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D.C. Dazzles at 51st Annual Meridian Ball

October 29, 2019

Meridian International Center welcomed hundreds of prestigious supporters to its 51st Annual Meridian Ball Friday, starting at ambassadors' residences from Kalorama to McLean, including participating countries from Afghanistan to the U.K.

Ambassador of Spain, Santiago Cabanas Ansorena, Mrs. Edilia Gutierrez and Sec. Carlos Gutierrez and Mrs. Santiago Cabanas Ansorena (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Ambassador of Spain, Santiago Cabanas Ansorena, Mrs. Edilia Gutierrez and Sec. Carlos Gutierrez and Mrs. Santiago Cabanas Ansorena

Colleen Nunn, former chair of the organization (joined by former Sen. Sam Nunn), was honored along with other past chairs including former Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez and his wife Edilia, former Congressman and Ambassador to Mexico James R. Jones, former Congressman and Ambassador to Canada James Blanchard and his wife Janet, and William and Dorothy McSweeny. (He was chairman of Occidential Petroleum.)  

Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Dorothy McSweeny with Amb. Jim Jones (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Dorothy McSweeny with Amb. Jim Jones

Nunn said, "Meridian became a touchstone for me because it is a non-partisan center working closely with the diplomatic community, U.S. government and the private sector. Meridian is proud of past program participants including over 175 Heads of State,  Nobel Prize winners, CEOs, Ambassadors and key decision makers in almost every country."

Mrs. Gwen Holliday and Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President and CEO of Meridian International Center. (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Mrs. Gwen Holliday and Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President and CEO of Meridian International Center.

Nunn gave the remarks in her toast at the Embassy of Iceland, recognizing Ambassador Bergdis Ellertsdottir. Referencing the island nation's natural wonders, Nunn added, "Iceland is also one of the world’s wonders in its record of electing women leaders. In 1980, Icelanders chose the world's first directly elected female head of state. After the 2016 elections, nearly half of its members of parliament are female. That’s a model for the world."

Amb. Sheikh Meshal Al Thani offers a toast over dinner at his residence (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Amb. Sheikh Meshal Al Thani offers a toast over dinner at his residence

Amb. Sheikh Meshal Al Thani of Qatar and his wife hosted a festive dinner in McLean with diplomats including Joni Smith, head of Scottish Affairs at the British Embassy, and power couple Nancy Bagley and Soroush Shehabi. Speaking of power couples, Mary Streett of BP served as Corporate Chair of the event, accompanied by Pine Island Capital's Clyde Tuggle. They later joined Meridian President Emeritus and former Ambassador Walt Cutler attended with the beautiful Didi Cutler

Michelle Kosinski of CNN and husband, Kimbell Rush Duncan (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Michelle Kosinski of CNN and husband, Kimbell Rush Duncan

Michelle Kosinski of CNN and husband Kimbell Duncan, who flew in from their home in Verbier, Switzerland, joined in for dessert.

Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Mrs. Colleen Nunn with Beth Solomon (center) (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Mrs. Colleen Nunn with Beth Solomon (center)

"The Ball is central to Meridian's identity and mission to convene leaders across parties, borders and sectors in a neutral, non-partisan setting to forge relationships and catalyze collaboration on global issues," wrote current Meridian Chair Ann Stock, former White House Social Secretary and Assistant Secretary of State, and Meridian President & CEO Amb. Stuart Holliday. 

Amb. Lloyd Hand, former Chief of Protocol and Ann Hand, Founder of Ann Hand Jewelry and Design (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Amb. Lloyd Hand, former Chief of Protocol and Ann Hand, Founder of Ann Hand Jewelry and Design

Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund (center) with Mrs. (Debbie) and Congressman Mark Meadows (NC) (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund (center) with Mrs. (Debbie) and Congressman Mark Meadows (NC)

Barbara Hawthorn, Amb. László Szabó of Hungary, and his wife, Dr. Ivonn Szeverényi with Pavlos Dimitriadis. (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Barbara Hawthorn, Amb. László Szabó of Hungary, and his wife, Dr. Ivonn Szeverényi with Pavlos Dimitriadis.

BP's Mary Streett, Corporate Chair, with guests at the 51st Annual Meridian Ball (Photo by: Meridian International Center) BP's Mary Streett, Corporate Chair, with guests at the 51st Annual Meridian Ball

Mrs. Debra Dunn and Alan Dunn with his identical twin brother, Congressman Neal Dunn and Mrs. Leah Dunn. (FL) (Photo by: © Neshan H. Naltchayan) Mrs. Debra Dunn and Alan Dunn with his identical twin brother, Congressman Neal Dunn and Mrs. Leah Dunn. (FL)

A trio plays in the courtyard at the party (Photo by: Meridian International Center) A trio plays in the courtyard at the party


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Georgia (Wines) on My Mind

October 10, 2019

 Public Affairs and Communications Counselor Sofia Gegechkori and Col. Zezva Liparteliani, Defense, Military, Naval and Air Attaché of Georgia to the United States (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Public Affairs and Communications Counselor Sofia Gegechkori and Col. Zezva Liparteliani, Defense, Military, Naval and Air Attaché of Georgia to the United States
Who are the most popular oenophiles in Washington? The Republic of Georgia's Ambassador David Bakradze and pre-eminent Public Affairs Counselor Sofia Gegechkori are at the top of the list. With their sunny warmth and winning Embassy wine tastings, they have created a fanatical fan club for wines from the country of its birth.

One of the Georgian dancers with Amb. Bakradze (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) One of the Georgian dancers with Amb. Bakradze
The Embassy recently invited wine lovers to taste the nation's bounty and beautiful culture, spiced up with a delicious dance troup that kept attendees thirsty for more. "Wine is so much part of our DNA, our identity, that no invasion in our history, no invaders have managed to force us to stop it or forget it," said Ambassador Bakradze, welcoming the 200 guests. He pointed out that "8000 vintages speak for our 8000 years of wine making -- and therefore wine drinking -- and I think this is a good reason to gather together and celebrate this day."

Wine Tasting at the Embassy of Georgia (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Wine Tasting at the Embassy of Georgia
There is a lot to celebrate from this country of rolling green valleys and surging rivers. Native grapes including Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Chinuri, Aladastury and over 400 more are aged by standard international methods as well as in ancient terracotta pots called "kvevri."  

From 6000 BC, inhabitants of the current Georgia were cultivating grapes and burying these clay vessels in which they stored the wine and kept it cool. Some wines were aged 50 years! 

To put a perspective on this, paper is said to have made its debut in 100 BC in China -- 6000 years after the Georgians had created what some call the drink of Gods. The wheel only got here in 3500 BC -- 2500 years later!

Clearly the Georgians were onto something, and today, they continue to enjoy -- and more importantly, share -- this divine potion. 

More about the history of Georgian wines is here.

Sumptuous Georgian wine (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Sumptuous Georgian wine


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Despite Fear of Flying, She Soars: The Washington Diplomat's Anna Gawel

August 11, 2019

Posing with a cutout of The Diplomat’s cover page. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Posing with a cutout of The Diplomat’s cover page.
The Washington Diplomat, premier publication of the diplomatic and international communities in Washington and New York, celebrates its 25th Anniversary this fall. In a canabalizing media landscape, that's several lifetimes. A treasured, endangered species. How do they do it? With a readership of 120,000 including nearly 200 embassies, The Diplomat combines in-depth international news and commentary with features on culture, food, arts and the international glitterati of the D.C. social scene. We caught up with its managing editor Anna Gawel recently during a brief interlude between overseas jaunts.

How did you get to the Washington Diplomat?

I stumbled into it. I’m from the area, and I studied journalism at the University of Maryland. I majored in broadcast and did some stints at a local radio station and a PBS Show, “To the Contrary.” But I realized that I really preferred more in-depth reporting and so I began looking on the print side. I wasn’t familiar with The Diplomat but discovered that it was a really nice, independent, family-owned publication. So I started there as an assistant and just slowly made my way up. I really enjoyed the diversity of the work and am really proud of what we produce. 

Anna with husband Thomas Coleman at the White House Correspondents’ Pre-Party that The Washington Diplomat hosted at the U.S. Institute of Peace this May. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Anna with husband Thomas Coleman at the White House Correspondents’ Pre-Party that The Washington Diplomat hosted at the U.S. Institute of Peace this May.
What’s your favorite thing about your work?

I think especially in today’s chaotic media landscape, to have the luxury of stepping back and taking a long-term perspective instead of ambulance-chasing the daily headlines is incredibly interesting to me and rewarding. Being able to still do in-depth, long form journalism with a focus on foreign affairs is still sadly a bit rare. To produce that quality content that is still appreciated and to write about things that number one, really offer context on complicated issues -- so we kind of have this huge broad outlook on the world – but then also to really get into the grassroots of the diplomatic community here – whether it’s covering art exhibitions or ambassadors speaking at local think tanks – I always describe it as this hybrid of world news but also a local, grassroots, community-oriented publication.  

Teenage Anna and her Polish grandmother, celebrating Christmas Eve (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Teenage Anna and her Polish grandmother, celebrating Christmas Eve
How did you get interested in international affairs?

I was actually born in Warsaw, Poland, and my family moved here when I was very young – four years old. This was shortly before martial law was instituted in ‘82.  And so I think coming from an immigrant background you kind of inevitably grow up with that international perspective. The combination of growing up in D.C. where you can’t avoid politics – my parents were always interested in it and we would talk about it at the dinner table – and also having that international connection – it kind of became a natural fit. And then of course after 9/11, when I really started working in the industry, it coalesced to the realization of how much international affairs impacts people’s backyards.

Do you like to travel?

I love it. My husband and I visited Peru a few months ago, and we just got back from an Alaska cruise. I pride myself on being a bargain travel hunter, so whenever I see a good deal, I kind of snap it up. Over the years for work I’ve been to Taiwan, Morocco. Most recently I went to Jamaica for a big climate change conference where Richard Branson and the Caribbean governments are opening this new initiative to make the Caribbean the world’s first climate smart zone.  

Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru last year. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru last year.
You have the travel bug.

Oh, of course! I don’t think you can be working in international affairs and not want to see what you’re writing about. Although I don’t pretend to be that brave and head into Libya or Syria. I have some brave freelance writers who do that. When you grow up in a multicultural household it’s a natural instinct. My husband loves to travel.

Do you prefer to go overseas when you travel?

Anna Gawel, age 16, on her first solo trip to Paris (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Anna Gawel, age 16, on her first solo trip to Paris
I do. I often discuss this with ambassadors, because their inclination is to visit as much of the U.S. as possible. Whereas when I have free time my inclination is to visit as much of Europe or other parts of the world as possible. And something I notice is that I really haven’t visited many parts of America. I’m trying to make a vow to visit more of the U.S., more of the Midwest and the West Coast. I know ambassadors who have visited all 50 states. They’ve made it their mission. So that kind of spurred me to visit more of the U.S.

Holding her May 2019 cover profile of the New Zealand ambassador at a discussion The Diplomat hosted with the Estonian ambassador at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Holding her May 2019 cover profile of the New Zealand ambassador at a discussion The Diplomat hosted with the Estonian ambassador at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel.
Tell us something about you that most people don’t know.

I almost never watch TV or movies. I’m a reader and I only get my news from print (naturally). The only thing I watch occasionally to decompress are Bravo’s “Real Housewives” series or World War II documentaries. Also, while I love traveling, flying absolutely terrifies me!

Is there anything you would like to say that I haven’t asked about?

We are so grateful for the diplomatic community’s embracing us. You’re nowhere without your audience and we certainly wouldn’t have made it 25 years without them. We’re proud and we would like to think we have done a service, but in the media landscape when you hit 25 years – you have nothing but gratitude.

The Washington Diplomat will host a reception at the Embassy of Argentina Oct. 11 to celebrate its 25th anniversary with friends from the diplomatic corps, U.S. government officials and the business community.


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