Opening Remarks at the Gala Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms and the Completion of the Patrons of Diplomacy Endowment Campaign

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 27, 2011

Thank you and good evening. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you for joining us this evening. Thank you, Mr. Franklin, for being here tonight. I often reference your portrait when we hold events here in this room named for you, and I never thought I’d be able to thank you in person for all you have done. (Laughter.) And let us thank again the incomparable Jesse Norman who has thrilled audiences all over the world. And I especially wish to thank Secretaries Kissinger, Albright, and Powell, and representatives of the families of Secretary Eagleburger and Secretary Christopher.

In just a short time they will all be receiving an award commemorating this occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Diplomatic Rooms, and I want to personally thank each of them for being with us. I also wish to recognize all of our ambassadors from the diplomatic community and Madam Chen, a special visitor from China, who are with us this evening.

And I want especially to thank the chairs of the Patrons of Diplomacy Initiative, the members of the Endowment Fund, and all of you who have contributed to these rooms for joining us and being a true patron of diplomacy. You are making a contribution to the work that we do every single day in this building and particularly here on the Eighth floor. Because of your efforts, we are able to celebrate two milestones: the 50th anniversary of these historic rooms, and the $20 million raised for the Patrons of Diplomacy Endowment. (Applause.)

When I was first honored to be Secretary of State and came here in that capacity to the State Department, I was surprised to learn there was no permanent funding to support the Diplomatic Reception Rooms or the collection that includes such treasures as that desk and the critical preservation and conservation work that is needed in order to fulfill our obligations to the stewardship that we hold as we assume this position. And each year, Marcee Craighill, our curator for the rooms, was forced to make very difficult decisions about which objects would be conserved and which would not.

And we thought that it would be appropriate, as we moved toward the 50th anniversary and commemorated the great work that Clement Conger got us started on 50 years ago, for I to ask my predecessors to assist us in this effort. All of them agreed, including those who could not be with us this evening.

So with Marcee’s guidance and with the extraordinary commitment of Under Secretary Pat Kennedy, Ambassador Capricia Marshall, the Office of Protocol, we launched Patrons of Diplomacy last October. And this special initiative has, for the time, created this endowment that will care for the preservation and maintenance of the 42 diplomatic reception rooms here at the State Department. I am so grateful to each of you. I also hope that at some time, if you weren’t able this evening to see the new Secretary’s Terrace, you will take a look there, because thanks to the generosity of the Endowment Fund and individual donors, we’re now able to make greater use of one of the best outdoor spaces with clearly the most amazing views in Washington.

So now we will turn to a great meal. Chef Jose Andres donated his talents. (Applause.) He and Jason Larkin, our State Department chef, they have put together a historic meal for us, which is described in tonight’s program. After dinner we will have a few additional words from each of our Secretaries. And I just want to conclude where I started, with a great thank you. We are so appreciative for your understanding the importance of these rooms to the work that each of us has been privileged to do on behalf of the country we love. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/1824