US First Lady Guest of Honor at Kuwaiti Embassy Gala Dinner
WASHINGTON-- US First Lady Dr. Jill Biden attended on May fourth the Kuwait-America Foundation gala dinner as guest of honor, which was held at the Kuwait Embassy in the nation's capital in support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) impactful work worldwide.
Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah and his wife Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah hosted this year's Gala Dinner.
The event recognized the longstanding commitment to promoting and securing peace on the global stage of CIA Director William Burns, the Public Service Award Recipient and Hollywood actor Ben Stiller, the Private Citizen Award Recipient, whose unwavering dedication and tireless work on behalf of refugees and displaced people around the world is inspiring.
In her remarks, the First Lady, addressing Sheikh Salem and Sheikha Rima, said "you and Rima have been such good friends to us over the years, as well as being humanitarian leaders," noting that she's "so grateful." She shed light on the "responsibility to not just support refugees, but end the tragedies that forced them from their homes." "I'm grateful for the work of organizations like Kuwait-America Foundation that have taken up this cause as well. There is so much work to do," she remarked.
In his speech, Kuwait's Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah said that the refugee crisis "only continues to grow more dire by the day. That today we are still seeing an increase in human suffering because of displacement is heartbreaking." "The number of people forced to leave their homes, fleeing violence and destruction, rises daily - particularly as the horrible war in Ukraine rages on," he added.
He continued, "We are honored to not only recognize UNHCR's vital work this evening, but to also join with them in a call to action." He affirmed that Kuwait was "proud to be a longstanding supporter of the UNHCR," indicating that "over the last 10 years alone, Kuwait's contributions to the agency have amounted to more than USD 432 million, establishing Kuwait as the top donor to UNHCR in the region over the last decade." "As a result of our initiatives and generous support, and in recognition of our leading regional and international philanthropic role, Kuwait has been designated as a 'humanitarian hub,'" he remarked.
On her part, Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, also UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, announced that "this year alone we have, once again, raised over USD one million for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees." "Together, we are helping to save lives and build better futures for the millions of people around the globe forced from home," she said. "We are all bearing witness to an unprecedented level of displacement... And tragically, the numbers only continue to rise. It is a humanitarian crisis without comparison, but UNHCR is at its forefront." She continued that "the determined support of everyone in this room is helping the UN Refugee Agency and its nearly 18,000 people on the ground in 132 countries to protect some of the world's most vulnerable people, providing them with shelter, medical care, education, healthcare - and the hope - they so desperately need." Meanwhile, CIA chief Burns said he is "honored and humbled" for receiving the Public Service Award.
"I have the privilege of serving as director of the CIA, leading exceptional women and men who as we sit here this evening, are doing hard jobs and hard places around the world," Burns added. "In honoring me, you really are honoring all of them." He also expressed "particular appreciation for the work UNHCR... UNHCR is truly indispensable." On his part, Actor Ben Stiller -- also a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador -- said "to receive this private citizen award, it is just an honor. I received a few awards in my life, a few. This one feels very different."
"While this honor is in my name, it's really a recognition of the efforts of the UN refugee agency and all the people who work there," he added.
Meanwhile, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi thanked in his remarks Sheikh Salem and his wife, saying "what you have been doing for many, many years now, assemble people here... talking about important causes, making people aware of difficult problems and challenges around the world and asking for their support has been invaluable." He re-emphasized that Sheikh Salem is the ambassador of a country that "has been recognized as a champion of humanitarianism," and that Sheikha Rima, who he has asked to remain as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, "is the ambassador of an organization that tries to help as much as it as it can." "So really to you, to the State of Kuwait... thank you very much," he remarked.
Among the attendees at the gala dinner were First Lady Jill Biden, CIA Director William Burns, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Actor Ben Stiller, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
Also attending were Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Bob Menendez, Senators Jim Risch and Roy Blunt, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and Counsellor to the President Michael Donilon.
Deputy Chief of Staff of the President Bruce Reed, CBS news Margaret Brennan who served as master of ceremonies, as well as the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Ukraine, and Germany.
US Secretary of State was scheduled Antony Blinken was scheduled to attend and deliver keynote remarks but he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Over the past 21 years, Sheikh Salem and his wife Sheikha Rima have hosted at the Kuwait Embassy residence three US Presidents (George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump), three Vice Presidents (Dick Cheney, Mike Pence and Joe Biden), First Ladies (Laura Bush, Melania Trump and Jill Biden), as well as every US Secretary of State (Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo), among countless other US dignitaries.