So, you think you know how to host a summer soiree in your backyard? Think again.
On Tuesday, we traveled down to sunny Stanford University for a party hosted by Protocol Chief Charlotte Mailliard Shultz and her husband, former Sec. of State George Shultz, in honor of their pal, former Sec. of State James Baker and his wife, Susan Baker.
The concept of “throwing another shrimp on the barbie” will never, again, be the same.
This colorful Cal-Tex-themed party spilled around the pool and tree-groved hillside of Shultz’s home on the green and gorgeous Stanford Campus where George Shultz has long served as a Distinguished Fellow of the Hoover Institution. Among other jobs.
Also on hand to cheer the recent opening of a Palo Alto branch of Baker’s Texas-based Baker Botts Law firm? Former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice and former Sec. of Defense William Perry, both of whom are also Fellows of the Hoover Institute.
Former U.S. Secretaries of State George Shultz, Condoleezza Rice and James Baker
“There are many good things about Jim’s law firm,” said George Shultz, welcoming his guest. “But one of the best things is we’ll see more of Jim Baker out here!”
“When I got on the plane in Houston this morning it was 103, with humidity,” said Baker. “If today is typical of your weather, you’re definitely going to see a lot more of us!”
Weather aside, Charlotte Shultz (who once again, and with signature style) knew just how to welcome her fellow Texan.
With an assist from her creative partner-in-party-crime, Stanlee Gatti, bouquets and garlands of fat, fragrant yellow roses trimmed most surfaces -- over which flapped the state flags of California and Texas.
The McCall Associates crew (adorned in bandannas) served up a chuck-wagon full of victuals (grilled prawns, lamb chops, heirloom tomatoes, fresh soup shooters) as a Country-Western band gently crooned in the shade of an oak tree.
Guests were greeted by costumed critters (Smokey the Bear, the Stanford Tree) from Jeanne Lauren’s Skyana Costumes stables.
And in a shady corner of the garden where a sign read, George’s Bohemian Grove ... Ladies Welcome, sat "Henry Kissinger" and "Hillary Clinton" doppelgangers, ready to feign talk on foreign policy.
Among the 150-or-so guests, some whispered of their hesitancy to approach Condoleezza Rice as, from afar, she appears rather serious and a tad formidable.
Steeling our courage, we walked over, shook her hand and asked how she liked being back at Stanford.
Her assumed reserve melted. And beaming, this stylish woman who, until recently, bore the weight of the world on her well-toned shoulders declared, “It’s absolutely wonderful!”
A smaller dinner for 12 followed in the pool-house after the cocktail party. This week, Charlotte (again) engaged artist Cynthia Warren to create menus in homage to those colorful AAA maps which sit in many a drawer.
And those menus featured (yet another) a sumptuous McCall Associates supper, each course of which was cleverly renamed by Charlotte: SF Dungeness Crab, Baker Botts Beef Tenderloin and a dessert of Berry Sweet Susan.
But prior to the dinner bell, these four former U.S. Secretaries (Shultz, Perry, Baker and Rice) engaged in a brief backyard summit on current topics.
First, Jim Baker outlined the many parallels between his career and George Shultz’s.
“Like George, I was a Marine. And I followed him at Princeton, then as Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State,” said Baker. “However, I did not follow him when he had a Princeton tiger tattooed on his behind!”
To which Shultz laughed, announcing: “I maintain a ‘No Confirm, No Deny’ policy on that issue!”
The main points of this amazing summit, moderated by Shultz, touched on the hot buttons of Iran, North Korea, China and the extreme and (now) escalating danger of nuclear weapons.
Rice was appalled by the recent, brutal crackdown against demonstrators in the aftermath of the Iranian “election.”
“The government used the election to show they were legitimate. Yet their actions ended up showing they are illegitimate,” said Rice.
“But,” she continued, “35 percent of the Iranian population is under-30. The government has alienated its best and brightest. And they will remember that this current regime cheated them.”
Her take on Iranian policy? The current administration in Washington needs to be very careful in engaging with this regime, that, in her view, because it brutally repressed its own people in the streets, is “for all intents and purposes, done.”
Phew! This was some incredible dialogue, folks.
Perry announced his idea of a straightforward and simple solution regarding the possible threat of a North Korean missile strike against the U.S.
However, as we do not wish to be pegged for revealing any potential U.S. defense ideas, we’re leaving that particular tidbit on the cutting floor.
Perry did share a fascinating (and printable) tale of a trip he took in 2008 to attend the inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
By chance, the NY Philharmonic was performing a cultural exchange concert in North Korea and, following the inauguration, the North Koreans invited Perry to attend. But to legally enter North Korea from South Korea, one is required to fly back to Beijing and then fly into North Korea.
“But I was assured by the North Koreans I could simply be driven over the DMZ separating the two countries,” said Perry, of the area where two American journalists were recently arrested. “An American photographer was shooting some photos as we made the crossing. When I got home and looked at those pictures, I wondered if that DMZ crossing had been such a smart thing to do.”
Shultz has long been engaged against the danger of nuclear weapons. In 2007 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit, Shultz teamed up with former colleagues (former Sen. Sam Nunn, former Sec. of State Henry Kissinger and William Perry) to write a book titled, A World Free of Nuclear Weapons (Hoover Press).
Recently, these four were invited back to the White House by President Barack Obama to discuss their work and knowledge regarding this world-wide threat.
Taking their leave, Shultz handed the red-hued pamphlets to the President. But (as he related on Tuesday, to much laughter), out of that pile “accidently” fell a previous book he co-authored with Hoover Fellow John Shoven. It’s timely title? Putting Our House in Order: A Guide to Social Security and Health Care Reform (W.W. Norton, 2008).
[Note: driving down 280 out of the city fog and into the warmth of a sun-kissed Peninsula summer evening, we refrained from channel surfing the radio for the latest Michael Jackson tidbits or songs and forced ourselves to listen to what (as a self-proclaimed philistine) we consider the mind-numbing high-mindedness that is NPR-radio. We figured, for this gathering, we’d better glean a proper cocktail anecdote. Or twelve.]
Speaking of the Jackson 5 (and really? Can we stop now?) --- so entertaining, erudite and engaging were these Shultz Summit speakers that they really should consider taking their show on the road: The Secretaries 4.
With Charlotte Shultz (and her band of merry-makers) serving as their road manager.
Check out the photos below
Charlotte Shultz and Susan Baker
George Jewett, Mary Swing, her husband, Bishop William Swing and Lucy Jewett
Preston Butcher, Jane Shore and Wilkes Bashford
Pat and T. Jack Foster with Judy Wilbur
Sandra Lloyd and Carolyn Butcher
Sec. James Baker (left) and Sec. George Shultz (far right) flank their costumed counterparts "Henry Kissinger" and "Hillary Clinton"
Stanlee Gatti-designed Cal-Tex table
Cynthia Warren-designed menus
Susan Baker with Stanford University Trustee Burton McMurtry and his wife, Deedee McMurtry
The Backyard Shultz Summit
The Hon. James Baker and hostess Charlotte Shultz