The Triple-A list of politicians (Henry Kissinger, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Mitt Romney, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, etc.), corporate brass and generally influential folks, lunched at the pre-Alfalfa CSIS lunch Saturday in DC.
It was a Super Bowl of international power voices heard from the perspective of seasoned American leadership at the luxurious Rhode Island Avenue office building of the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
CSIS board chairman and former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn noted that it is not unheard of for the guests at the evening Alfalfa event to enjoy a drink or two. That, he said, puts him in mind of the preacher who hoped to warn a parishioner of the evils of drink. The preacher put a tiny worm in a glass of water. The worm, unharmed, swam to the top. Then he put a worm in a glass of Scotch. The worm fell to the bottom and died.
“Now what does this tell you?” the preacher asked.
“That I will never get worms,” said the man.
In the swing of things, there was a chorus of praise among the some 280 guests for the exquisite Mondavi vintages – Hangtime Pinot Noir and Oberon Sauvignon Blanc. Michael Mondavi, of course, flew in from California to attend the Alfalfa events.
Kissinger, 91, who was verbally assailed by anti-war demonstrators at the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, showed up in fine fettle, despite that protestors had dangled handcuffs over his head in the hearing room.
Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, 94, now at Stanford University, testified at the Senate hearing alongside Kissinger. (Luncheon guests who were at the hearing joked that Shultz told off the protestors in no uncertain terms.) At CSIS, Shultz again joined his pal to discuss still more turmoil, but this time between Russia and Ukraine.
Kissinger, Shultz, and Maurice “Hank Greenberg,” all dubbed the “Home Run Kings of Foreign Policy” for the program, tackled the question of what to do about the Russian incursions into Ukraine.
Greenberg, CSIS trustee and CEO of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc., advised that the U.S. get tighter with China as a way to put pressure on Russia. “It’s not in our national interest if China gets still closer to Russia.”
Kissinger described his many encounters with Russian President Putin this way: “He is not a Hitler but a tough Russian Czar.”
Shultz summed up the view of all panelists when he said: “We should be supplying arms and equipment to Ukraine. We don’t need boots on the ground. There are plenty of Ukrainian boots on the ground now.”
“We have got to squeeze them (Russia) harder,” Nunn said about applying U.S. sanctions. “We are in a strong economic position and we have to play those cards very hard.”
He also called for an immediate coalition of leaders in the United States and Europe to help deal with Russia’s aggression.
CSIS is a nonprofit think tank that has advocated solutions to some of the world’s great policy challenges. It focuses on defense and security; regional stability; and issues ranging from energy and climate to global health and economics
CSIS holds the annual lunch at its ultra-modern, tech-rich headquarters near DuPont Circle with an invitation-only spate of wise movers and shakers, many of whom are revered for their high-profile work in past presidential administrations.
Nunn recalled that at one point he was seriously thinking about running for president in the 1980’s. What changed his mind? “Well I got this letter from a woman urging me to run because, “This nation has all the charisma it can stand!”
Luncheon guests included, among others:
Elizabeth Holmes, at age 30 worth an estimated $4.5 billion, head of Theranos, a medical service company she started at age 19 after dropping out from Stanford to use the money for her own startup. The soft-spoken D.C.-born billionaire has been profiled in The New Yorker and Fortune, and her board includes Nunn, Kissinger and Shultz.
The Hon. Lloyd Hand and his wife, jewelry designer Ann Hand; former congresswoman Jane Harman, president & CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; author Laura Liswood, secretary general of the Council of Women World Leaders; actress Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame.
Former Sen.Alan Simpson; Donna Shalala, University of Miami president; former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace; businessman Frederic Malek; Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson; Sen. Bob Corker; Sen. Lamar Alexander; Sen. Roy Blunt; David Boren, University of Oklahoma president; Sen. Patrick Leahy; Charles Schwab, founder & chairman of Charles Schwab Corp.; Ho-Young Ahn, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea; Theresa Fariello, VP of Exxon Mobil
Astronaut and former Senator John Glenn; former Senate Majority Leader William Frist; family members from Estee Lauder Companies Ltd.; Sen. Dianne Feinstein; former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao; former U.S. Senator Charles Robb; DC lobbyist Brett Greene; former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
Baby, it was cold outside.
Inside, the pizza was hot and the ambiance warm as 110 members of the Georgetown Business Association and others gathered at the newly expanded il Canale on 31st Street for the GBA’s monthly reception on Wednesday.
Although Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser had an unavoidable conflict elsewhere in town, three of her representatives attended, including Logan Circle resident and ANC Commissioner John Fanning, her newly designated Ward 2 liaison. The others were political activist Terry Lynch and Teodora Dimitrova, whose specialty is sports planning.
Fanning was a mayoral appointee in three administrations from 1995 to 2000 and again in 2007 – 2010, working in both the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations & Affairs and the Department of Parks and Recreation.
There, too, was major political player Brett O. Greene, CEO & president of American Management Corporation, a premier government relations and consulting firm for non-profit and government entities in the DC metropolitan area. He was an early supporter of Bowser’s winning candidacy.
Il Canale owner Joe Farruggio and GBA president Riyad Said welcomed the packed house as guests dined on salmon & beef pastas, pizzas Napoletana, antipasti, and cannoli.
What occurred next was a notable isn’t-this-a-small-world moment.
At one table sat professional entertainer Joe Coleman, who once sang with the famous musical group The Platters, and his wife, Vanessa Weaver, both friends of Farruggio. At the next table was Italian-American blogger Oscar Bartoli, his wife Franca, and their friend Italian Melo Cicala, a builder who helped construct the il Canale expansion project.
Finally, the Italians were introduced to Coleman and Weaver by this Georgetown Dish blogger.
Immediately, Bartoli and Coleman broke out in an impromptu, very robust Italian song. Cicala then related that in a previous life as a booker, he brought the original Platters to Italy to perform. Now let’s see: how many degrees of separation is that?
Nice guys finish last?
That adage fell by the wayside Thursday night as movie great Paul Greengrass, who directed the thrilling ship-hijacking film Captain Phillips, and the “real” Captain Phillips– Richard Phillips– were together at America Abroad Media’s awards dinner.
On stage instead of on the bridge, the real-life Captain Phillips praised Greengrass: “You care about people and you are a brilliant director who manages to convey so authentically and realistically, the raw, human emotions that we feel during our difficult experiences.”
A video tribute to Greengrass came from Barkhad Abdi, now filming in Africa. Abdi and the Captain Phillips movie received Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor. In the film, Phillips was played by actor Tom Hanks. Abdi was the lead Somali pirate.
Gordon Felt, whose brother Edward was a passenger on the doomed United Flight 93, said of Greengrass, who wrote and co-produced the film United 93: “You have an extraordinary ability to being to life, to the lens and cameras, events that have deeply impacted so many.”
United 93 is the story told in real time of passengers and crew rallying against hijackers on September 11, 2001. The plane, headed toward Washington, crashed in Pennsylvania. Felt is president of the Families of Flight 93, some of whom attended the AAM dinner and were introduced onstage.
Greengrass called making the two films “the greatest privilege of my life. . . . In the end, it’s the relationships with these men and women that are humbling for me as a filmmaker and if the films tell the story that they recognize, then on behalf of all the men and women who have worked on those films, I thank them for their grace and their sacrifice.”
Upwards of 395 international dignitaries, ambassadors, journalists and other invited guests attended AAM’s 2nd Annual Awards dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in D.C.
AAM, headed by Founder and President Aaron Lobel, promotes the free exchange of ideas through the development and dissemination of seminal TV and radio programming from South Asia to the Middle East and Africa.
Three others honored were Saudi journalist and TV host Turki Aldakhil, who contributed to the establishment of Al Arabiya News and was named as one of Arabian Business’ 100 Most Powerful Arabs of 2014; leading documentary film organization Impact Partners; and Pakistani actress Reema Khan, who now resides in Virginia.
Impact Partners, led by Executive Director Dan Cogan, is committed to financing independent documentary cinema that addresses pressing social issues. It brings together financiers and filmmakers so that, together, they can create powerful films that entertain audiences, enrich lives and ignite social change.
Reema Khan received AAM’s 2014 Partner Award for her role in AAM’s series, Reema Khan’s America. The series follows Reema as she sets out to discover her new country through the eyes of the average Pakistani, testing her preconceptions about life in the United States and exploring what it means to be an American.
The evening concluded with a splendid performance by the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominated Civilizations Choir of Antakya, Turkey. The choir is composed of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish members who are priests, imams, nuns, teachers, students and seniors
The event was co-chaired by Gen. Michael Hayden and The Hon. Doug Wilson.
Turkish Airlines was a premier event sponsor.