Congress in the Archives will feature a monthly staff post on our blog. January’s post comes from Center archives technician, Adam Berenbak.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, officially formed in 1816, serves to consider legislation concerning foreign affairs, treaties, and nominations of diplomatic and consular representatives. This role as essential participants in the development of U.S. foreign policy has led not only to extensive travel around the globe, but also the need to host and engage visiting foreign dignitaries. Though often the official state welcome has been at the White House, few visiting dignitaries have missed a lunch or afternoon coffee with senators. The committee has hosted such visitors as members of the North Atlantic Assembly and delegations from a variety of countries, including China (for which a note was left chiding a staffer to ensure the spinach was not overcooked!),
and dignitaries such as Golda Meir, King Hussain bin Talal of Jordan, German Chancellor Willy Brandt, President Mobutu of Zaire, Helen Vlachos, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, Prince (and future King) Juan Carlos of Spain, as well as Imelda Marcos, General Secretary of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev, and our lady of the hour, Margaret Thatcher.
In addition to reports, bills, correspondence, and other sometimes mundane material, the records of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee include memos and seating arrangements, menus, dietary restrictions of guests, as well as profiles and briefing materials on the guests, often times containing pronunciation guides for the more difficult to pronounce names. Among these papers are itemized receipts that show the committee paid for lunch, juice, gratuity, flowers, and cigars for Mrs. Thatcher’s visit on September 18, 1975.
After her visit in 1975, Thatcher would go on to be elected the first woman in her country’s history to serve as Prime Minister in 1979. Her note thanking the committee for their hospitality spoke volumes of her courtesy as well as her political aspirations: “I hope we shall meet again soon.”
Thatcher is being portrayed by Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, which premieres today.
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