Party in the USA

By Charlotte Parker
Mama’s apple pie for cross-cultural understanding (Parker/TYG)
I went to a 4th of July party in the USA. How’s that, you ask? Aren’t you in Geneva for the summer? Why yes, loyal readers (hi Mom and Dad!), you are quite right. But for two hours last Wednesday, July 4th, I was on US territory at the Permanent Mission of the United States of America, Geneva. It made for a great lunch break: a short walk to the Mission, a compound of tall, tinted-glass buildings; three rounds of security checks, including a scan of the bar code on my red, white, and blue invitation; and the chance to shake the hands of all 4 US Ambassadors in Geneva, Betty King (to the UN and other International Organizations), Michael Punke (to the World Trade Organization), Laura Kennedy (to the Conference on Disarmament), and Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe (to the Human Rights Council). I also had a really good hamburger. And I think I saw a spy! He was wearing a white linen suit and drinking a mojito like a Miami-based James Bond.
The party was officially called “The 4th of July Picnic: As American as Baseball, BBQ, and Apple Pie,” and all of those elements of classic Americana were in full play. Mission staff wore baseball cards as nametags, the buffet tables had coleslaw, potato salad, and pork sliders, and a special apple pie stand took center stage at dessert. A live band fronted by a man in a cowboy hat played a whole range of American standards, from Frank Sinatra to Willie Nelson. I think the Mission sees the 4th as an opportunity for cultural exchange. 4,000 people were invited from the international community in Geneva,  and while only a fraction of those people accepted the invite, I  heard more French than English as I waited in line for my burger. Guests wore red dresses and seersucker pants, but also saris and keffiyehs. For the edification of international guests, the program for the event included textboxes on the history of “The Great American Picnic,” “America’s Favorite Pastime: Baseball,” and “Mama’s Homemade Apple Pie.” It reminded me of Secretary of State Clinton (my good pal Hil)’s initiatives to make food part of a “smart power” diplomatic strategy. I really believe in those kind of strategies for a number of reasons–not least that it’s kinda nice, if only just for a day, that diplomacy can be a picnic.
Marines play softball here every Sunday, right outside the solar-panelled Mission (Parker/TYG)
Charlotte Parker ’13 is in Berkeley College. She is an intern for the summer at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. Contact her at