- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

So many foreign policy VIPs turned out for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s Tribute to Excellence dinner Thursday night that the event became the diplomatic equivalent of a rock concert, with superstar headliners to boot.

How else to explain the phenomenon of more than three dozen current and former U.S. ambassadors (all in the requisite black-tie “uniform,” of course) plus Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad, Iraq’s Charge d’Affaires Said Shihab Ahmad, former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering and Director General of the Foreign Service Robert Pearson nudging forward to reach out, touch and be recognized by the diplomatic rock star himself: former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the evening’s co-honoree along with former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci.

Mr. Carlucci, still a master of the universe as chairman emeritus of the Carlyle Group, had his own fans as well, of course, to see him accept the ADST’s International Business Leader Award. Among them: AOL’s founding CEO, Jim Kimsey, who enjoyed telling how his friend became known as the “go-to-guy” back when he was a young diplomat posted to Congo.

It started in the early 1960s, Mr. Kimsey recalled, when Congo’s prime minister was visiting the White House. After paying his respects, he looked around the Oval Office and asked President Kennedy, “Where’s Carlucci?” “And Kennedy asked, ‘Who … is Carlucci?’ And since then, he’s been the ‘go-to-guy.’”

After accepting the Ralph J. Bunche Award for Diplomatic Excellence, Mr. Powell regaled his audience with a few of his favorite tales. None got a bigger laugh than the one about switching from being “the general” to “the secretary.”

“That first morning, while I was having breakfast at home with Alma, she reminded me, ‘Honey, you’re not in the Army anymore. Just remember these people are ambassadors, diplomats and Foreign Service officers.’ So, I began my remarks at state that morning by saying, ‘Good Morning, troops. How are you?’”

Asked earlier if he thought peace would ever come to Iraq, in light of the recent bombing of the Golden Mosque, Mr. Powell said, “I’m deeply troubled with the way it’s now going. It’s more than an insurgency. But despite this unrest, we have to be hopeful. The Iraqi people want peace.”

Mr. Powell was praised as an innovator who demanded that the State Department do everything better, faster and with the latest technology on every diplomat’s desk, whether in Washington or halfway around the world.

His approach apparently endeared him to the ADST, founded 20 years ago as the nonprofit support organization enhancing the work of the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. (The ADST records and promotes American diplomacy through oral histories, publications and exhibits.)

Mr. Powell further captivated the crowd when he told how certain Foreign Service officers found additional uses for his hard-fought-for technology.

“They’d be on a date, and their BlackBerries would ring. They’d say, ‘Oh, excuse me, the secretary of state is calling me.’ I then realized they were using them as chick magnets.” The crowd roared.

Rock star indeed.

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