MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM WELLINGTON.

I found a treasure trove of historical data, fascinating anecdotes, and interesting personalities while digging through various archives to prepare for our two big anniversaries this year — the 70th anniversary of the establishment of formal bilateral diplomatic relations between New Zealand and the United States, and the 70th anniversary of the arrival of American military forces to help defend Aotearoa and the South Pacific from invasion during World War II.

At the center of both of those transformative events was the then-Honorable Walter Nash, sent to Washington in 1942 as New Zealand’s first diplomatic envoy to the United States (and indeed New Zealand’s first ambassador to anywhere). Ambassador Nash skillfully built and wielded significant influence in Washington and was a good friend and confidant of President Franklin Roosevelt. From what I’ve read, Ambassador and Mrs Nash were also larger-than-life personalities who charmed Washington social and media circles.

One of my favorite pieces of historical color, uncovered by my archive-crawl colleague Michele, is a chatty feature story about Mrs Nash from the June 5, 1942 edition of The Christian Science Monitor which reveals quite a bit about the times in which it was written. I smile each time I read the article. If you have difficulty with the reprint below, you can click here for a version with larger type.

© 1942 The Christian Science Monitor. Reprinted with permission. Image retrieved from ProQuest Historical Newspapers produced by ProQuest CSA LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

Thank you to the Monitor and to ProQuest Historical Newspapers for granting permission to reprint the article here. I’ll post additional historical notes and anecdotes in the coming weeks as we approach our formal June commemorations of the anniversaries.

If you happen to have photos, film, artifacts, or family stories related to the Nashes’ time in Washington or the arrival of US Marines and soldiers in New Zealand, please let me know. I would enjoy sharing the stories and images here.

I was delighted this morning to learn that Victoria University of Wellington’s First Light team placed 3rd overall in the 2011 Solar Decathlon. That’s an impressive and exceptional result.

The First Light House team celebrate after their 3rd place announcement

First Light team members celebrating after the final scores were announced.

Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition that challenges entrants to build an environmentally friendly house which is then judged on ten different sets of aesthetic, efficiency, conservation, and comfort criteria. You can read all about the competition in my previous post of November 2010.

Last year the First Light crew became the first New Zealand team ever to make the Solar Decathlon finals. That entitled them to reconstruct their house this year on the National Mall in Washington DC,  to compete head-to-head against the other 19 finalists from around the United States and several other countries.

Folks queue up to check out 3rd place winners, New Zealand’s First Light House.

Washingtonians and tourists queue up to tour the First Light house.

My Embassy colleagues and I have been tracking First Light’s journey since the very beginning, and we had the great pleasure of touring the house a few months ago, just before it was shipped to DC.

I can tell you first-hand that the First Light bach is a truly impressive building structurally, aesthetically, and functionally. I knew it would impress the judges. Take another look to see what I mean:

My DC friends tell me that the Kiwi bach was very popular among the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the various houses during the competition. You can get a flavor of the energy and adventure in Washington from the First Light team’s blog.

Like First Light, the other top winners were inspired by the natural environment in their home locales. A team from Maryland University won first prize in the competition with its WaterShed house inspired by Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.

University of Maryland took 1st place with their WaterShed house.

The 1st place WaterShed house created by the University of Maryland team.

Second place went to the team from Purdue University for its Midwestern-inspired INhome (short for “Indiana home”).

The entry from Appalachian State University won the People’s Choice award for its Solar Homestead inspired by traditional Appalachian settlements.

Purdue University’s 2nd place-winning INhouse

Purdue University’s 2nd place INhouse.

All of the teams worked long and hard to create impressive structures. Check out the final scores to see how the teams did in each of the ten challenges in the competition. Take a look at the Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon Flickr pages to see photos of all of the entrants as well as more shots of the crowds of viewers.

Congrats again to my friends from Victoria University on the great First Light showing, and thanks to my colleagues at the Department of Energy for developing and running such an important, impactful, and exciting program.

WHEELS UP

After spending the morning further exploring Christchurch and its environs, Secretary Clinton has just departed to continue her Asia Pacific trip. Dr. McWaine and I are standing on the tarmac with Minister Brownlee, Mayor Parker, and other dignitaries as the Secretary’s plane lifts off, happy that the Secretary was able to spend three days here in New Zealand, the longest stop on her journey.

She is now on her way west to Melbourne where she will join U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other officials for the annual AUSMIN ministerial meetings. Held regularly since 1985, AUSMIN is the principal forum for bilateral consultations between Australia and the United States.

The Secretary will then head home to Washington, with a final stop in American Samoa en route.

The full journey: 12 stops, 13 days, and more than 31,000 miles. Click through for larger Photo.

The full journey: 12 stops, 13 days, and more than 31,000 miles.

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