- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

It was a balmy midsummer night, and the garden was in full bloom at the Old Town Alexandria residence of former NATO Ambassador David Abshire and his wife, Carolyn, for a reception honoring R. Nicholas Burns and his wife, Elizabeth Baylies Mr. Burns was recently ambassador to NATO and is undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Gardens - not global politics - were on the agenda.

Mr. Burns and his wife are founders of the Truman Hall Fund to restore and maintain 27 acres of lovely hills, meadows and formal gardens at the famous Brussels estate (once owned by Cote d’Or chocolate magnate Jean Michiels) that serves as the residence of the U.S. ambassador to NATO and home away from home to many internationally distinguished guests.

Mr. Abshire, who negotiated the purchase of the house during his ambassadorship (1983-87) , agreed with his wife to seed the fund with a $20,000 contribution, then invited other foreign-policy-minded pals to contribute as well.

It’s rare to have so many heavyweights come out on a Monday night, and even rarer when a bipartisan crowd of boldfaced names forgets politics for a few hours to talk of boxwoods and hedges, heather and hazelnut shrubs, climbing roses and clematis.

Sipping gin and tonics by the sparkling pool, guests nibbled on shrimp and little puffy things as they prepared to pony up for the cause. Sen. John W. Warner made amusing remarks while his wife, Jeanne (looking angelic in creamy white), looked on.

Also in attendance: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick ; former Sen. Charles Robb; former Sate Department Chief of Protocol Selwa S. “Lucky” Roosevelt; Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (chatting with America Online co-founder Jim Kimsey ); Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky ; Rep. James P. Moran (who did the Beltway Bolt before the speeches began); jovial “silver fox” James Schlesinger (a former secretary of defense and energy and director of the CIA); former NATO Ambassador William H. Taft IV ; former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci; former FBI chief William H. Webster; Sheila and Edward Weidenfeld ; Marc Leland ; journalist Jim Hoagland; and the ambassadors of Germany, Bulgaria, Brazil, Poland, Romania, Argentina, Finland, Spain and, of course, Belgium.

For $1,000, you get a Truman Hall Fund membership card. For $5,000, you get a cobbled pathway named in your honor. For $10,000, you get your own garden.

“It was a very soft pitch,” one insider said. “I’m sure there’ll be follow-up phone calls.”

— Stephanie Mansfield


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