Bill Burns honored as Diplomat of the Year

Bill Burns honored as Diplomat of the Year

Last night, Foreign Policy played host to ambassadors, think tankers, corporate executives, and State Department personnel for the magazine’s annual Diplomat of the Year dinner, hosted at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building and emceed by FP CEO and Editor-at-Large David Rothkopf .

Cocktail chatter alternated between personal anecdotes about the night’s honoree, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, and the latest revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program PRISM. "I don’t care if the government’s listening to my calls because I’ve never done anything wrong," chuckled an ambassador from Eastern Europe.

Burns, who holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service — career ambassador — was feted by outgoing National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who praised Burns’s role as a mentor for generations of State Department personnel and gently teased him about his mustache, which has "become grayer" over the years.

Burns thanked his family members for their support over the years and accepted the award on behalf of his colleagues in the U.S. Foreign Service. "I am extraordinarily proud to be a career American diplomat, proud of the people I serve with, and proud of the country we serve," he said.

"Teddy Roosevelt once remarked that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing," he continued. "By that standard, my friends and I in the American diplomatic service are extraordinarily fortunate. For all the political trauma and physical risk, for all the uncertainties and tough choices that all of us have to navigate every day in an endlessly complicated world, ours is a chance to make a difference, a rare opportunity through public service to make our country safer and more secure and more prosperous, and to help make the world a little bit more hospitable place for the pursuit of human dignity."

Some 40 ambassadors attended the event, including envoys from Brazil, France, India, Russia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates. Business leaders from companies such as VISA, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric, and administration officials such as Acting Commerce Secretary Cameron Kerry and Acting U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro were also in attendance, as were a range of State Department personnel, including David McKean, director of policy planning, a team from the bureau of public affairs, including Mike Hammer and Moira Whelan.