Date With Washington

Washington doesn’t call on any given day. However they did call. Last week. My agent’s received an invitation on my behalf from the U.S. State Department inviting me to attend a luncheon in honor of “His Excellency Vice President Xi Jiping of the People’s Republic of China” hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Say…WHAT?!
I felt this immense swelling of patriotic…confusion. Mr. Xi will become the next president of the People’s Republic of China in 2013, the second largest economy in the world. I had no idea how I was going to contribute to this luncheon, but heck…if my country needs me…I accept my call to duty.

I packed an overnight bag with a perfect dress for the occasion by Twinkle. Designer Wenlan Chia had just sent me a few dresses from her collection, so I lucked out with timing, cancelled my meetings and headed to DC.

The State Luncheon coincided with Valentine’s Day. I remember having to change elementary school once on Valentine’s Day and I recall all the kids giving each other the “will you be mine” cards while I sat at my new desk thumbing my fingers. And out of the blue, a fellow third grader saved me from my misery by dropping a Valentine on my desk. I was so grateful.

So I decided to welcome Mr. Xi with this very American Valentine’s Day card. (In case the other kids forgot.) After speeches and toasts were given by Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Xi Jiping, I ended up standing behind Mr. Xi who was seated and talking with a person on his right. I waited for a bit with my card in hand and looked to see who was hoggin’ up the time here…and it turned out to be Dr. Henry Kissinger!

I couldn’t believe I was standing behind two of the world’s most prominent historical figures with a silly Valentine’s day card of all things. I felt like that moment in Forrest Gump where Forrest was at the White House. Remember that? (Did anyone else at the luncheon capture this photo opp? If so, would you be so kind as to send me that as a .tiff file?!)

Their conversation wasn’t looking likely to end and I got tapped on the shoulder by one of Mr. Xi’s officials who gave me a look that said, “beat it kid.” I begrudgingly handed my card to him and gesticulated with great importance, “VALENTINE’S DAY”.

Mr. Biden made a remark that he’d accept any card I had to give to him, but alas…I didn’t have a card for him. (Mr. Xi was the guest of honor!) However he made my day by posing for this photo and showed me what a movie star smile looks like.

Biden’s opening remarks brought some smiles to a very serious room. And I appreciate his good guy personality which has always come across in television and came across in person. He was a lesson in charm, candor and charisma.

I had the good fortune of being seated next to Ms. Victoria Nuland, Spokeswoman for Secretary of State, who introduced me to…the Secretary of State herself, Mrs. Hillary Clinton. I was absolutely giddy. Hillary Clinton is iconic and epitomizes the challenges and successes of the modern day woman. A subject matter that is of deep interest to me. I would have liked to steal Hillary away with just myself and a notepad, but I’ll make due with this photo. Ms. Nuland gave me a great idea for a possible play involving Hillary. Meryl Streep…I have a role for you.

I was cheering for you in 2008 and will always be your admirer!

Also seated next to me was fashion designer Vivienne Tam and we both said hello to honorary chef Ming Tsai who I’d met once before at a Project By Project Charity Tasting. Ming flew in the night before from Boston to prepare the luncheon which was delicious.

During the cocktail reception, I met another Artist, a dancer/choreographer named Shen Wei. Dance was my first love, so it was a thrill to run into another performer, but it wasn’t until after the luncheon, I discovered the extent of Shen’s accomplishments. Shen is the world renowned founder of Shen Wei Arts, also lead choreographer and consultant of the opening 2008 Olympics in Beijing! The caliber, talent and minds in this room were a little mind numbing. Many of them having to do with US and Chinese relations. NY Times writer Stephen Lee Myers was a guest at our table. Victoria Nuland predicted Stephen would win a Pulitzer for journalism.

After the luncheon, I decided to tour the whole floor which houses the Benjamin Franklin Room where the luncheon was held. The room is often reserved for diplomatic relations and I wanted to prolong my stay and explore. However, I think I made security a little nervous. I found one of them stalking me as I wandered…the bathroom.

Upon arriving to the State Department, I was snapping photos of the musicians awaiting Xi’s arrival which immediately garnered some attention from one of the “agents”. You know the one, ear piece, headset, tall, dark suit, Ryan Reynolds, etc. I think they kept an eye on me the entire lunch. Anyway, “Ryan” pulled me aside and asked to see the content of my photos and I assume ran a background check on me while he deleted a few “non allowable” photos. On a funny note, my imagination went wild, oh, he thinks I’m a spy! I only play spies on TV, but it was so thrilling to get interrogated. I mean, he thought I was potentially a threat to the State. The only powerful thing I had in my Marc Jacobs bag was a Valentine’s day card with a kind message and volumizing mascara.

OK. All jokes aside,  my attendance at the luncheon made me contemplate my purpose in the room, in this country and what my role is in the United States. In many ways, I am an ambassador for more than just one country and for a multitude of platforms. As an Asian American woman, I represent more than one ideology. I’m interested in taking part in strengthening US/Chinese/Taiwanese relations. Culturally and racially, I’m a complex mix of my Taiwanese heritage and American suburban upbringing. I advocate for Asian American Issues. Yet I’m also distinctly proud to be an American Actor with no ethnic identifier. It seems my purpose and role is to be the extraordinary summation of all these things and to continue sharpening what this voice has to say in life.

I passed this ad for World Life Org walking back to my hotel. Nice. Whomever or whatever earned my invitation to the luncheon, I was blessed to experience a day out of the ordinary to deepen my understanding of the world around me and recommit myself to making a difference in my lifetime. I never thought I’d be getting that kind of boost from my government, but I did.

Thanks Washington.