Meridian Honors Social Secretaries and Cultural Attachés

Social secretaries and cultural attachés at Meridian on August 1, 2019. Photo: Stephen Bobb


On August 1, 2019 Meridian welcomed over 120 guests to celebrate Washington's social secretaries and cultural attachés. Meridian annually honors embassy social secretaries and cultural attachés to illuminate the significance of their work to advance diplomacy in Washington and abroad. This summer, The Honorable Ann Stock, Chair of Meridian's Board of Trustees, welcomed guests to a panel discussion on the importance of culture, hospitality, and diplomacy featuring distinguished speakers spanning the cultural realm in Washington; panelists included Alicia Adams (Vice President of International Programming, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), Francesca Craig (Director of Special Events, Motion Picture Association of America), Diane Flamini (Social Secretary, Embassy of Spain) and Jonathan Steffert (Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Officer, Embassy of New Zealand). David Adler, CEO and Founder of Bizbash, dynamically facilitated a light-hearted conversation about the panelists' experiences planning and executing high-profile social events. In the opening discussion, panelists agreed that event planning involves storytelling. They explained that developing narratives that reflect the values and priorities of the ambassadors and organizations that they represent is integral to accurate storytelling and to creating a genuinely welcoming space. The details reflect the values of the organization. In creating a narrative, the panel stressed to the audience the value of authenticity in not only the wine and food presented to attendees at an event, but also in the set-up of the space itself. Meridian International Center celebrates their careful consideration to detail and how it contributes to the cultivation of culturally authentic events. After the program, the evening culminated in a networking reception in honor of the attendees. Aside from the foreign diplomatic corps, Meridian welcomed many distinguished guests from the U.S. government and the Meridian network in Washington. Some attendees included: The Honorable Rickie Niceta (Social Secretary, The White House), Mary-Kate Fisher (Acting Chief of Protocol, U.S. Department of State), Ambassador Walter Cutler (Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1984-1989) and Mrs. Didi Cutler, The Honorable James Blanchard (Chair Emeritus, Meridian International Center) and Janet Blanchard (Meridian Board of Trustees), and Debbie Driesman and Frank Islam (Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Foundation). The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy's network was also well-represented. The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy is the leading center in the United States that employs the arts and culture as a tool of diplomacy and cross-cultural understanding. The Center collaborates with embassies, governments and the private sector to curate cultural diplomacy exhibitions, exchanges and programs in Washington, D.C. and around the world. Explore our cultural programming on our website. Through the Meridian Center for Diplomatic Engagement, Meridian creates opportunities like this reception in honor of social secretaries and cultural attachés to accelerate collaboration between the international diplomatic corps and U.S. public and private sector leaders. For more information, please visit our page. This program was generously supported by InterContinental Hotels Group, Design Cuisine, and the Bernstein Family Foundation.