Meridian: Ties that Bind

Meridian: Ties that Bind

by senior contributor Brendan Kownacki
Photo credit: Neshan H. Naltchayan

It was a pitch perfect evening of elegance for the 45th Annual Meridian Ball. The sky was clear, the moon was full and the October air was crisp and cool. As one guest remarked: “If you can find a better one let me know.”


The ball is a staple event for Washington influencers that celebrates the work of the Meridian International Center whose mission is hinged on bringing together people from around the world to create international awareness and understanding.


Marlene and Fred Malek

The evening attracts a mix of media, ambassadors, politicos and diplomats–the best-of-the-best in Washington turns out for this evening and this year did not disappoint. A blend of VIPs from dozens of countries crowded the historic house and garden mingling with dozens of government workers who were breathing a sigh of relief that they could be out and celebrating now that the infamous shutdown had ended.


Matt and Ashley Taylor Bronczek with Stuart Holliday

Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President of Meridian, and his wife graciously welcomed guests into their “home” and buzzed around the party making sure each and every person felt welcome.

This year’s ball was chaired by Dalia Mroue-Fateh who truly represents the international essence of Meridian. Dalia is Lebanese by birth and grew up in France and Africa before arriving in the US.  The chair of the ball breaths all the energy into the evening and this year to assist, Fran Holuba and Jaclyn Mason were tapped as Young-Professional co-chairs to make sure that the mission of Meridian spanned all age groups.


Fran Holuba and Giuseppe Lanzone

“The Meridian International Center is ultimately about idea sharing and sourcing innovative approaches to problem solving.” said Holuba of what she wants young people to know about Meridian. “Nowhere else in the city can a young entrepreneur with a great idea on solving student loan debt rub elbows with a high level policy maker in an intimate, personal setting such as the Linden tree grove.”

dsc_4242Erika Gutierrez and Rodrigo Garcia

The garden she references is part of what makes the ball such a unique and special evening. Guests can almost slip away from the boom and bustle of Washington politics inside the walls of the historic compound.

The Meridian House and the adjacent White-Meyer House drip with history when you realize their design comes from renowned architect John Russell Pope who was the mastermind of the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives among other high profile projects.

The house was built in 1923 and the Linden trees were imported specially from Europe. The house has been home to the Meridian Center since its inception in 1960. Ambassador Holliday shared that the house is named for its proximity to one of DC’s prime meridians that runs right along 16th street and directly through the White House.

dsc_4288His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, Ed and Shirley Henry

Guests sipped cocktails, nibbled on lavish bites and danced to vibrant bands that got everyone in a celebratory mood. Even Fox News’ Ed Henry couldn’t resist the urge to be one of the first to take to the dance floor with wife Shirley to kick off the evening.

dsc_4365White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard and Capricia Marshall, former Chief of Protocol

Especially after two weeks of completely polarized politics in DC, one thing stood out everywhere you looked  – people can come together for a common cause if they put their mind to it.  In conjunction with the ball, Meridian holds a global leadership summit to explore the ideas of international cooperation and more than ever those concepts are crucial.


Fox News’ Brett and Amy Baier


“I commend the Meridian on their continued presence in the diplomatic and international community while constantly growing to stay relevant and valuable to emerging leaders.” added Holuba. Many have called for new blood in congress after a stubborn shutdown, hopefully the new generation of leaders being bred at events like this will keep the world turning a little more efficiently.