Inside Foggy Bottom

Inside Foggy Bottom

There is only one month left in our program, and time has gone so quick. This week, I'll cover some of the things I get to do at my internship. One of the perks of interning at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training is that we get access to events in the State Department. Just as a side note, the term “Foggy Bottom” not only refers to the area in D.C., but it is also a reference to the State Department.


For the last few weeks, the interns at ADST got to attend events that not many people get the opportunity to experience, with the highlights being the briefing with the Office of Protocol and a ceremony in the eighth floor Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

The Office of Protocol

This is a segment of the State Department that not many people are familiar with, but the work that they do is vital so that events run smoothly and that government officials act in accordance to diplomatic etiquette. To put in an interesting fact, Shirley Temple was the Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1976 to 1977.

Every year, the Assistant Chief of Protocol in the Ceremonials Office keeps track of around 150 to 180 events. Their duties include getting dignitaries to where they need to go, hosting events for high-ranking government officials like the Secretary of State, and keeping track of the holiday card list which is a process that begins in July. We got the opportunity to see some of the formal event invitations, and it was nice to see a creative side to the government!

Another individual that spoke to us was the General Manager of the Blair House. Not many people are aware that the Blair House is where foreign dignitaries stay when they are on an official visit in D.C. since it is the official guest house of the President. It is located right across the street from the White House. Four interconnected townhouses compose the Blair House which has 119 rooms, and although it doesn’t appear like it on the outside, it is actually 5000 square feet larger than the White House.  An interesting fact that we learned is that if there is more than one foreign dignitary from different countries on an official visit, no one is invited to stay in the Blair House partly because of the perception of favoritism.

Diplomatic Partnership is a newly created office. This division caters to the diplomatic corps here in D.C. One event that this office organizes is the Experience America program. In the Experience America program, ambassadors from various countries in D.C. are offered short trips throughout the U.S. to see different parts of the country and engage with people all throughout.

The Gifts Office is responsible for the tangible symbols of a diplomatic relationship. When selecting gifts, it is important for the office to remember the image they want to portray. Gifts that we were shown ranged from the stately, such as eagle statuettes, to more personal, such as custom cufflinks or something related to a dignitary’s interests. The office always tries to find something unique and made in the U.S. to give as a gift, so they work closely with American artists. Some of the more interesting samples of gifts we saw were stuffed animals resembling the President’s dogs and cufflinks made from the wood of a tree in the White House lawn.

Finally, the Assistant Chief of Visits talked to our group about the logistics behind foreign delegation visits and the foreign visits of American officials.


This position schedules and helps to plan the movements of the officials during events. There are a broad range of responsibilities in this position from greeting dignitaries, preparing meetings, working on forms of address, and making sure the officials have all the means necessary to be successful, such as finding interpreters. This position appeared to be quite on-the-go since many of the employees in this division often travel around the world as part of the American delegations.

The Diplomatic Reception Rooms

I along with Galina, another intern at ADST, were lucky enough to be able to attend an award ceremony at the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms. I could tell you more about the ceremony, but it is tough not to talk about the rooms themselves. The architecture of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms is in stark contrast to the rest of the State Department complex.  While the bottom floors of the State Department are normal office building spaces, the eighth floor has a really classical look. These rooms were essentially transformed in the 1960's to serve as an official space for government functions. The Benjamin Franklin Room is the largest of the rooms, which serves as a state dining room and ceremony space. I think my favourite part of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms is that it has a collection of antiques and priceless historical objects all throughout. For example, in the John Quincy Adams Room, there lies the desk where the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 ending the American Revolution.

I could explain more, but I think it is time for some pictures!


The stage is set for the award ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Room. The columns and chandeliers really make this space appear grand.


Part of the John Quincy Adams Room with some priceless antiques and objects of American history.


The other side of the John Quincy Adams Room.


The desk that the Treaty of Paris was signed on in 1783.


One of the original paintings of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. This is the image on the one dollar bill.


The Gallery with antiques lining the walls and in the cabinets.


Galina posing in the Thomas Jefferson Room.


The view from the balcony at the top of the State Department building.

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