Monegasque Ambassador Gilles Noghès and his American-born wife Ellen had a longer than usual visit with the First Couple, chatting about “personal matters.” But the ambassador did offer that it “was wonderful to meet the president and first lady personally and to hear him tell everyone that he had a strong commitment ‘to renew American diplomacy’ and ‘to start a new era of engagement with the world.’”
Singapore’s ambassador, Chan Heng-Chee, was particularly pleased to be with the Obamas since her nation is head of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) this year. “We hope to help everyone in our global neighborhood come out of this economic recession. President Obama will travel to Singapore for APEC meeting this fall and we welcome him with great excitement,” the dean of the female diplomatic corps added.
This veteran ambassador of 13 years here “especially appreciated how this administration had all their top White House staffers present for the reception so that we had a chance to talk with them, too.” The president took the opportunity to thank his “extraordinary” diplomatic team including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.N. Representative Susan Rice, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. (Both Rice and Kirk attended along with top advisors David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and Rahm Emanuel.)
President Obama preached to the choir, noting that diplomacy is even more important today. “Because of the interconnectedness of our world …we cannot solve our problems until we solve them together,” he told the envoys. “Now, it is hard to think of an issue that matters to our people that does not depend in some way upon cooperation among nations – health and education, energy and the environment, the arts and even athletics.”
Batiks Build Bridges
“What a wonderful way to be welcomed to this city,” exclaimed Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s half-sister, referring to a VIP brunch in her honor at the Textile Museum and a gala at the Mandarin Oriental showcasing a colorful collection of Indonesian batiks collected by Ann Dunham, Soetoro-Ng (and the president’s) late mother. The two-week mid-August exhibit attracted big crowds to the Kalorama museum at the end of a national tour planned by Soetoro-Ng. But this presidential little sister is planning on staying longer, so her two children “can get to know their cousins … We’re staying in the White House right now but will be finding our own place.”
Soetoro-Ng is a skilled international conflict resolution specialist, peace negotiator, and practitioner of multi-cultural education who plans to write a children’s book while she’s here “for at least six months” with her husband Konrad Ng, a scholar-in-residence at the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Program from the University of Hawaii, and their children: Sivata, age 1, and Suhaila, 5. “I am the one who took care of our grandmother until she died last year,” she said, “and I need a break and the support of my family.”
Love on the Potomac
Unexpected Embassy Row nuptials have united two recently arrived Latin American diplomats. No confirmed reports yet if their fluffy, white kitty wore flowers or bells at the ceremony, but you can catch the energetic newly-weds up early and biking on the Towpath. They’re the ones with brand new bikes, helmets, gloves, and smiles – a mile wide.