Women diplomats, Washington leaders, journalists and Georgetown faculty gathered in Riggs Library on Monday evening for a dinner honoring women ambassadors to the United States.
Twenty-one of the 29 current female ambassadors to the United States attended the event, held by Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, which was founded in February 2012 and is headed by former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer.
In addition to the ambassadors honored, attendees included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen, CNN Correspondent Jill Dougherty and Washington Post journalist Mary Jordan. The event also welcomed Anne Anderson, the first female ambassador of Ireland to the United States, who began in her new position six weeks ago.
“This is a great opportunity for us to bring together women leaders from the diplomatic world to connect with our institute,” said University President John J. DeGioia, who was the only man in attendance. “We have the opportunity to make a difference and connect the work of the institute with so many extraordinary leaders in the diplomatic world.”
In remarks throughout the night, attendees reflected on their experiences as women in foreign service and politics as well as the future of women’s empowerment worldwide.
Albright, in her opening remarks, recalled her experience as one of Georgetown’s few female professors in the early 1980s, explaining her reasoning for requiring her courses to be co-ed at the time.
“Having a women’s program solely for women was not a good idea,” Albright said. “Half the issues that women have to deal with in foreign service are men.”
Albright also shared stories from her time in the United Nations, when only seven of 183 nations had women ambassadors — a group Albright called the “G7.”
“People would say, ‘Why are you talking to the ambassador of Liechtenstein?’” Albright said. “And I said to that man, ‘If you have yourself replaced by a woman, I will always take your calls, too.’”
Pelosi, who arrived after Albright had left, joked that she was sorry to miss the former secretary, who she said she usually sees at the hairdresser in the morning, before turning to importance of women in government worldwide.
“It’s about our strength as countries, it’s about our values which we share, it’s about the economy we want to grow in a global way,” Pelosi said.
Anderson, in her remarks, pointed to questioning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced during her time in office for her focus on issues that directly affect women’s empowerment.
“I admire that so persistently, patiently and repeatedly, Secretary Clinton and Melanne pointed out, these are not peripheral issues. These are the core issues,” Anderson said.
Ambassadors and other attendees enjoyed the event and its relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s always good to meet people from different areas, not just ambassadors,” said Ambassador of Cape Verde to the United States Maria Fátima Lima da Veiga, who is soon leaving her post after six years in Washington. Reflecting on her time in the United States, da Veiga pointed to the strengths and weaknesses of the growing community of women ambassadors.
“I think we are united, but I think we should meet more,” da Veiga said. “Some of my colleagues were speaking of a men’s club. Unfortunately we were not able to create a women’s club.”
Select graduate students were invited to attend the dinner.
“I’m very honored that I get to be in a room with so many powerful and accomplished women,” Rachel Palmer (GRD ’15) said. “It’s really incredible to meet female diplomats because, in a world that’s dominated by men, it’s nice to see women who have taken leadership and are making a difference.”
Verveer summed up the purpose of the evening.
“There’s nothing on the agenda but friendship — meeting old friends, making new friends and really renewing our commitment to our common cause,” she said.