Holiday Tea at the Blair House

Posted by Nancy Brinker
December 1, 2007
The Blair House

This blog entry is written byNancy Brinker, Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State. Ambassador Brinker provides a behind the scenes look into a "Holiday Tea" at the Blair House.

Today, we had a Holiday Tea for the Washington Diplomatic Community at Blair House, the President's guest house. Randy Bumgardner, the manager of the Blair House and Assistant Chief of Protocol and Ann Dorr, Assistant Blair House Manager, along with the Blair House's fine staff, decorated the house beautifully with flowers, candles, ribbons and assorted holiday decorations. The Christmas tree was beautiful. Chef Ian Knox had made tea and holiday treats for the gathering.

Over ninety Ambassadors attended, most with their families (children, grandchildren, and spouses). We had an great opportunity to greet and get to know the families. I was fortunate enough to have my son, Eric, with me. We took our picture in the library in front of a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, who has always had special significance to Illinoinans such as myself and my son -- President Lincoln is the first historical figure so many children in our state learn about. I thought about how fortunate Eric and I were to be here today, welcoming guests in this beautiful setting with its special history and memorabilia from past visits of Presidents and foreign leaders. For a time, Blair House even served as home to President Truman and his family.

Last month, Randy invited me to a ceremony in front of the Blair House honoring the Secret Service agent, Leslie Coffelt, who was killed on November 1, 1950, as he tried to protect President Truman from an assassination attempt. The ceremony took place at sunrise, with all of the officers in uniform. It was quite beautiful.

Eric and I sat with the Ambassadors and their families in the Garden Room, having tea and listening to lovely piano music being played by Steve Cooper. I am thankful to be able to share the joy of this season with fascinating people from different parts of the world. No matter the religion or background of the guests, all were filled with enthusiasm and cheer and clearly enjoyed each other's company.

Comments

Comments

Dan
|
District Of Columbia, USA
December 3, 2007

Dan in Washington, DC writes:

Harry Truman did indeed live at Blair House while the White House was being renovated during his tenure as president. It is fitting that Ambassador Brinker and all those visiting Blair House today continue to remember Truman's time at Blair House. For from his residence in Blair House, Truman spent much of his presidency defending democracy against totalitarian tyranny. And during the terrorist assassination attempt when Officer Coffelt gave his life while successfully protecting the president, Truman himself manned the bastions of Blair House under fire from those terrorists.

It is also interesting to note that the main U.S. Department of State building in Washington, DC, where Secretary of State Rice and Ambassador Brinker work, is named after Harry Truman. This is quite appropriate, for while Truman was president, he endorsed the establishment of America's diplomatic headquarters at its current location in the Foggy Bottom section of Washington. President Truman bid Secretary of State George C. Marshall (and retired General Marshall, who was the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during WWII; and who was the originator of the "Marshall Plan" for reconstructing Europe after WWII, for which he later won the Nobel Peace Prize) to relocate the State Department from the Old Executive Office Building, which was located right next to the White House and just across the street from Blair House, to State's new and still current home at 21st and C streets NW Washington, DC.

While Truman and most members of his great generation are now gone, their global legacy endures. It is fitting that the State Department should be named after Truman, a plain-spoken American who proclaimed a fair dealing and peace for all generations and nations. Surely, this is what American diplomacy is about.

schmetterling
|
District Of Columbia, USA
December 4, 2007

S in Washington, DC writes:

You know something, Ambassador Brinker? Your blogs remind me a bit of the type of programming one sees on "E" Entertainment Network. In other words, light, superficial, and hey! Look at me! Look how great I am ...I'm on TV! In other words, all about form, not even enough substance. I'm not at all impressed by your "blogs;" You give the distinct impression of a political appointee who has absolutely no experience for the position which has been gifted to you, and particularly, I get the distinct impression that you have traveled very little in your life, you know next to nothing about the world that exists outside your cosseted and pampered existence, and that you are utterly unfamiliar with areas outside of the good ole' U.S. of A. If indeed, you have any knowledge at all about the world, it is very very superficial.

In other words, you don't impress a' me much, at all, as Shania Twain would say.... I find you intensely irritating.

schmetterling
|
District Of Columbia, USA
December 4, 2007

S in Washington, DC writes:

I'm writing once more, and only to say this: I checked your Wikipedia biography, Ambassador Brinker, and I am amazed. For someone with your utter lack of knowledge about international affairs to be appointed Ambassador of Hungary, no less, is just astounding and anathema to me. I know Budapest quite well, and again, for someone with no background at all in international affairs to be appointed to such a position is incomprehensible. I will hope, in the next Presidential Election, that the future President-to-be will have those qualified personnel in place around the world who will have some other qualifications on their resume besides being a rich donor to the Republican Party. I find this situation disgusting, quite frankly.

Gary
|
Virginia, USA
December 4, 2007

Gary in Virginia writes:

@ S in Washington, DC --

S, we can all see through your claim to find Ambassador Brinker "intensely irritating." It's plain that you really find her intensely fascinating, given how you have obsessed about her in this and other Dipnote posts. Really, anyone who goes on and on about the way she tied her scarf when she met Sarkozy (as you did in the November 9 Dipnote post about the French President's visit), and who Googles her to look up her biography, is displaying an unhealthy obsession about a woman who is in the public eye.

I suggest you go back to Google and look up the definition of "reaction formation."

And for the sake of Ambassador Brinker's safety, I hope she has an unlisted home address. Is it possible to get a restraining order against a cyber-stalker?

Daniel S.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
December 5, 2007

Daniel in Washington, DC writes:

@ S in Washington, DC -- S for what it's worth, I think you might want to consider lightening up a bit. ...At least Ambassador Brinker is taking time from her schedule to share some insights into her work as the State Department's chief of protocol. Not too many other senior officials at State have taken the time to share such insights with us via this blog. I appreciate learning more about the inner working of the State Department and its protocol office, and I thank Ambassador Brinker for sharing this interesting information and for serving our nation.

In terms of what one needs to be a U.S. diplomat / Ambassador, as a long-time Department of State employee and Secretary of State Dean Acheson put it ... "Not all the arts of diplomacy are learned solely in its practice. There are other exercise yards."

schmetterling
|
District Of Columbia, USA
December 6, 2007

S in Washington, DC writes:

@ Gary in Virginia -- P.S. Gary, further to your "cyber-stalking" comment, I personally want you to know that I ALSO looked up Sean McCormack's Wikipedia entry, and found, that he was once assigned as a "Persian-speaking" officer when he was posted abroad. I found that interesting. That would lead me to believe that Sean McC would understand, BETTER THAN MOST PEOPLE, what an absolute threat the rat's nest d/b/a as the Islamic Republic of Iran truly is, because as an alleged speaker of Farsi, (who knows whether that's really true or not, sometimes people like to say they speak a foreign language when they learn through rote memory how to say 5 sentences!) he may be able to understand what that kook Ahmadinajad is really telling the masses in his many speeches about bringing down the US and Israel!

So I guess what I'm trying to say, Gary from Virginia, is that I learn quite a lot from Wikipedia, it's rather good for current events and finding out about public officials' credentials and competency (or more importantly, lack thereof) for the offices they hold or have held.

As a result, this "cyber-stalker" thinks that YOUR post makes YOU sound not only creepy, but more to the point, really DOPEY. But not to worry, you have good company in that regard, particularly with reference to your defense of those who sound rather like you. (smile)

@ Daniel in Washington, DC --And Daniel, as far as "lightening up" -actually, that's what I try to do on this blog-"lighten" things up, since everyone wants so desperately to be taken bloody seriously here, right? And as far as OTHER REAL State Dept. employees (Chief of Protocol to me is just a fluff, blatently political position-sort of like a knowledgeable, better-dressed (one can hope!) candy-striper or something) I think we've seen quite a bit of that here: Sean McC has been on, the easy-on-the-eyes-State Dept. Legal Advisor had a very interesting blog on the developments of an international law case that I had been following, and there have been quite a few other diplomatic officers, including the Australian Ambassador (the highly regarded lawyer, former DOJ AAG of the Civil Div., Robert McCallum) to contribute posts and engage in Q and A's-so maybe you actually need to READ what's on this website, rather than bloviate about what you perceive to be the lack of senior State Dept. officials (I assume you mean non protocol fluff) contributing their "insights" huh? I think we see plenty of interesting contributions, but more importantly, interesting current event questions put out to the world blogosphere to comment upon, which is the reason why I think people come here to post in the first instance.

And I might ALSO add, to State's credit, they have not appeared to block posts which are critical of the USG, its policies and officials -really, that sets a very positive example to the citizens of the world who might want to contribute here, to have their say, pro or anti-US policy, about a particular political question or issue, and lets them know that they will not be blocked for expressing contrarian or critical viewpoints of the US-I mean, we WANT the rest of the world to know, don't we? that not all Americans think and take the same positions as our senior USG officials? I certainly do! I mean, America would be pretty darn boring and stupid if everyone thought along the mindset of the know-nothing-about-the-world Republican Party, now wouldn't it?

Dan
|
District Of Columbia, USA
December 7, 2007

Dan in Washington, DC writes:

@ S in Washington, DC -- I'm trying to "lighten" things up by making stupid grammatical errors ... Thanks much for helping me spell correctly!

But seriously, if your messages, including your last, are intended to lighten things up on this site, then I can't wait to see your messages when you are seriously upset ...

Re: who from the Department has posted to this site, I've read the vast majority of the entries posted to DipNote by Department leaders and employees ... and I think more senior leaders at State should take part in DipBlog.

Why shouldn't the Secretary of State post? (Here is a link to a blog where the UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, frequently blogs -- http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/blogs/david_miliband/) Why not the Deputy Secretary? Why not more Under Secretaries? Why not more Assistant Secretaries and Ambassadors? And why not some dialogue and back and forth with more of these senior leaders, instead of these seemingly one-way posts from State leaders that demonstrate no consideration or response to comments posted by the public?

Kerri
|
New Jersey, USA
December 7, 2007

Kerri in New Jersey writes:

I really wish you would have posted the picture of you and your son that you write about in the post. It would have been a nice touch.

Ela
|
Florida, USA
December 9, 2007

Ela in Florida writes:

@ S in Washington DC -- I looked you up in Wikipedia and NOTHING came up. LOL! guess you've had NO impact on our world. Thanks for contributing nothing but anger. You're clearly jealous or have some other kind of strange personal issue and WAY too much time on your hands. You're picking on someone who has helped raise over $1 billion dollars for cancer research, brought the word "breast cancer" to a national dialog and now giving back again. She was certainly qualified (probably over qualified) to be Ambassador to Hungary and now Chief of Protocol. You seem to have missed the entire point of a "political appointee." The idea is to allow people from the private sector with a unique perspective the opportunity to help shape our Government. Thank you Ambassador Brinker for your service to our country. I REALLY enjoy your blog, your style and knowing you're the first person foreign leaders meet. Keep going!

.

Latest Stories

March 6, 2009

U.S. Firmly Committed to NATO

Interactive Travel Map | Text the Secretary Following today's meeting with NATO foreign ministers, Secretary Clinton said : "I came… more

Pages