Tonight much of Washington, DC’s glitterati will attend the Diamond Jubilee festivities saluting the reign of Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy. It will be packed — all under the able management of Ambassador Peter Westmacott and his wife — and his suffer-no-fools, knows-everyone social secretary Amanda Downes.
At the time of the Royal Wedding of William and Catherine, then Ambassador to the US Nigel Sheinwald and his wife Julia arranged for really tough-to-get premium label whiskeys and liqueurs as well as a cool photo backdrop so that guests could get souvenir pics making it look like they were ‘there.’ Will be interesting to hear what the Embassy arranges for the Queen’s big cheer tonight.
For those who tilt a different European direction and are done with monarchs, there is Italy’s National Day party being hosted by Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero at the spectacular Italian Embassy designed by Piero Sartogo.
Cafe Milano (the restaurant that could have been bombed allegedly by Saudi-targeting Iranian agents) owner and DC’s leading Italian Franco Nuschese will be helping to keep the evening festive, high-powered, and tasty.
Another top option tonight is a gala dinner hosted at George Washington home Mt. Vernon, for the presentation of the annual George Washington Book Prize, a $50,000 award given to the year’s best book on America’s founding era. The dinner is organized jointly by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College (founded in 1782 with George Washington a founding member of the liberal arts school’s Board of Visitors), the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Mt. Vernon.
A history enthusiast, Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito has been just about every year I have attended and hear he’ll be on the lawn of the historic white mansion again tonight.
But a special shout out to British friend, Edward Luce, for joining us to toast George Washington (with the historically correct three “Huzzahs!”) tonight. Luce is chief US Commentator for the Financial Times and author of the recent (important) book titled Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent.
I feel we George Washington stalwarts are trading Luce to the British in exchange for the ‘Washington’ Post‘s Jonathan Capehart and political machine Terry McAuliffe who both will be at the Embassy tonight (and much of the rest of Washington who can’t seem to get enough of British royalty).
Another of the George Washington Prize dinner guests will be Ambassador Hattie Babbitt, former US Ambassador to the Organization of American States and former Deputy Administrator of US AID (as well as married to environmental advocate and former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination Bruce Babbitt).
Babbitt wrote this interesting tribute to Washington and the lesson by example he set in an email to me today:
Part of my enthusiasm [for attending the George Washington Prize dinner] comes from a greater understanding of just how important Washington’s refusal of another term was in the success of our national experiment. Imagine how different the world would be if a very long list of post colonial leaders had made the same decision — Egypt and the Arab world come most immediately to mind, but most of sub Sahara Africa fits too.
So, cheers to Italy (whose Mario Monti is turning out to be an important Obama ally on the economic front) — cheers to Queen Elizabeth for the symbolic role she plays and good work she and her charities do — and Huzzah to George Washington for not [then] staying another term.
— Steve Clemons