Never underestimate the power of timing and luck. The 45th annual Meridian Ball, traditionally held in October, went ahead as scheduled Friday night — less than 48 hours after the shutdown ended and default was avoided. To say the mood was festive would be an understatement.
“I think everyone here is relieved America is still standing,” said Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman. “This is a very international, business-oriented crowd. Imagine what a panicky, funereal scene this could have been.” Instead, under the full moon and balmy temperatures, more than 650 guests crowded into the historic house and gardens, raising more than $1 million for Meridian’s international programs.
Like we said, lucky.
“Lucky? Oh my God!” laughed Meridian president Ambassador Stuart Holliday. Following the shutdown on Oct. 1, there were some doubts about going forward with the annual black-tie fundraiser. After the 9/11 attacks 12 years ago, the board decided then that Meridian’s mission of international understanding was exactly what Washington needed to hear, and that precedent set the bar for this year’s party. Besides, most of the participants at the center’s global leadership summit Friday were already convinced the show would go on.
“Interestingly, most countries believed we would work [the budget crisis] out,” Holliday told us. Americans might have been worried, but “there was more confidence overseas that we knew what we were doing. They all thought we had a very concrete plan that this would all work out the way it did.”
And so the show did go on: dinners at embassies around town, followed by a Gatsby-themed ball with flowing champagne, dessert buffet, two dance floors and a sexy quintet of performers who steamed up the house — but no old-fashioned dance band, which sent the traditionalists home early.
“This event is so much better than it would have been last week,” said Sen. Roy Blunt. After three weeks in the trenches, several member of Congress fled D.C., but co-chairs Blunt and Rep. John Delaney said they thought it was important to give a nod to D.C.’s international community.
“The one thing you can’t fake.” said Delaney with a grin, “is showing up.”
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