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Washington's Mix of Fashion and Politics

The Kuwait-America Foundation dinner raised $1.5 million to fund graduate scholarships at Georgetown for Arab women who promise to go home and help others.

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WASHINGTON — Fashion and politics headlined the annual Kuwait-America Foundation dinner, where Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, wife of Kuwait Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah, turned out the usually elusive Obama White House crowd. In addition to raising $1.5 million to fund graduate scholarships at Georgetown University for Arab women who promise to go home and help others, Al-Sabah focused attention on President Obama’s chic new national security expert, Liz Sherwood-Randall.

While people lined up to meet guests of honor Secretary of State John Kerry, his wife Teresa, and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, Al-Sabah welcomed Sherwood-Randall, the sister of ABC news president Ben Sherwood. Al-Sabah in Victoria Beckham and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Helmut Lang waited politely while Obama pal David Axelrod held up the receiving line for a long chat with Kerry. Already having walked the receiving line, Sherwood-Randall worked the reception room like a pro. Just two months into her newly created White House job as Obama’s coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction and arms control, she huddled with British Ambassador Peter Westmacott, later pow-wowing with Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough.

But Sherwood-Randall is not all about politics. She confided that her love of fashion almost derailed her career. “I had just gotten my Ph.D [from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar] when I decided I wanted to go work for Vogue. A professor talked me out of it,” she said.

Also working his way through the crowd was Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, arm in a sling from a bicycle accident, who said, “I’ll probably be like this for a year.”

As Salem Al-Sabah started to tell him about his own shoulder injury, Breyer interrupted to soak up details about his dinner partner, “Do you know who she is?” Al-Sabah did not, but three days later, it was impossible not to know: Nobuko Sasae and her husband, Washington’s new Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, were the guests of honor at a private dinner for 200 at the Willard Hotel hosted by Republican stalwart and veteran party host Roy Pfautch. “She speaks wonderful English,’’ said socially savvy Willie Lewis. “She is a professional translator.”

On hand to welcome the couple were Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and his wife Mary, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, Buffy Cafritz, Shakespeare Theatre director Michael Kahn, and Sackler Gallery stalwarts Ann Nitze and Susan Pillsbury.