As the sun set over the Washington Monument, more than 600 people — including first lady Jill Biden — gathered in a massive white tent to celebrate the National Mall, affectionately referred to as “America’s front yard.”
The first lady served as the honorary chairwoman of the 2023 Ball for the Mall, an event hosted by the Trust for the National Mall honoring the significance of the Mall and announcing new efforts to make the park more enriching, educational and accessible for all.
“The Mall is the blooming and bustling heart of our capital,” she said. “But even on the busiest of days, there is something sacred found in the shade of the monuments, mirrored in the waters of the reflecting pool.”
“As we wander through the stone and marble, each heart-wrenching memorial, we can almost hear the echoes of great speeches, of rallies for freedom and justice, floating on the wind.”
Philanthropists, business leaders, members of the media and public officials dressed in sparkling long dresses and crisp suits to enjoy a reception, dinner and awards ceremony on the grounds that attract more than 32 million visitors yearly.
Two honorees received the Trust’s “History, Heroes and Hope” awards for contributions to the improvement of the National Mall.
Emily Haber, German ambassador to the U.S., was honored for her support in restoring the German-American Friendship Garden. The ambassador said she noticed the landmark garden was in need of revitalization on a stroll with her husband after moving to Washington.
“I panicked,” Haber joked. The refreshed blooms of the new garden represent the strength and endurance of the relationship between Germany and America, she said. “Let us make sure that it remains that way.”
The second honoree was businessperson Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, who supported the building of a new stable for the U.S. Park Police on the National Mall, which will open in June.
Johnson expressed her love for horses and emphasized why the new facility was necessary.
“Now, as someone who owns and lives on a working horse farm, I know I’m not the most objective person when it comes to this. But for my money, horses are as important to America’s history as any living creature, including man,” Johnson said.
Speakers also previewed plans to restore Constitution Gardens and prepare the Mall for 2026’s observance of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, among other projects.
“There are very few things that bring our country together like the National Mall,” said businessperson David Rubenstein.
“The Good Doctor” star Hill Harper emceed the event, and he is reportedly weighing a 2024 run for the Michigan Senate seat Debbie Stabenow (D) holds.
Others in attendance included Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.); Hilda Suka-Mafudze, ambassador of the African Union to the U.S.; Maguy Maccario Doyle, ambassador of Monaco to the U.S.; Margaret Mensah Williams, ambassador of Namibia to the U.S.; and Stavros Lambrinidis, ambassador of the European Union to the U.S.
Source: The Hill