Home Culture Culture Meridian Ball hits the jackpot in its 55th year

Meridian Ball hits the jackpot in its 55th year

Meridian Ball hits the jackpot in its 55th year
The 55th annual Meridian Ball was held on Oct. 20 (Photo by Meridian International Center).

Poker, roulette, blackjack and more were the hit of the night at the 55th annual Meridian Ball on Oct. 20. 

‘Casino night’ was this year’s theme of Meridian International Center’s biggest event of the year, which brings together diplomats, members of Congress and the administration, people from the public and private sectors and more, to benefit the center’s mission for global leadership exchange, training programs and cultural activities. 

VIP guests dined at one of 34 embassy-hosted dinners before migrating to the Meridian House for an evening of dancing and dialogue, specialty cocktails and desserts. Next door, the White-Meyer House opened for guests to listen to music and play casino games with fake money they received at the door. 

A non-partisan, non-profit diplomacy center that believes greater understanding and collaboration between the United States and the world lead to a more prosperous future for all, the Meridian International Center has hosted its annual ball for 55 years. The event has long brought together guests from across the political spectrum to engage in thought-provoking conversation.

This year’s event was no exception, and served as a kind of antidote to the discord and tensions caused by global and U.S. crises. 

“Meridian gives people the opportunity to move beyond the talking points,” Meridian CEO Stuart Holliday told The Washington Diplomat. “Amidst the tragedy of the Middle East, Ukraine and other parts of the world, we think about these challenges we face and [recognize] a new era of diplomacy.”

The Israel-Hamas war, in which more than 4,000 people had been killed in Gaza and 1,400 in Israel, was two weeks old at the time, with no end in sight to the conflict. On the eve of the ball, the U.S. used its veto at the UN security council to block a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting. At the same time, Russian forces continued to attack Ukraine, and a key branch of the U.S. government was in chaos as the House of Representatives struggled to elect a new speaker.

Tunisian Ambassador Hanène Tajouri Bessassi, who hosted a dinner with her husband at the Tunisian House, said she was happy to come together with the community at a time of global crises. 

Lamia Rezgui, journalist with Al Jazeera network; Tunisian Ambassador Hanene Tajouri Bessassi and her husband, Ezeddine Bessassi; and Chaima and Jay Hajjar.

“It’s good to connect with people, to discuss, and to also clear up some misunderstandings… mainly about the current situation in our region,” said Bessassi. “[We] share our hope for a better world that’s more peaceful and more fair.”

More than 35 countries were represented at the ball. In addition to Bessassi, many other ambassadors were among the VIPs who attended, including Esteban Moctezuma of Mexico, Ramón Martinez of Panama, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra of Peru, Kristjan Prikk of Estonia, Mikko Hautala of Finland, Hasan Murat Mercan of Türkiye, Ivonne A-Baki of Ecuador, Dame Karen Pierce of the United Kingdom, Andrei Muraru of Romania and Georg Sparber of Liechtenstein. 

Photos by Angelique Gingras


Angelique Gingras

Angelique Gingras is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland where she studies Journalism and British History. Angel started at The Washington Diplomat as an editorial intern in August 2021 and was promoted to Associate Editor in March 2023.