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Clapper’s Near-International Incident

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Highlights of Thursday’s Presidential Rank Awards banquet at the State Department included recognition of an apparently unprecedented third distinguished executive award bestowed on John H. Thompson of the Veterans Affairs Department, as well as a fabulous performance of doo-wop classics by a quintet of Naval Academy Midshipmen called The Skivs.

But perhaps most memorable moment was the rare telling of a boyhood near-misadventure by keynote speaker Gen. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. His broader speech honored the senior executives’ achievements and dedication to the public good, advising them to think beyond their own organizations and to “mentor, not just manage” the next generation.

But the pep talk came after Clapper revealed that as a young “Army brat” in the years after World War II, he lived with his parents for a time in Alexandria, Egypt. One night, while dining at the famous Shepherd’s Hotel, none other than Egypt’s King Farouk (who reigned from 1936 to 1952) approached the Clappers. “My mother was a good-looking blond,” Clapper recalled, and soon the monarch was “hitting on her.”  Papa Clapper “took exception to that and took a swing at the king,” the DNI said. This, he acknowledged dryly, “was not a good idea.”

The next thing they knew, Clapper said to laughter, “we were packing our bags.”

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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