Thursday, October 14, 2004

One thing was made perfectly clear at the 60th anniversary of Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies: “SAIS” is much more than a graduate school.

It is an integral part of the diplomatic corps of many nations, and, at the very least, “a farm club for the State Department,” Secretary of State Colin Powell told 500 of the school’s friends and supporters at the Italian Embassy on Wednesday night.

Guests paid $200 and up for the chance to mingle during pre-dinner cocktails with Mr. Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (a former SAIS dean), AmericaOnline co-founder Jim Kimsey, former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin, British Ambassador Sir David Manning, Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato and South Korean Ambassador Sung-Joo Han. (The roster of absent alumni was also impressive: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Saudi Arabian Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer and newsman Wolf Blitzer of CNN, among many others.)

The celebration started and finished early start on account of the 9 p.m. presidential debate, not something this crowd was going to miss in order to linger over creme brulee and coffee. Indeed, the valet line grew noticeably restless around 8:45 p.m., although a side room was equipped with a TV to accommodate those who didn’t make it out in time.

Guests attending the VIP reception acknowledged that the arrival of terrorism on U.S. shores and the war in Iraq have made SAIS’ educational role more crucial than ever.

“Our mission has probably never been more significant,” the school’s dean, Jessica Einhorn, said of the past few years.

“Many diplomats don’t have a full understanding of economics or the language or the culture [of other countries],” noted Wall Street financier Morris W. Offit, a member of the school’s advisory board.

Mr. Offit was one of many who praised the vision of Paul H. Nitze, who founded the school with former Secretary of State Christian Herter in 1944 to train foreign policy experts to rebuild the world community after the destruction of World War II.

Although the legendary superdiplomat who advised five presidents, helped draft the Marshall Plan and was a leading arms control strategist throughout much of the Cold War was unable to attend (he’ll be 98 in January), his wife, Leezee Porter, said Mr. Nitze considers SAIS “the greatest accomplishment of his life.”

Mr. Powell didn’t mince words when speaking of the co-founder and financial benefactor’s influence in world affairs.

“Having Paul Nitze at the table was like having Moses at the table,” the secretary of state said of having the skilled negotiator on hand during the Reagan years.

Not surprisingly, much of Mr. Powell’s keynote address praised the Bush administration’s determination to advance American-style democracy in countries formerly under terrorist rule.

Last week, thanks to U.S. intervention, “the promise of the ballot box arrived in Afghanistan,” he said.

In Iraq, he promised, “We are fighting an insurgency led by people who want to go back to the past,” but “brighter days will be coming.”

Such a sunny scenario would hardly be possible without skilled diplomats offering a nuanced understanding of international affairs, and Mr. Powell did not hesitate to conclude by praising SAIS’ faculty and students:

“We need you, the nation needs you, but above all, the world needs you.”

Christine Ianzito

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