The New Zealand Embassy in Washington D.C. always hosts interesting programs, but this year's annual Pacific Day and Night was the best ever! New Zealand Ambassador Mike Moore and his staff landed some major coups. The lead speakers were US Secretary of State John Kerry, followed by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key! This is an important line up for any Embassy.
There were also Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, and officials from Pacific Island countries, in addition to New Zealand and the United States. The major topics included pollution, conservation, energy, the fishing industry, and rising sea levels which increase the dangers to the lower-lying island nations. Prime Minister Key also said he has made progress in New Zealand's efforts to re-join the UN Security Council for the 2015 and 2016 session.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Fiji Airways were also co-sponsors of the events. A lucky winner also received a free trip to Fiji.
Secretary of State John Kerry threw down the gauntlet when he discussed the need for clean energy. He advocated nuclear energy, which he claimed was clean and safe, if not built on an earthquake fault line. He must have known about the anti-nuclear sentiments of most New Zealanders, and the fact NZ has a great deal of earthquakes. But no one challenged him in such a setting. After several hours of speeches, it was time to feast and party!
The 500 or so guests enjoyed delicious food and exciting music and dancing from 9 Pacific Island countries. It was a magic day and evening, and no doubt encouraged many to visit, or make return visits to the exquisite and hospitable Pacific islands!
Two days after these events, Prime Minister Key met President Obama at the White House. The two last met for golf in Hawaii. This time, the President said he will try to visit New Zealand -- perhaps after meetings in Australia in a few months. Their talks this time focused on a major trade agreement, security, and the crises in Iraq. New Zealanders have participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have sacrificed blood and treasure. New Zealand will also join the US and several other nations in major Naval exercises off Hawaii.
New Zealand and the United States continue to grow closer each year, despite differences over some issues.