Twenty years after he was first elected president, Bill Clinton is still a political rock star, especially after his convention speech last month. And, dare we say, the ideal dinner guest.
Unlike the Obamas, both Bill and Hillary Clinton are regulars, when schedules permit, on Washington’s charitable social scene. That’s one of the luxuries of being a former president: White House occupants— especially in the first term — spend very little time hanging out with Beltway elites.
By contrast, Clinton spent hours chatting with guests and gave remarks at the Kuwaiti embassy’s benefit for D.C.’s Maya Angelou charter schools. In 1993, Angelou created a poem for his first inauguration; he came Monday night to honor the poet and author, 84, who attended the dinner in a wheelchair.
Rima Al-Sabah assembled her usual eclectic roster of Washington A-listers: Five cabinet secretaries — Education‘s Arne Duncan, Treasury’s Tim Geithner, Homeland Security’s Janet Napolitano, Transportation’s Ray LaHood, and HUD’s Shaun Donovan — plus White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, D.C. councilman Jack Evans, philanthropists Jack Davies and Adrienne Arsht, and lots of ambassadors.
The night, which raised $500,000, was a classic feel-good-by-doing-good event. The students at the first school — all kids in the court system — voted to name it after Angelou; soon, she was an enthusiastic supporter. She thanked the crowd for helping kids “who, if you saw them walking down the street, you’d jump in your car.” Clinton gave an impassioned plea for education reform and at-risk kids: “The Maya Angelou charter schools are designed to give the dream back to kids who, literally, would otherwise probably spend their lives in prison,” he said. “It is insane to let all these young people go into the criminal justice system and not give them the chance to learn something.”
The party ended with a real rock star: Skunk Baxter, the former Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist who also dabbles in missile defense. He’s the ringer in Coalition of the Willing, an ersatz rock band made up of government and diplomatic types (former Hungarian ambassador Andras Simonyi, Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman) who did a couple of Steely Dan covers before breaking to — what else — chat up Clinton.
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