- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

Prickly heat, rush-hour traffic and late-in-the-social-season timing didn’t deter le tout Washington from turning out for Wednesday’s reception honoring longtime British Embassy social secretary Amanda Downes.

The institutional memory, gatekeeper and place-card placer of five successive British ambassadors was invested as a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Prince Charles during ceremonies at Buckingham Palace on May 24, and it was only fitting and proper that British Ambassador Sir David Manning and Lady (Catherine) Manning should host a reception in Miss Downes’ honor at their residence as well.

“It’s as good a list as some of the royals get,” one frequent guest observed after waiting in the lengthy receiving line alongside Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Beyer, former Speakerof the House Tom Foley, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, former Sen. Charles Mathias, Selwa S. “Lucky” Roosevelt, Togo West, Strobe Talbott, Kay Evans, Cynthia Helms, Ann Jordan, Kate Lehrer, Diana Prince, Russell and eencq Train, Philip and Nina Pillsbury (who delayed a European trip to attend), Andrea Mitchell, Kathleen and —Chris Matthews— rnout,” Miss Downes agreed, looking rather pleased to be the guest of honor for once after “arranging and executing” a never-ending calendar of breakfasts, lunches, receptions, dinners and other fetes for 12,000 to 14,000 persons each year since taking up her post in October 1989. “I’m just a very small cog in a very big wheel,” she said before crediting the household staff for helping her run a very tight ship.

Her friends think she is much more than that. Her boss certainly does.

“No one is indispensable especially ambassadors although Amanda comes close to being an exception,” the ambassador—sted Sir David; Mr. is absolutely incorrect told 300 applauding guests. “She set the gold standard for the role of social secretary.”

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