WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton made a rare and low-key return to Washington on Tuesday for the ceremonial opening of a new exhibition and museum area at the State Department that will be partly named for her.
Clinton appeared alongside fellow former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell to inaugurate the glass pavilion – yes, there is a glass ceiling – that forms the new public entrance to the building. All living former secretaries of state were invited, but others declined for scheduling reasons, department spokesman John Kirby said Monday.
“I’m sure you will notice it is the most transparent part of the entire project,” Clinton joked about her namesake hall at the U.S. Diplomacy Center.
It was only Clinton’s second public appearance in Washington since losing the Nov. 8 election. Her brief remarks praised diplomats and the work of American diplomacy, and made no mention of the election.
The other halls, holding exhibits, an auditorium and a classroom, will be named for former secretaries James Baker and Henry Kissinger, and for current Secretary of State John Kerry.
Democrats and State Department officials rushed to hold the ceremony in the closing days of the Obama administration, even though the project is not complete. Unofficial plans had called for a grand opening of the entire facility in 2018.
The incoming Trump administration has not said how or whether it plans to finish the center, and some backers have questioned whether a project conceived and built almost entirely by Democratic administrations will be a priority.
Only the Clinton hall and the Kissinger one below it – whose star attraction is a 14-foot section of the Berlin Wall – are complete and ready to open. Estimated at $50 million, which was raised, the public-private project now needs roughly $20 million more to complete and outfit the other halls.
Kerry plugged what he said would be an ongoing fundraising effort.
“In any marathon, the last few miles are always the hardest,” he told the crowd of diplomats, donors and others seated in the new hall. “We still have a few miles to go.”
Earlier Tuesday, Kerry said that contact between current and incoming State Department officials has been limited.
“It’s going pretty smoothly, because there’s not an enormous amount of it,” Kerry joked to an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
“There are some people who have been in the building for a period of time, but quite candidly, I think there has not been a lot of high-level exchange.”
Kerry said he has not yet met Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick to succeed him as secretary of state, but expects to do so before he leaves office.
The Diplomacy Center, a glass-fronted addition to the hulking State Department building, will house a museum of diplomatic history and artifacts.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Anne Gearan