Disclaimer: This is not just another call for money (though that's always appreciated!). Rather it is a plea for you to invest an even more precious commodity – your time.
In 2012 many people helped the Legation further its programs, and contributed time, effort, and funds to keep this unique historic institution alive. Thank you for your support.
Now let's consider a New Year's resolution that is like a buffet table – you pick from a selection of actions and donations-in-kind for 2013 which would help us beyond writing that much-appreciated annual donation check. And here's our smorgasbord of projects for you to choose from:
- Letter to the editor. Got a connection with the Washington-based organization, the National Trust for Historic Preservation? Maybe you subscribe to their Preservation Magazine. These are the people who care about saving America's National Treasures. What we need from them is a little love. Though the Tangier American Legation, more than many lesser sites, meets their definition of "irreplaceable, threatened, endangered," we can't even get past Square One with the NTHP because the Legation, though considered American soil, is physically outside the US. As readers know, it is in fact the only US National Historic Landmark abroad. All we'd like is to educate National Trust members by writing an article on the Legation.
- Cultural tourism map. We're on it for the Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) program, whose members have truly enjoyed their Legation visits. Unfortunately, thousands of tourists pass right by us every year and never get a chance to see this unique slice of American history. Maybe you pay dues to the AARP? Consider the lost opportunity for hundreds of their members, whose tour groups literally pass us by during their Tangier visits. AARP needs to know what they're missing.
- Legation day the Archives. Have a free morning to spend at the US National Archives? Imagine the impact on visitors to our museum – especially Moroccans – if we were to display a scanned facsimile of the 17 January 1829 "passport" (actually a letter signed by Secretary of State Henry Clay) issued to the "Prince Among Slaves," whose "emancipation from slavery would be very agreeable to the Emperor of Morocco." A few hours in College Park Maryland at "RG 84" (Legation records) should unearth it.
- Mail-a-Mac. Giving someone a new iPod for Christmas? What will they do with their old one? Replacing a perfectly serviceable MacBook with a shiny new iPad? Or swapping an older iMac for the latest version? We're trying to migrate to Mac, so your niece's old Mac would help us in our quest. Write us and we'll give you our US mailing address.
- Find-a-Foundation. Imagine – you know of this well-kept secret, the American Legation in Tangier, oldest and first US diplomatic property, an institution that practices citizen cultural diplomacy in the heart of a Moroccan medina, one that helps women become literate in Arabic, where scholars can come and research historic ties with the first country to recognize the United States. Don't you think a foundation or philanthropist or preservationist in your state would jump to help such a place? Contact them, and give them our address on America Street (since 1821).
- Send-us-a-semester (abroad program). Maybe you're a faculty member of a college or university, or the parent of a student, or an alum. Wouldn't it be nice if your university sent its students to TALIM, either as part of a semester abroad program or during a Morocco (or even Spain) student trip? Dartmouth does it, and the University of New England (UNE) is setting up a campus in Tangier. And consider how all these students who learn about the Legation will become advocates for its preservation and for its educational activities. Some of them might graduate from interns to board members.
- Furnish-us-some-furniture. Period furniture, that is. We have US Government surplus furniture that is serviceable, to be sure. But as we re-cast the public areas of the Legation – illustrating the heyday of 19th and early 20th century Legation diplomacy in the museum – it would be great to have a few authentic pieces (chairs, bookcases, etc.) to recreate the atmosphere. Wouldn't it be a nice project – giving America's first property a refound elegance – for a generous interior designer among our readership?
- Buy-us-a-boat: Not just any boat. The USS Olympia, which came to Tangier at the order of Teddy Roosevelt, part of the gunboat diplomacy invoked in the 1904 Perdicaris Affair. A generous donor among you might have the $1,550 (plus $130 S&H) for an amazing scale model of this other US National Historic Landmark, which today floats in Philadelphia harbor.
- Broker-a-benefit (concert). The High Atlas Foundation does it. How about us? Imagine the research books a few $30 concert tickets could buy. "Music for a Museum." "Tango for Tangier." "A Legation Legacy." You make up the event, and our programs reap the benefit.
Anyone out there with some clout (financial perhaps, but also using your name)? Two private-public partnerships born in the US State Department are of direct relevance to the Legation.
The Foreign Affairs Museum Council is dedicated to raising money to establish a museum of American diplomacy at the State Department. FAMC Chairman Ambassador William Harrop has referred to our work in Tangier, tracing the long history of American diplomacy in Morocco, as "symbiotic" with FAMC's goals. Now all we need is for Legation supporters to encourage FAMC to make that symbiosis concrete.
Similarly, the new Fund to Conserve America's Treasures Abroad is raising private funds to augment State Department efforts to preserve America's historic diplomatic buildings. None of which are more historic – and endangered – than the Legation. Again, the people behind the Fund to Conserve need to hear from influential supporters of the Legation, to make sure it is at the top of their preservation funding to-do list.
I'm sure you can think of even more ways to get us the support this institution deserves. That's the hidden power of networking, of "bundling" – as political candidates do – the organizational and fund-raising efforts of many into something that makes an impact. You don't have to have an office on Washington's K Street to lobby for the Legation – you have a phone, a keyboard, and your commitment to this institution. That's all you need.
Two centuries is a long time in the history of American diplomacy, and the Legation as The Only, the First, and The Oldest needs major shoring up. You don't want to see nasty pictures of structural cracks and mold in this festive season, so let's accentuate the positive. I leave you with a vision of the Legation as it once was, and how it might be again. Happy 2013!