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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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 celebrate 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 offers 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 announces the completion of the Journal’s digital archive, providing access to every issue going back to 1919.

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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 diplomacy. Mapathons 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:




Ambassador Horace Dawson speaks to attendee, a retired Foreign Service Officer.
African American Trailblazers in Diplomacy
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On February 28, the United States Diplomacy Center, hosted a panel discussion about five trailblazing African American diplomats: Ebenezer Bassett, Ralph Bunche, Edward Dudley, Patricia Roberts Harris, and Mabel Murphy Smythe.  Hosted in conjunction with the Thursday Luncheon Group, the Carl T. Rowen Chapter of Blacks in Government, Appalachian State University, and Mr. James T. L. Dandridge II of the Diplomacy Center Foundation; the panel delved beyond the “firsts” these diplomats represented and explored their lasting contributions to the Department of State and the practice of diplomacy.  Dr. Michael Krenn, a professor of history at Appalachian State University, moderated the panel.

U.S. Diplomacy Center Director Mary Kane opened the event, thanking the participants and highlighting the importance of sharing stories from a diverse range of U.S. diplomats in order to convey a more inclusive and nuanced story of American diplomacy.  State Department Bureau of Public Affairs Assistant Secretary Michelle Guida drew attention to the many modern-day trailblazers pioneers sitting in the room, including panel presenter Ambassador Ruth A. Davis, who served as the first African American Director of the Foreign Service Institute, the first female African American Director General of the Foreign Service, and the first and only African American female to be named Career Ambassador.

Foreign Service Officer Christopher Teal articulated his personal mission to share the story of Ebenezer Bassett, America’s first presidentially appointed African American diplomat.  After being posted to the Dominican Republic, Teal was surprised to discover that very little was known about Bassett. Teal also noted that April 2019 will mark the 150th anniversary of Bassett’s appointment to Haiti.  Teal has written a book about Ebenezer Bassett, Hero of Hispañola, and is also directing a documentary film on Bassett called A Diplomat of Consequence.  Teal shared the story of Bassett, discussing his leadership, courage, and moral responsibility demonstrated managing a refugee crisis in Haiti, adding that these attributes can provide insight into how crises are managed today.

James T.L. Dandridge II, a Diplomacy Center Foundation board member, presented on Ralph Bunche’s illustrious diplomatic career, identifying himself as a “Bunch junkie.”  Dandridge reminded the audience of Bunche’s work with Eleanor Roosevelt in establishing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of his work negotiating an end to the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War.  For his efforts as chief mediator, Bunche became the first African American awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Dandridge, having personally know Bunche, spoke of Bunch’s youth and his grandmother who provided color and texture to Bunch’s character, connecting it to what made him so deft at pushing for peace in the Middle East.  While active internationally, Dandridge noted that Bunche was also very active and respected within the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Professor Michael Krenn shared the story of Ambassador Edward Dudley, the first African American Ambassador, appointed in 1949.  Dudley served in Liberia from 1949-1953. Krenn talked about what Dudley identified as the “Negro Circuit” for African American diplomats, where African Americans were only sent to serve in Liberia, the Azores, Madagascar, Haiti, and/or the Canary Islands.  While at the State Department, Dudley highlighted this trend and worked to successfully dismantle the circuit, creating expanded opportunities for African American diplomats. Dudley’s time at the State Department was short lived. After serving as Ambassador, he went back to local New York politics and working with the NAACP.

Ambassador Ruth Davis covered the careers of Patricia Roberts Harris and Mabel Murphy Smythe, two trailblazing African American women diplomats.  Davis noted how difficult it was to find information about their careers. Benefiting from Ambassador Dudley’s dismantling of the “Negro Circuit,” Harris was appointed Ambassador to Luxembourg by President Johnson from 1965-1969.  During this time, Harris noted in a speech her thoughts about the importance for Americans to be involved in foreign policy. She talked about America being a unique people and nation, more tied to all nations than any other in the world.  This is why, she indicated, Americans are more concerned about what happens in the world than any other nation. Like Dudley, Harris did not stay at the State Department long, leaving and going back to local Washington, D.C. politics and serving as Dean of the Howard University Law School.  Smythe, on the other hand, as a Career Foreign Service Officer worked her way up to the Senior Foreign Service, serving as Ambassador to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and then as Assistant Secretary to the African Affairs Bureau. Davis noted Smythe’s interest in exchange programs. Smythe found exchange programs and building people-to-people relationships as one of the most important aspect of diplomacy, which pave the way for policy making to happen.

Upon conclusion of the panel, the audience enjoyed a reception to celebrate the work of all trailblazers past and present.  

Instructor discusses with middle school students
Students Inspired to Become Diplomats
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Over the past year, the Diplomacy Center has expanded its Diplomacy Simulation Program to the middle school level, piloting programs in the Washington, D.C. area. Students in grades six through eight have proved more than up to the challenge of learning about diplomacy! Middle schoolers in history and global studies classes from Stuart-Hobson Middle School, The Langley School, Hart Middle School, and the Congressional School have enjoyed stepping into the role of diplomat to learn about the world of foreign affairs. The Diplomacy Center Simulation Program helps them develop 21st century skills such as negotiating and finding common ground, helping them to prepare for success in today’s global economy. As one parent enthusiastically wrote, “Thank you so much for hosting…the Langley 8th graders. [My daughter] came home extremely excited about the experience. She told me her dream is to get a job at the State Department!”

Take a look at the Diplomacy Center’s free class materials or video walk-throughs.

Seal in the Diplomacy Center Pavilion
A Century of Service – US Diplomatic Courier Services turns 100
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The United States Diplomacy Center is honored to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Diplomatic Courier Service with a new exhibit, “100 Years of Diplomatic Couriers—None Swifter than These,” on display from Oct 31, 2018 through February 3, 2019.

In 1918, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing authorized U.S. Army Major Amos J. Peaslee to organize a wartime courier service to expedite mail between the U.S. embassy in Paris and Washington. General Peaslee’s “Silver Greyhounds,” denoted by the greyhound patch on their uniforms, were formally assigned that same year to the U.S. Department of State. The Silver greyhounds became the first U.S. organization dedicated to transport of diplomatic pouches and thus the Diplomatic Courier Service (DCS) was born.

Today, diplomatic couriers spend tens of thousands of hours annually delivering tens of millions of pounds of classified material by air, sea, and land to more than 275 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. The famous orange pouches have been featured in Hollywood movies and can range from confidential documents to hi-tech devices or even construction equipment.

The exhibits features items used throughout the history of the DCS and how that mission has evolved over the years to keep ahead of evolving threats of espionage, terror, and even bad weather.  Also on display are bugging devices, such as the one found in the Great Seal of the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow which resulted in a shift in the diplomatic courier mission—from carrying confidential messages, to also transporting construction and other materials for secure areas in U.S. embassies. 

Items on display were provided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, working in collaboration with the US Diplomacy Center. The exhibit represents the State Department’s commitment to highlight the efforts and mission of the Diplomatic Courier Service, whose essential work supports and ensures the safety and integrity of employees and resources in US missions all over the World.

For more information on the the Courier Service and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security:

American and German flags with text WunderBar together over it
Wunderbar Together: A Year-Long Celebration of German-American Friendship
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In October, Germany kicked off Wunderbar Together, a major, year-long initiative to celebrate the Year of German-American Friendship (“Deutschlandjahr USA”).

An initiative of the German Federal Foreign Office, implemented by the Goethe-Institut, and with support from the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Wunderbar Together showcased the transatlantic partnership, highlighting areas of German-American cooperation in business, industry, politics, education, culture, science, civil society, and sports and lifestyle. This initiative culminates in fall 2019 with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

To mark this kick-off, the Diplomacy Center, the Diplomacy Center Foundation, and the German Embassy are hosted a panel discussion on U.S.-German relations, followed by a reception. The panel includes Dr. Steven S. Sokol, President of the American Council on Germany, German Ambassador Emily Haber, and former U.S. ambassador to Germany Robert M Kimmitt.

The United States Diplomacy Center featured its segment of the Berlin Wall that bears the signatures of world leaders who worked to end the Cold War.

Diplomacy Center exhibit cases of Nuclear Arms including flags, artifacts, and information
Spotlight On: Nuclear Risk Reduction
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In October 2018, the United States Diplomacy Center hosted a spotlight on the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. These included several of our artifacts, including:

  • Cruise missile wing tip mounted to plaque Gift from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Delegation (INF Delegation)

This wing tip was once part of a ground launched cruise missile which was eliminated at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1989. The elimination was carried out under the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. This commemorative piece was owned and displayed by Ambassador Maynard W. Glitman, chief negotiator of the INF treaty.

  • Pershing II missile instrumentation backplate mounted to plaque Gift from the INF Delegation

This instrumentation backplate was once part of a Pershing II – a mobile, intermediate-range ballistic missile – which was eliminated at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant, Texas, in 1989. All Pershing IIs and their support equipment were eliminated per the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. This commemorative piece was owned and displayed by Ambassador Maynard W. Glitman, chief negotiator of the INF treaty.

  • SCUD Missile nose cone Gift of Ambassador Kurt D. Volker

The Soviet Union deployed SCUD missiles and launchers to Soviet-bloc countries as part of the military build-up in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The warheads were kept in the Soviet Union and could be paired quickly with the missiles and launchers in the event of conflict. This nose cone was mounted to the very top of a SCUD missile and did not contain a weapon. Its purpose was to increase the aerodynamics of the missile aimed at its target.

In 1991, the Soviet Union withdrew their troops from Hungary, but left the SCUD missiles behind. The United States assisted with the destruction of this equipment. Kurt Volker, Political-Military Officer at U.S. Embassy Budapest 1994-1997, was the liaison for this program. He was given this nose cone as a memento.