About the Author: Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall serves as Chief of Protocol to the United States.
Last night, Secretary Clinton hosted“Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” a holiday reception honoring the families of United States Government employees, including almost 1,000 State Department employees currently serving tours in the 17 locations around the world considered unsafe for their families to join them or even host visitors. The effort was organized by the Office of the Chief of Protocol and Family Liaison Office, through the generosity of the Magazine Publishers of America. Participating magazine staff members and local decorators installed holiday decorations in the Blair House and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms in honor of the unaccompanied tour families.
While most of our dedicated colleagues serving these unaccompanied tours could not join us in person, they were with us in thought and spirit throughout the evening. I had the pleasure of meeting their spouses, children and parents and hearing about them from those who love them most.
It was an incredible day in their honor. We began by taking the families on a special tour of the Blair House, the President’s Guest House, earlier in the day and then to the reception with Secretary Clinton in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Both the spaces were decorated so thoughtfully and beautifully by magazine staff members and volunteers who spent early mornings and late evenings working on the rooms.
At the event yesterday evening, our guests were able to watch a slideshow to see how our volunteers accomplished this feat, which would not have been possible without the support of the Magazine Publishers of America and the participating magazines. We thank Nina Link, President and CEO, and Howard Polskin, Senior Vice President, for involving all the prestigious publications who participated. They are: Better Homes and Garden, Martha Stewart Living, Mother Earth News, Natural Home, This Old House and Traditional Home. We are immensely grateful for their warmth of heart and generosity –preparing these historic rooms for those who will be without loved ones this holiday season. From the incredible wreaths in the Benjamin Franklin Room to the heartwarming Truman family Christmas stockings hanging on the mantle of the Truman study in the Blair House, the rooms were the perfect setting for our special families.
Both spaces are truly living monuments to our nation’s diplomatic history. When bilateral meetings are held in the Monroe Room, or a Chief of State stays in the Blair House, these rooms with timeless furnishings, fine art and decorative objects help tell part of our nation’s story and in the process provide the dignitaries with a deeper understanding of America, its people, history and culture.
The Air Force String Quartet, the Holton-Arms Upper School Handbell Choir and the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Children of the Gospel Choir performed seasonal favorites at the reception with the Secretary. The children, as well as quite a few of the adults among us, delighted in the delicious gingerbread cookies that we served.
For me, it was those children for whom last night’s event was very much about. As Secretary Clinton reminded all of us, their loved ones are engaged in some of the most important work we do in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Africa and Europe. Secretary Clinton said, “They’re building schools. They’re resolving tribal disputes. They’re running English language and cultural exchanges. They’re helping bring greater stability and justice to people around the world. They are also helping us connect with those people. They’re engaging communities. They’re strengthening institutions. They’re reaching out to civil society. They’re keeping our diplomats, our development experts, and other Americans safe.”
For many, the holidays represent a time to celebrate, be with family and perhaps most importantly, be thankful for all of life’s blessings. For the families gathered at last night’s reception and the employees overseas, the holiday season is a symbol of their dedication and sacrifice, and we thank them for serving our country.