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For the Birds: Dinner With Henry Paulson and Margaret Atwood for BirdLife International

A small, intimate dinner Tuesday night attracted high-profile guests including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and author Margaret Atwood. The dinner was in honor of BirdLife International, an organization that works to preserve biodiversity and protect bird habitats and sites. Atwood and novelist Graeme Gibson, also in attendance, are the honorary presidents of the Rare Bird Club, a division of the organization. The event took place on the sixth floor of the Canadian Embassy and began with a cocktail hour, where the 35 or so guests mingled quietly before dinner.

All photos by Rachel Cothran.

Following drinks, everybody filtered into an adjacent room where four nicely arranged tables were set up and the attendees took their assigned seats. Ambassador Michael Wilson gave opening remarks before Dr. Michael Rands, CEO of BirdLife, took the podium. He expressed regret that Queen Noor of Jordan, president emeritus of BirdLife and an expected guest, wasn’t feeling well and was unable to attend. He then spoke about BirdLife’s work and the importance of preserving bird biodiversity. BirdLife is a coalition of independent NGOs working together to save species, protect sites, conserve habitats, and empower people. He emphasized that bird conservation connects to many other ecological issues, such as marine conservation and deforestation.

Dr. Rands also welcomed Secretary Paulson and his wife, Wendy, as distinguished guests who have been involved with bird conservation efforts. Apparently, on a recent trip to India and East Africa, Paulson “had words in the ears of the right people” and helped enact change in environmental policy. When Rands finished his speech, dinner was served.

During dessert, Atwood spoke about the importance of protecting the environment so that rare and endangered bird species do not go extinct. International cooperation is particularly important because birds are migratory and care little for national boundaries, so Atwood stressed the importance of the United States and Canada working together on this critical issue. She will give a reading at the Canadian Embassy tonight.

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