At the Department of State, we believe that fostering greater cross-cultural exchange and mutual understanding between our nation and others around the world is a critical part of our mission. 21st Century Statecraft requires us to use every diplomatic tool at our disposal to advance the United States' global interests. Harnessing the unique power of food to unite and bring people together is a part of this approach. Last week, the Department organized two events designed to promote cultural exchange and help tell the story of America by sharing our time-honored Thanksgiving culinary traditions with the world.
On November 13, the Bureau of International Information Programs hosted "Live! From America: A Taste of Thanksgiving." White House Chefs Sam Kass and Cris Comerford, Executive Chef of The Museum of the American Indian Richard Hetzler, and world-renowned chef Art Smith gathered at Blair House, the President's Guest House, to engage with thousands of online viewers from more than 75 countries around the world. This interactive experience allowed participants to watch the preparation of six traditional Thanksgiving dishes, ask questions via Twitter about the ingredients and regional variations for this special meal, and learn about the holiday's history and present-day traditions.
On November 15, the Office of the Chief of Protocol's Diplomatic Partnerships Division hosted nearly 200 members of the diplomatic community, including many chiefs of mission and their families, for "A Taste of Thanksgiving" at Blair House. Chefs Art Smith, Jerome Grant from The Museum of the American Indian, and B. Smith's restaurant gave these diplomats a sampling of both historic and modern takes on traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and the National Archives and Records Administration provided photographs and documents from the Thanksgiving celebrations of every American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. In keeping with this season of giving, those gathered assembled 600 bags of Thanksgiving food products that were donated to DC Central Kitchen, and brought nearly 1,000 cans of goods that were donated to the Capital Area Food Bank through the Department of State's 2012 Holiday Food Drive.
In his 2011 Thanksgiving Day proclamation, President Barack Obama said, "[T]hough our traditions have evolved, the spirit of grace and humility at the heart of Thanksgiving has persisted through every chapter of our story." Ever since the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, this treasured holiday has remained as an important part of American history, and we were thrilled that foreign diplomats and audiences around the world were so eager to learn about it.
Related Content: Presidential Proclamation -- Thanksgiving Day, 2012