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Embassy Row

ROCK 'N' ROLL DIPLOMACY

The U.S. ambassador to Hungary admired a collection of American music posters from the 1960s and regretted that she was too young for the psychedelic days that bloomed in San Francisco.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead were "golden oldies" by the time Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis was growing up. When she was ready to dance, even disco had lost its sparkle.

"My friends and I often lamented that we had ... missed being part of this amazing cultural uprising," Mrs. Kounalakis said at the opening of the poster exhibition at a Budapest art gallery. "We lamented that by the time we were old enough to join, it was all over."

Mrs. Kounalakis, who was born in 1966 and raised in Northern California, noted that the 1960s was one of the most controversial eras in American history.

"It was a period marked by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a time of great change and great social upheaval," she said.

"The psychedelic rock movement that grew out of San Francisco and quickly spread across the United States and around the world reflects this history.

"War, race relations, women's rights and differing interpretations of the American dream were reflected in the lyrics and at the happenings where psychedelic rock was played."

Mrs. Kounalakis, a Greek-American, noted that "psychedelic" is Greek word that means a "colorful alteration of the senses." However, she only vaguely referred to the source of that "alteration" - mind-altering drugs such as LSD.

The exhibition was organized by Andras Simonyi, a former Hungarian ambassador to the United States who is old enough to have been part of the 1960s.

Mr. Simonyi, who plays electric guitar, organized his own diplomatic rock band, which he called the "Coalition of the Willing," during his years in Washington from 2002 to 2007.

He credits rock music with inspiring a generation of East Europeans such as himself, growing up behind the Iron Curtain and secretly listening to Western radio.

"It didn't matter whether the communists built walls," he told Embassy Row earlier this year. "They couldn't stop the music."

RAISING THE FLAG

The United States and 10 other nations have reopened their embassies in Libya, but one country closed its mission this week.

Cuba, expressing solidarity with deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, recalled its ambassador over the weekend and announced it will not recognize the new government.

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is a longtime ally of Col. Gadhafi, who is now on the run and hunted by the revolutionaries who ousted him after more than 40 years in power.

U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz raised the Stars and Stripes over the American Embassy in Tripoli last week.

He praised the rebels for their "great sacrifice, steely determination and unity of purpose" in the uprising against Col. Gadhafi.

"Your actions and the success in overthrowing the chains of dictatorship and repression and establishing a system that provides freedom and rights for all citizens is an inspiration to people around the world," Mr. Cretz said.

The ambassador sat out the uprising in Washington, where he returned after the leaks of classified diplomatic cables in which he ridiculed Col. Gadhafi while he was still in power.

Mr. Cretz called Col. Gadhafi the "world's longest-serving dictator" who never travels without his "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.

Libyan authorities expressed their outrage about the release of the cables by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and Mr. Cretz returned to Washington in January.

The other nations that have reopened their embassies are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Poland, Romania, South Korea and Turkey.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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