope you have a stiff drink waiting at the end of the day,"' she said he told her.
At International House, a college dormitory mainly for foreign students, the duchess had tea with a few young women in a small kitchenette.
"She seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say," said Victoria Frings, 21, who attends the University of Pennsylvania.
Her husband spent the time in a round-table discussion with students on urban renewal.
Simon Condliffe, 35, a native of Newcastle, England, who now teaches economics at the University of Delaware, said the prince was ahead of his time in discussing the environment and urban development two decades ago.
"Now those issues are at the forefront of people's minds," said Condliffe, who brought his wife and two young daughters to Independence Hall for the royal visit. "That's probably why he's receiving that award."
On Sunday, the prince is scheduled to receive an award from Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment. Former Vice President Al Gore, last year's recipient, is expected to bestow the honor.
Earlier Sunday, the prince and duchess plan to attend services at Arch Street Presbyterian Church, the spiritual home of the Welsh community in Philadelphia. The couple will then take a private train about 90 miles to New York City.
The prince and duchess last came to the United States in November 2005, when they visited the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
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