Meridian Ball’s first guests may think that this is what Washington is doing behind the scenes: men in tuxedos, ladies in robes, rich and powerful people sipping champagne and dancing under candlelight in a historic mansion.
More than 800 people attended the 50th annual ball on Friday, traditionally attracting bipartisan government officials, lawmakers, ambassadors and philanthropists. Yes, it is Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, surrounded by good people and a noteworthy safety detail. In the garden, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway huddled in a comfortable conversation with Republican Congressman Mark Meadows and Democratic Congressman Don Beyer. together. Fox News anchor Bret Baier and HuffPost’s Howard Fillman agree slightly on the mid-term issues. Everyone seems to be relaxed and in the same league – except for the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabé Sanders, who laughed at the “fake news” media that night.
“You have a wonderful party!” a guest shouted to a very happy Meridian president, Stewart Holliday. Out-of-the-box fundraising campaigns raised more than $1 million in funding for the Meridian International Center, which promotes non-partisan diplomatic cooperation on global issues.
Other balls come and go in a hurry, victims of changing tastes and economic reality. Who wants waltz, even if they know how?
Meridian is the last of the same kind of players. It is a survivor of the past, and Washington’s vision is not like it is now, it is more like the imagination itself: elegant, serious, refined, united and important issues and careers. Even in these energetic times, this image transcends the party boundaries and explains the long-lasting appeal of the ball.
Moreover, although most guests will not admit it, everyone still wants their life to be a bit glamorous.
The first goal in 1969 was the brainchild of Jane Sloat Ritchie, known as Mrs. Elliot Dodd Degraf. The 28-year-old who volunteered to help diplomatic families settle in Washington lived near the Saudi ambassador. “What can I do for you?” The ambassador’s wife asked her. “You are very helpful to the people in our embassy. Would you like me to give you a dinner?”
Degraf has a better idea. What if the Embassy hosts a dinner party for Meridian House? Meridian House is a center created nine years ago to assist the diplomatic community? What if other embassies do the same thing and everyone dances to a historic mansion after dinner?
She brought this idea to all male boards. He listened to the proposal and said, “Jenny, dear, you can wait outside, we will reply you.”
The board decided that the ball could work, but argued whether to sell the ad or seek company underwriting in the plan. And men are worried that allowing parties to enter the garden will “have security issues because the entire community will be attracted to the voice of this activity.” Riffraff!
Degraf was appointed chairman and recruited the wife of Secretary of State Bill Rogers, Adele Rogers, to serve as honorary chairman of the ball. Rogers was part of a group of close-knit cabinet ladies who came to the White House and brought DeGraff to the White House for Nixon’s blessings. A group of volunteers – most of whom are wives of socially renowned men who stay at home – have entered a climax.
The ball with the theme “Washington: The Gateway to the United States” was held on a Wednesday in October; the ticket price was $50 – it was expensive at the time. After dinner at more than 20 embassies (a rare experience that was not available at any other fundraising event at the time), guests wearing tuxedos, prom dresses and the finest jewels came to the live orchestra to dance.