Formula for friendship: Russian-US scientific bonds endure

A grand and memorable ceremony in Russia’s Embassy in Washington DC has honored the legacy of Russian-American scientific ties, which were ignited by Mikhail Lomonosov in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin.

­The annual award went to the Smithsonian Institution.

Each year, the American-Russian Cultural Co-operation Foundation’s awarding ceremony gets a new and unique theme, which comes from nominee’s scope of activity. And this year’s theme of the night was “Following in the Footsteps of Mikhail Lomonosov and Benjamin Franklin.”

Both Franklin and Lomonosov were members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has a 150-year-long ongoing relationship with the Smithsonian Institution in the area of scientific exchange.

The 300th anniversary of birth of Russia’s “Da-Vinci”, Mikhail Lomonosov, is being celebrated this year. And no wonder the grand award went to the secretary of the Smithsonian, Dr. G. Wayne Clough.

The Honorable James W. Symington’s congratulatory speech to Dr. Clough was humorous enough, as he noted that since the year of the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution, there were “give or take some 32 Presidents of the United States – almost three times the number of secretaries of the Smithsonian.”

“What does it tell us about the relative importance of the two posts?” he added as a punchline.

Dr. G. Wayne Clough has joined a long line of distinguished honorees to an ovation.

“I have the best job in the world… It gets my blood flowing when I get up every morning,” Dr. Clough said. “But of course, grand endeavors like science don’t come from one institution alone, even if it is as big and as comprehensive as the Smithsonian. It comes to international collaboration like that we have had for well over 150 years with Russian Academy of Sciences.”

After the official ceremony, a play written by Mr. Symington was performed to entertain the audience. And it is easy to guess whom the play – dubbed “Mike and Ben” – was dedicated to.

The evening was concluded with a performance on a glass harmonica, an instrument invented by Franklin.

Scores of important guest have attended the ceremony, including Mr. Donald M. Kendall, a legendary former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, and James A. Leach, the ninth chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Mr. Symington noted that, the average age of their audience was significantly younger on this occasion than it has been in recent years.

“And this evening we should be aware, that we will be beginning a new era of our work,” he said. “A new generation of students has joined us.”

The annual ceremony was held at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC, under the patronage of His Excellency Sergey I. Kislyak, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation.

The American-Russian Cultural Co-operation Foundation was established in 1992. Since then, the annual award is presented to those who commit themselves to encouraging Russian-American cultural exchange and co-operation.

Among the nominees of the past, there were such outstanding figures as: President of the Kennedy Center Michael Kaiser in 2010, legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck in 2008, Maestro Valery Gergiev in 2006, US Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington in 2003, and many other equally prominent persons.