Three-time-Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times foreign affairs columnist and best-selling author Tom Friedman was honored at the Italian Embassy as winner of this year’s Urbino Press Award, named after the picturesque central Italian town which was home to one of Europe’s most enlightened Renaissance courts. Friedman delighted the crowd by noting, “I am Jewish, but I believe in reincarnation and I know that in a previous life I lived in Urbino.” He will travel there this month to pick up his award.
Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan and his beautiful wife Veronica celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary in Italy after proving they could handle anything and everything at once: a scary international influenza epidemic that began in their country, an earthquake, a major business and tourism downturn, and continuing drug and immigration problems plus attending many Cinco de Mayo celebrations and being honorary patrons of Meridian International Center’s “An Evening in Yucatán” on May 7 – all with two little daughters at home who want attention. “Just look at my calendar,” Sarukhan said, pulling out his schedule at Mexico’s fundraiser for the Post-Classical Ensemble. “A good night’s rest for me is four hours these days.”
The Swedes may have the capital’s biggest glass house, but in this era of transparency and public diplomacy, many embassy properties are open and welcoming everyone inside – as they were on two recent spring Saturdays. What the European Union started three years ago has now been adopted by Passport DC, which had 30 embassies putting out welcome mats on May 2. A week later on the traditional Europe Day, member nations and the EU Commission recorded over 70,000 visits to their premises. On both days, the longest lines outside meant the most delicious ethnic food and colorful cultural programs inside.
Speaking at his last Europe Day celebration, popular but soon-to-depart Ambassador John Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, passionately reminded guests of the importance of European integration and strong transatlantic relations. “The success of the European Union lies in the fact that Europeans want a structure of peace … EU membership does not reduce a country’s sovereignty – in fact, it increases it because it gives a country an influence over policies pursued by its neighbors, which is so important in this globalized and inter-dependent world.”
THE JOY OF UNPACKING
Don’t be surprised to see the flag of Cyprus flying across from Japan’s consulate on Embassy Row. Cypriot Ambassador Andreas Kakouris and his American wife, Kareen, are making a new diplomatic nest (they’re renting) in the imposing terracotta residence that once belonged to Marshall Coyne, the late Washington hotelier and real estate magnate. With huge reception rooms and a grotto-inspired garden, the Massachusetts Avenue NW location is perfect for diplomatic entertaining. Meanwhile, there’s serious remodeling at Cyprus’ 24th Street NW residence, Frank Sinatra’s old digs.
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