Past Exhibits & Programs

The United States Diplomacy Center offers first-hand stories of American diplomacy. Hear from diplomats, foreign policy experts, historians and other people from the ground in our Pavilion’s lower level. Past events included diplomats living in rural South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, a panel tracing the history of HIV/AIDs and the State Department’s response, and the story of the first African American Diplomats.

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Secretary Pompeo Commemorates anniversary of September 11, 2001
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Pompeo lays a wreath down by the flagIt’s been 18 years since the September 11 attacks left nearly 3,000 people dead in the worst act of terrorism the nation has ever experienced. Marking the 18th anniversary, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s September 11 exhibit to remember those we lost on that tragic day, but to also highlight America’s resolve and the global outpouring of support for the United States following the attacks. After laying a wreath to honor the victims, Secretary Pompeo spoke about the Department of State’s unique role in working with our partners noting “September 11th also showed how many friends the U.S. has around the world.” 

The Diplomacy Center’s exhibit showcases America’s resolve including a brick retrieved from Osama Bin Laden’s compound, on loan from the CIA Museum. Secretary Pompeo, who is also the former Director of the CIA, remarked, “May we honor the victims through the defense of our homeland.”   After the attacks, U.S. embassies and consulates received condolence material such as personal mementos, letters, and drawings. Many of these items were shipped to the Department of State in Washington, and now are included in the collections of the Diplomacy Center. This condolence material represents an unwavering support for Americans in their time of need and a global repudiation of terrorism.

Specific examples from the collection include:

  • Students at Norwood School, Johannesburg, South Africa, sent a spiral bound booklet of colorful drawings and encouraging notes to the U.S. consulate.
  • Firefighters from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service offered a helmet with heartfelt inscriptions to the U.S. consulate in Sydney, Australia.
  • Schoolchildren in Japan created extensive chains of origami swans as symbols of peace.

House Resolution 786 (For the duration of the ceremony), signed in the wake of the Sept 11, 2012 attack on the US compound in Benghazi, Libya to honor the fallen and condemn the attackers.

Signed Copy of House Resolution 786

To honor the fallen and condemn the attackers, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 786.

Brick on a stand

Brick retrieved from Osama Bin Laden’s compound, on loan from the CIA Museum.

Teachers and staff sit in front of diplomacy center banner
Lasting Impact in Diplomacy Education with Teacher Institute
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July 15-19, 2019, the Diplomacy Center partnered with the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms to conduct its first annual Teacher Institute for 25 middle and high school teachers. From the almost 100 teachers who applied, 25 public school teachers from Arkansas, Montgomery County, M.D., Fairfax County, V.A. and the District of Columbia were selected to participate in the week-long program. 

In partnership with the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, the program provided teachers of 6th-12th grade students with unprecedented access to the Department of State as well as content-rich training in the history and practice of diplomacy and how to incorporate diplomatic skills into the classroom. The teachers had the rare, behind-the-scenes opportunity to meet diplomats from across bureaus, engage in issue briefings, visit the European Union Delegation, tour the Great Seal and work with the artifact collections of both the Diplomacy Center and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

Now that the teachers have tremendous insight into the work of the Department of State, they will build lesson plans and activities based on the artifact collections and skills of diplomacy, which the Diplomacy Center and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms will incorporate into their online offerings.

Watch some highlights from July below, or sign up to our newsletter to learn more about our offerings.



Mike Collins listens to two other people speak on a stage
Space Diplomacy: Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin visit the Diplomacy Center
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On July 18, 2019, the Diplomacy Center co-hosted a panel on “Space Diplomacy” with Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. The event focused on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and subsequent diplomatic efforts by the American astronauts

The event featured Major General Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, two members of the three-man Apollo 11 mission crew, as well as other senior leaders in the fields of space exploration, research, and diplomacy. It highlighted how the Apollo 11 mission was one of the defining moments of not only the 1960s, but of the 20th century, and how it strengthened American diplomacy. 

Panelists included U.S. State Department Science Envoy for Space and former NASA Administrator and Astronaut Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr., Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Director and former NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan, George Washington University Professor and Space Policy Institute Director Dr. John Logsdon, and Air and Space Museum Curator Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony.

Attendees at the event learned that in 1969, after the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 mission, the three members of the crew, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, went on a 37-day, 24-country goodwill tour of the world called “Giant Step,” promoting the Apollo program and American cultural interests abroad. 

Neil Armstrong also visited the Soviet Union in May 1970 to tour the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut training-center and meet Premier Alexei Kosygin. President Nixon used the diplomatic boost from these goodwill tours to lay the groundwork for U.S. rapprochement with China. This “space diplomacy” would take the astronauts, President Nixon, and ultimately the United States beyond the divide of the Iron Curtain and help further the momentum of détente between the western and eastern blocs.

During her remarks at the event, Assistant Secretary of State for Global Public Affairs Michelle Giuda introduced astronaut Michael Collins and told the audience that after his mission to the moon, President Nixon appointed Collins Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the State Department, making her his successor in the role. She expressed appreciation for continuing his legacy and thanked him for his service to the State Department and to our nation.

As much a foreign relations achievement as a technological marvel, Apollo 11 was a soft-power victory for the United States. The White House, the State Department, NASA and the U.S. Information Agency all worked closely together to project an image of Apollo 11 as an American-led, global effort that united the world. Voice of America broadcast live coverage of the lunar landing in 36 languages for an audience of roughly 750 million and another 650 million watched the lunar landing on television, the first live global broadcast in history. The mission was a success and space diplomacy continues to build bridges and strengthen our international partnerships.

The United States Diplomacy Center, in partnership with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, and the Embassy of Australia, hosted a space diplomacy program in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

American flag 230th anniversary exhibit wall
From 1789 to today: 230 years of State Department history
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In celebration of the 230th anniversary of the State Department, the Diplomacy Center unveiled an exhibit showcasing the history of the Department, from its beginnings as the first cabinet agency, established on July 27, 1789, to now. This milestone presents a unique opportunity to highlight the Department’s storied history and heritage and the important role of U.S. diplomacy – past, present, and future. 

The exhibit highlights significant milestones in State Department history and the Secretaries of State who have headed our nation’s first cabinet agency. From its humble beginnings at 13 South Sixth Street in Philadelphia in 1789 to its posts worldwide today, the State Department has led our nation’s foreign policy for 230 years and continues its mission of promoting the interests and values of the American people around the world.  

This exhibit was part of a daylong celebration hosted by Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. Under the theme of “One Team, One Mission, One Future,” the commemoration featured a live discussion between Dr. Henry Kissinger and his official biographer, Dr. Niall Ferguson; a film featuring comments by Secretary George P. Shultz and Secretary Madeleine Albright; a panel discussion with historians; and more.

Secretary Pompeo spoke about the Department’s unique role in advancing American interests, saying “There is no other federal agency – none, and I served in the Department of Defense and I was a member of Congress.  There is no other federal agency that can do this around the world like the United States Department of State. None. Ours is a very special mission, and today’s anniversary is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to it.” The Department also unveiled a video featuring the new Professional Ethos statement, showcasing many of the Department’s staff and their work, around the world. 

Associate Curator and Lavender Scare speaker sit on stage
Diplomacy Center and glifaa Honor Pride Month with “The Lavender Scare” Screening
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In honor of Pride Month in June, the Diplomacy Center partnered with glifaa (LGBT+ pride in foreign affairs agencies) to host a screening of the recently released documentary “The Lavender Scare” followed by a panel discussion and reception.

The film highlights the mass firings of gay and lesbian federal workers who were considered to be security risks because of their sexual orientation. Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the early 1990s, the risks were particularly acute at the Department of State, which gives the screening of this film added significance. 

Diplomacy Center Public Affairs Officer Reva Gupta provided opening remarks, sharing the importance of such public programming in telling the diverse story and challenges of diplomats. glifaa President Liz Lee noted in her remarks that it was significant, considering this not-too-distant history, that this documentary was screened at the Department of State. 

In a panel following the film, Diplomacy Center Associate Curator Katie Speckart, Liz Lee, and glifaa co-founder Jan Krc spoke about the creation of glifaa and how the era of the Lavender Scare will be presented in the Diplomacy Center museum. Mr. Krc also spoke about his personal saga of being fired from the Foreign Service in 1984 due to his homosexuality and his nearly ten-year legal battle to win back his job. He rejoined the Foreign Service in 1993 and retired in 2018.

Director Mary Kane addresses a seated crowd
United States Diplomacy Center Launches “Diplomacy After Hours” Happy Hour
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The Diplomacy Center has launched “Diplomacy After Hours,” a series of diplomacy-themed happy hours in the pavilion that will feature exciting stories of American diplomacy and highlight the future museum. 

The first program featured Jimmy Story, Chargé d’ Affaires, a.i. at U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, who has been a generous donor of artifacts to the Diplomacy Center museum, including a cococho (a tool used to uproot coca plants) and items he collected prior to closing a cocaine lab in Colombia: a coca plant macerator (used to mash coca leaves in the process for making cocaine), a weighing scale, and devices used to make bricks of cocaine and mark the bricks. Mr. Story shared one of his most emotional moments in the service — watching the U.S. flag come down at the Embassy in Venezuela. He relayed the pride he felt when his plane landed in Washington, D.C. from Venezuela and State Department leadership welcomed him and the embassy team. 

The second “Diplomacy After Hours” was a celebration of the nation’s independence as well as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and diplomacy’s role in space exploration. In keeping with the celebratory theme, the United States Air Force Band’s Airmen of Note jazz ensemble performed patriotic and space exploration-themed music. Members of the band also have served as arts envoys. Guests had the opportunity to listen to the band’s experiences working on community relations events in Costa Rica and other countries.

The Diplomacy Center thanks Washington, D.C.-based City Winery for their generous donation of wine and staff time for this event.

U.S. Secretary of State gives remarks at the United States Diplomacy Center guest exhibit on Consular Affairs.
“From Pirates to Passports: A Timeless Commitment to Service” Exhibition Opens at the United States Diplomacy Center
“From Pirates to Passports: A Timeless Commitment to Service” Exhibition Opens at the United States Diplomacy Center 1024 682

From May 2019 – July 2019, the United States Diplomacy Center is hosting the Bureau of Consular Affairs exhibit, “From Pirates to Passports: A Timeless Commitment to Service.” On May 28th, Secretary Mike Pompeo spoke in the Diplomacy Center at the opening of an exhibit by the Bureau of Consular Affairs. He highlighted that the exhibit “tells the story of our timeless commitment to serving the American people. Consular Affairs’ mission spans across the globe and across the centuries dating from before the signing of the U.S. Constitution down to today.”

This exhibit celebrates the 40-year anniversary of the founding of the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the long history of consular service to the American people.  The exhibition, includes photos, stories, and historical artifacts showcasing the evolution of consular affairs from its inception to its global presence today. Later this year, a digital version of the exhibit with expanded interactive content will be available to the public.

On display are the stories of consuls from the earliest days of the republic to the present, and of the citizens they helped, including in crisis.  U.S. passports trace the transformation of the iconic document from a written memo requesting safe passage to the state-of-the-art, secure passport book produced today.  Similarly, the exhibit follows the evolution of visa regulations over centuries to adapt to an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Specific artifacts within the exhibit include passports of famous persons; a logbook from U.S. Consulate General Marseille documenting the consulate’s passport services to hundreds of U.S. citizens, including Gertrude Stein and Varian Fry, fleeing Nazi-controlled Europe during World War II; and historic “tools of the trade” used to produce visas, including a visa machine, visa plates, and wax seals.

Asian woman speaks into the microphone
Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with Former Secretary of Commerce and Transportation Norman Mineta
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On May 30, the United States Diplomacy Center partnered with the Embassy of Japan, the Secretary’s Office on Civil Rights, the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, and the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association to host the State Department’s culminating event for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The event featured the newly released documentary on the life of former Secretary of Commerce and Transportation Norman Mineta, entitled: “Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story.”

The film featured the life of Secretary Mineta and his family from the time they arrived in the United States, including the incarceration of his family after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. The documentary noted the impact that this event had on his life, influencing his public service career from being a local government public servant all the way to holding two cabinet positions during two administrations. Along the way, as a member of Congress, he worked to pass legislation providing financial reparations to the Japanese American’s incarcerated and the legislation stated that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” as opposed to legitimate security reasons. He was able to do this with the support of his longtime friend Republican Senator Alan Simpson, who he met during a boy scout activity while incarcerated in the camp.

In his comments, former Secretary Mineta noted that through his work, he tried to ensure that no other group of people would be discriminated against based on inaccurate assumptions about being American. In particular, his highlighted his work with President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks. The two filmmakers, Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi spoke about the curriculum they have developed that accompanies the film to teach the main themes regarding what it means to be an American. Many in the audience noted the struggles as a American diplomat to be seen as a “real” American.

After the film screening and discussion, participants attended a reception hosted by the Embassy of Japan.

An older couple looks at artifacts in a case
Diplomacy Center Foundation Founding Ambassadors Concourse Dedication
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On May 8, 2019, the Diplomacy Center Foundation, the private sector fundraising partner for the United States Diplomacy Center museum, hosted a celebratory luncheon to dedicate the Founding Ambassadors Concourse. The luncheon was held at the 21,000 square foot glass entrance pavilion of the Diplomacy Center at the United States (U.S.) Department of State.

This special dedication honored the Founding Ambassadors, all individual donors who have received presidential appointments and donated $100,000 or more to the creation of the museum, which is set to open in 2022. To date, 66 Founding Ambassadors have raised a combined total of over $10 million. They include two former U.S. Secretaries of State, one former U.S. Secretary of Defense, and 63 former U.S. ambassadors. The campaign is chaired by Ambassador Stuart Bernstein (ret.), who also serves on the Diplomacy Center Foundation Board of Directors.

The Diplomacy Center Foundation welcomed more than 100 guests that included Founding Ambassadors, additional donors, and members of the diplomatic community. Ambassador William C. Harrop (ret.), Founding Ambassador and Chair of the Diplomacy Center Foundation Board of Directors, offered the opening remarks. He recognized Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley (ret.) for her efforts in raising the first $50 million for the United States Diplomacy Center.

Ambassador Harrop also spoke on the importance of German-American relations in light of the upcoming anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift. The luncheon featured several objects from the Diplomacy Center’s collection, including an “Operation Vittles Cookbook.” The Operation Vittles Cookbook was compiled by American women during the 1949 Berlin Blockade in an effort to create recipes using the limited resources available to them. The Diplomacy Center Foundation was grateful to have Boris Ruge, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, in attendance.

The Diplomacy Center Foundation was also honored to welcome Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering (ret.), who is a Founding Ambassador and Vice Chair of the Diplomacy Center Foundation Board of Directors. Ambassador Pickering’s remarks touched on the crucial role American diplomacy plays in advancing prosperity in the U.S. and around the world. He also thanked the guests for their support “in this particular endeavor of telling Americans what diplomacy does for them and what they can do for diplomacy.”

Speakers also included Diplomacy Center Director Mary Kane. Mrs. Kane spoke about the outstanding education programs currently available at the United States Diplomacy Center and updated guests about the Diplomacy Center’s current museum exhibit planning.

Ambassador Stuart Bernstein (ret.) concluded the luncheon by emphasizing the importance of diplomacy in maintaining a peaceful international order and the need to communicate this message through the creation of a museum dedicated to American diplomacy. He stated, “There are hundreds of museums in [… the U.S.] that are dedicated to military and war – over 400 – and not a single one to diplomacy! […Therefore,] when Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley asked me to support the building of this museum I did not hesitate.” In his closing remarks, Ambassador Bernstein officially dedicated the space to the Founding Ambassadors.

The Diplomacy Center Foundation would like to thank all our guests for attending this special event. We also extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to our Founding Ambassadors for their generous contributions and support for creating the first museum dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy.

Speakers and Code Girls stand in the Pavilion with director
Celebrating Women’s History Month: Women in STEM: Past, Present, and Future
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On March 28, the United States Diplomacy Center in collaboration with the Secretary’s Office for Global Women’s Issues and sponsor hosted a panel discussion on Women in STEM: Past, Present, and Future. U.S. Diplomacy Center Director Mary Kane welcomed the panelists and introduced the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Assistant Secretary (A/S) Marie Royce to provide remarks. A/S Royce spoke passionately about her Bureau’s efforts to create space for women in science and technology. She shared information about an exchange program created between NASA, the State Department, and Fox Studios, after the release of the film Hidden Figures about women scientists who were instrumental in the launch of John Glen and turned around the space race.

Dr. Wanida Lewis, Senior Economic Evaluation Program Analyst from the Office for Global Women’s Issues, moderated the panel consisting of Liza Mundy, author of Code Girls, Dr. Teresa Williams, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow and TechWomen mentor, and Sandra Cauffman, the Acting Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA. All the panelists spoke about the obstacles that women endure to achieve success, whether socio-political, personal or economic.

Mundy began the conversation honoring the more than 10,000 women who served as codebreakers during World War II. Mundy chronicled the story of these women. She explained that after Pearl Harbor, only four percent of women achieved a four-year college degree, because many colleges were not open to women. After Pearl Harbor, the Navy desperately needed talent. Normally, the Navy would recruit at MIT or Harvard, but Mundy found a memo typed in 1941 that talked about a new source of recruits, “women’s colleges.” Mundy described two criteria the women were asked during recruitment: Did they enjoy doing crossword puzzles? (Yes) Were they engaged to be married? (No.) These women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. She also elucidated that women were sworn to secrecy regarding their efforts in the war. Their efforts shortened the war by more than a year and saved countless lives, but they were bound to a strict code of secrecy and their efforts almost erased from history.

Williams shared her personal struggles to become a scientist. She talked about her family’s financial struggles and how she wasn’t encouraged to pursue math and science, even though she enjoyed the subjects. In community college, when she met her first female chemistry professor, she finally had a vision that she, too, could succeed in science. Her journey included an abusive relationship that set her back and left her with self-esteem issues. But her spirit and people along the way who saw her intelligence and drive continued to support her and she has struggled and come out on the other end. She talked about being a part of the State Department’s Women and Technology exchange program which allows her to be a mentor for women scientists overseas. She understands the loneliness of being a woman in science and she wants to give back, the same way that others gave back to her.

Cauffman’s story was equally compelling. She also felt that she might have not been here today, running one of the largest divisions at NASA, managing the satellites observing the earth. Her story began in Costa Rica. Her mom didn’t finish high school, survived being raped and having the child, and held two-three jobs to keep the kids sheltered, clothed, and fed. At seven, she saw the Apollo launch and Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. She told her mom that day that she wanted to get to the moon one day. Her mom, advised her, “Keep that thought in your head, because you never know what the world will bring you.” Her high school wasn’t a good one, so her mom found her one that was two bus rides away or an hour and a half walk, when they didn’t have money for transportation. At 13, her mom got sick and they lost everything, so they had to keep moving around to find shelter. Cauffman took care of her siblings, worked, and went to school and still graduated with the second highest grades in school. Her mother eventually married an American who sent Cauffman to the United States to study. Cauffman worked at a hardware store, and finally got into an electrical engineering program, and still dreamed of working at NASA. In 1991, she finally got the call. She attributes her success to her mother’s spirit of believing that we all have the power within us to make our dreams a reality.

As women, all the panelists spoke candidly about women’s struggles, past, present and future. They all also recognized the importance of mentorship for other women and girls and spoke about how they contribute to advancing the next generation of women scientific leaders. Following the panel, sponsored a reception for the event.