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Hillary Clinton and James Baker III Give the Baker Institute’s 30th Anniversary Extreme Relevance Amid Worldwide Turmoil — Houston Finds a Global Stage

Going Beyond Politics to Examine the Real Issues

BY // 11.01.23

With the thrum of pro-Palestinian protestors sounding in the distance throughout the night, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy celebrated its 30th anniversary with a black-tie evening that played to the relevance of the worlds’ No. 1 university research institute.

On stage were former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III, for whom the bi-partisan institute is named, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, with the duo digesting current international conflicts with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, age 100, was unable to attend due to an injury. But Kissinger still delivered his sonorous message via video. For those on stage, China, Putin’s Russia, the Middle East and United States politics were all on the table.

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Rice University Baker Institute board of advisors president Linnet Deily introduces the 30th anniversary gala chairs Karl & Ann Stern, Franci Neely, and John Eddie and Sheridan Williams. (Photo by Michael Stravato for the Baker Institute)

Further connecting the evening to current world affairs, Baker Institute director Ambassador David Satterfield sent a recorded message to the gathering from the U.S. Embassy in Israel where he was serving as U.S. special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues, recently appointed to the post by President Joe Biden. In Satterfield’s stead, Rice University president Reginald DesRoches handled the welcome to the well-placed throng.

A transcript and video of the program are available here. It was a most enlightening conversation covering international conflicts until O’Donnell zapped Baker with the question of which party he would vote for in the 2024 presidential election.

“That’s not fair,” Clinton exclaimed. You’ll have to read the text to get the full exchange.

The successful gala, attended by 1,000 black-tie attired guests and raising $3 million for the Baker Institute, was chaired Franci Neely, Ann and Karl Stern, and Sheridan and John Eddie Williams.

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An interesting note to the bi-partisan affair: Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton attended a fundraiser for Houston Mayoral candidate Sheila Jackson Lee and endorsed the Democratic Congresswoman. However, when Lee arrived at the Clinton dinner table for a photo opp with the former Secretary of State, it didn’t happen as Clinton appeared engrossed in conversation with her dinner partner Murry Bowden.

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Andrea & Bill White, Y. Ping Sun at the 30th anniversary celebration of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. (Photo courtesy of Rice University)

Other guests at the Clinton table included the Sterns, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Polly Bowden, Jeri and Marc Shapiro. The Williamses hosted Baker, Susan Baker, Joan Schnitzer, Cynthia and Bucky Allshouse, Tony Bradfield, CBS News’ Janet Shamlian, Shafik Rifaat, and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Neely hosted the table where Kissinger would have been seated. Her guests included honorary chairs Shahla and Hushang Ansary, Nancy and Rich Kinder, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Andrea and Bill White, Kenny Marks, and Doctors Marc and Julie Boom.

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Not in the history of the Baker Institute celebrations has there been more worldwide turmoil. Consider the 20th anniversary gala where former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush participated in a congenial armchair chat with Baker and then institute director Edward Djerejian.

The 25th anniversary dinner featured former President Barack Obama interviewed by Baker and presidential historian Jon Meacham. Vice President Dick Chaney headlined the 10th anniversary dinner. In 2007, the institute hosted former President Bill Clinton in a campus-wide program.

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Kudos to City Kitchen for what many claimed to be the best black-tie dinner ever (short ribs) and to The Events Company and Richard Flowers for creating the seamless tented event space.

PC Seen: Baker Institute Board of Advisors chair Linnet Deily, Anne and Albert Chao, Paula DesRoches, Sabiha Rehmatulla, Sima Ladjevardian, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Molly and Jim Crownover, Gwen and Ed Emmett, Vivien and Scott Caven, Barbara and Corbin Robertson, Margaret Alkek Williams, Andrea and Bill White, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Y. Ping Sun, Geraldina and Scott Wise, and Skye and David Chao.

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