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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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
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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.

in a case, items from the NATO treaty and accession instruments
Commemorating 70 years of the North Atlantic Treaty
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In 1949, the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations created the North Atlantic Treaty, to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.  April 3, 2019 marked 70 years of a strategic military alliance among the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty. Secretary Mike Pompeo, with the 30 Foreign Ministers of the signatory countries, held an event with the original Treaty Charter, in the same space it was signed, in what used to be the Departmental Auditorium and is now the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.  This event marked the first time that Northern Macedonia participated, with its accession documents formally submitted to the United States Senate. During the reception, Secretary Pompeo noted the accomplishments of NATO and spoke about President Harry Truman’s aspirations for the alliance. Though there was doubt at the time that NATO would be a force of peace, Pompeo stated that “the 12 founding nations knew better and over the years, their historic hopes have been vindicated.  The ‘fuller and happier life for our citizens’ that Truman sought has been realized.”

Throughout the day on April 4, the United States Diplomacy Center displayed the accession instruments of the countries celebrating significant milestones since joining NATO. As the depository of NATO, Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty provides that “Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America.”  This is the first time that these instruments have ever been displayed for viewing, and several Foreign Ministers were delighted to have the opportunity to see these historic documents.. The U.S. Diplomacy Center, as the State Department’s pending museum on diplomacy and with curatorial expertise, properly laid out and displayed the accession instruments in an archival manner.  U.S. Diplomacy Center staff also proudly served as informational docents for the original Treaty at the April 3 event, answering questions about the history of the Charter and NATO.

TedX speaker addresses the crowd in front of the Great Seal
United States Diplomacy Center hosts TEDx participants for all-day experience on “Why Diplomacy Matters”
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The United States Diplomacy Center partnered with TEDx MidAtlantic Adventures on March 29th to host participants for a day-long engaging, thoughtful, and immersive experiences to highlight the theme of Why Diplomacy Matters: Public Private Partnerships and our National Security, Prosperity, and Global Leadership.

Building on the theme of resiliency and empowering our civic systems to become “unbreakable”, participants engaged in a Diplomacy Simulation, an immersive and interactive exercise requiring individuals and groups to work together in confronting international challenges. After the simulation, participants, along with other invited guests, attended a panel discussion on how the government and private sector can successfully partner together, “Why Diplomacy Matters: Public-Private Partnerships and our National Security, Prosperity, and Global Leadership.”

The morning 90-minute simulation, “Freshwater Crisis: Energy Security and Economic Growth”, split participants into several group representing different stakeholders with competing interests regarding an international water crisis. The hypothetical simulation forces participants to negotiate a diplomatic solution. As a result, one steps into the role of a diplomat and experience how diplomacy involves different groups working together in confronting international challenges.

The noon panel sought to explore how American diplomats partner with the private sector to confront critical global challenges and how diplomacy supports our nation’s security, economic prosperity, and global leadership. Moderated by United States Diplomacy Center Director Mary Kane, the panel comprised experts from both the government and private industry:

  • Christopher Roberti, Chief of Staff, US Chamber of Commerce
  • Aaron Salzberg, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, State Department
  • Thomas DeBass, Office of Global Partnerships, State Department

Panel members shared ideas and experiences on successful collaborations in various fields related to diplomacy. Panelists then took audience questions and were able to directly share their insights with examples including how the government cannot do everything, the role of the private sector Worldwide, and extending American prosperity globally through diplomacy.

The TEDx group consisted of attendees participating the The TEDx MidAtlantic Adventures fall conference in Washington, D.C. entitled “Unbreakable”. The conference goal aimed to empower “resilience” and address what it means to be strong in a changing World, and attracts thought leaders and innovators from across the country for the 2 day event.

Woman speaks with microphone in front of exhibit
100 Years of American Diplomacy
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The Diplomacy Center and the American Foreign Service Association celebrated 100 years of the Foreign Service Journal with the exhibit “Defining Diplomacy for 100 years: The Foreign Service Journal” on view in the Diplomacy Center Pavilion until May 10, 2019. The exhibit offered a unique look into diplomatic history through the eyes of the practitioners who contributed to the pages of the Journal. The exhibit weaves together a timeline and themes from the past 100 years into a collection of stories and excerpts about the Foreign Service and our nation’s foreign policy. Many of the past covers of the Journal are also featured. The exhibit also announced the completion of the Journal’s digital archive, providing access to every issue going back to 1919. In 2017, the American Foreign Service Association also released the entire online archive of the Foreign Service Journal.

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Mapping for Diplomacy
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The United States Diplomacy Center partnered with MapGive to host a mapathon on April 5, 2019 in the Diplomacy Center pavilion. The purpose of a mapathon is to create necessary digital map data for humanitarian and development causes, including combating HIV/AIDS, humanitarian assistance, and public diplomacyMapathons are unique events that facilitate volunteer participation in a global mapping movement that helps solve some of our most pressing challenges.  Participants learned about the impact of open mapping and how to use satellite imagery to create map data through the OpenStreetMap platform.

Participants created nearly 4,000 edits to OpenStreetMap of refugee settlements in Ethiopia and the affected areas in Mozambique, including over 3,000 buildings and nearly 80 kilometers of roads. The map data participants created April 5th is already being put to work today for humanitarian response, such as by the United Nations Refugee Agency Site Planner.

The program included keynote remarks from Lee Schwartz, the Geographer of the United States as well as a conversation with a panel of experts: Melinda Laituri, Principal Investigator on Secondary Cities, Larry Sperling from PEPFAR, and Chad Blevins from USAID/YouthMappers. Erika Nunez from MapGive moderated. Participants were provided with a mapping tutorial and began mapping, aided by mentors, refreshments, and lightning talks from Tyler Radford  of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and Mikel Maron of MapBox.

Mapbox, the location data platform for mobile and web applications, sponsored the event. National Geographic contributed the prizes to randomly selected mappers.

MapGive is a United States Department of State initiative, managed by the Humanitarian Information Unit, that encourages volunteer participation in the global mapping community and facilitates the creation of open geographic data to support humanitarian and development efforts. MapGive emphasizes collaborative online mapping as a method to engage with local communities and organizations, with resonant themes including education, urban resilience, public health, and humanitarian response, among others. 

To learn more about mapping, watch our “Why Map?” video: