Diplomatic Dance: My Washington

by Editorial
Entrance to the Harman Center

Entrance to the Harman Center

Here are some of my favorite places:

1. THE GLEN ECHO CAROUSEL, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md.
During my first period here as the embassy’s political officer in the ’80s, my wife, Julia, and I would take our two young boys to ride the carousel on the week-ends. It was a wonderful time in our lives: we had a very normal, happy, suburban, carpooling existence. It’s a bit different today!

In the ’80s I focused on the other branches of government – the Congress and Administration. This time I’ve become more aware of the central role of the Supreme Court in American political life. I’m lucky to have the chance to hear the Court’s oral arguments when the two sides present their cases in person. This is a great piece of theater – the sparring between the justices can get very sharp, and you have to have your wits about you as complicated points are debated. But it’s fascinating, and a great privilege to be there.

My middle son, Daniel, discovered it here after he spent a summer working for an AIDS project in Ethiopia. It’s a busy place with great atmosphere, food, singing, and dancing. Don’t miss the injera pancake with meat in a spicy sauce!

4. SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY, Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW
Its much-praised productions are probably the closest thing to the classical repertory style of the big British companies and the new Harman Center is the heart of the re-birth of downtown Washington. Julia is on the theater’s board, and we try to lend as much support as we can. Just recently we were closely involved in bringing over the British National Theatre’s production of Phèdre, starring Dame Helen Mirren.

5. BRITISH EMBASSY LIBRARY, 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW
What was once the ambassador’s main office and the cockpit of the old embassy is now my study and where I work in the evenings and on weekends. It’s also a comfortable meeting place where visiting British prime ministers and other guests can gather their thoughts before meeting with senior U.S. figures. Margaret Thatcher used this room in the 1980s to prepare for her meetings with President Reagan. There’s a wonderful portrait of Field Marshall Montgomery painted by Dwight Eisenhower, his commanding officer in 1952 – both were at NATO then. It is rather benign, considering that they hadn’t gotten along during the war.

If Julia and I get a night off – which is pretty rare! – we love to go to see the latest European and art house films.

7. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, 101 Independence Ave. SE
An extraordinary combination of ornate surroundings and great scholarship on an amazing scale. I visited the absolutely spectacular Reading Room with the Prince of Wales, during the bicentennial of the Constitution in 1987. I love the exhibit of part of Thomas Jefferson’s original library. And the Librarian, Jim Billington, a great Russian scholar, went to Oxford University, like Julia and me. Education remains central to “the special relationship.”

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