At home with Kimberly Marteau Emerson

Who: Kimberly Marteau Emerson
Where: Berlin

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The US Residence is located in a white Wilhelmanian-style house in Berlin-Dahlem

Today is Thanksgiving, which, for many Americans, is the most important of all family celebrations. And for Kimberly Marteau Emerson, the wife of US Ambassador John B. Emerson, this is the most important time of the year. I met the professional lawyer in her residence, a white Wilhelmanian-style house in Berlin-Dahlem. As a member of the board of directors of Human Rights Watch, she is heavily involved in the struggle for human rights and equality of women.

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“I dedicate a lot of time and energy to human rights, which is important to me and is part of what makes me tick.”

MyStylery: Kimberly, what is so special about Thanksgiving?
Kimberly Marteau Emerson: Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in the 17th Century by the Pilgrims, refugees who were some of the first immigrants to come to the New World. Native Americans had helped the newcomers survive in this strange land called America. Thanksgiving was the Pilgrims’ way to say thank you. It is parallel to what is happening right now with the refugees in Germany. They are experiencing big changes and learning in a new world with the help of Germans who are volunteering and assisting them.

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Sitting area and fireplace in the US Residence

MS: What does Thanksgiving mean to you and your family?
KME: To us, it’s the most important holiday of the year, a uniquely American holiday, where everyone comes and cooks together. The central idea is to break bread and be together. Being grateful for what we have and giving back to those who have less. This year we are focusing on the refugees, and we are making donations to the ‘Berliner Stadtmission’ and ‘Doctors Without Borders’ (Médecins Sans Frontières). Christmas is a fantastic holiday, too, but you have to keep trying to find the real meaning of Christmas and not let it get too materialistic and commercial.

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Family dog Ginger, a Golden Retriever, welcomes me

MS: Right now everyone in the residence seems to be very busy …
KEM: That’s right. We are hosting three different Thanksgiving dinners this week, so the kitchen is prepping around the clock. It will be especially wonderful to share this holiday with our German friends.

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On the coffeetable is the artwork ‘Love-Hate’ by the Berlin artist Mia Florentine Weiss. The embroidered cushions on the chairs are a homage to Berlin and Los Angeles

MS: A Thanksgiving dinner without a pumpkin pie is not conceivable. Tell me about what makes your pie so unique.
KME: This pumpkin pie is one of my family’s recipes. It’s about things you can find from the earth. The secret is the right balance of spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. They give pumpkin pie a kick. Otherwise you can’t bring out the complexity of the pumpkin. And you should try to add your personal twist, too.

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The table is already set: “We will have three different Thanksgiving dinners with approximately 150 kilos of turkey this week and every person is somebody we know and like personally.”

MS: What is yours?
KME: I prefer a little extra cinnamon. And for the topping I only use freshly-made whipped cream.
MS: Sounds great! What do you miss most about Los Angeles and your life in the US?
KME: Well, I miss my family and my friends, even though I have made some wonderful friends here. Also, the beach and the beautiful weather. What I really don’t miss is the driving in L.A. and the permanent traffic jams. (Laughs)

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On the piano: family photos and memories

MS: What do you like most about Berlin?
KME: Berlin has something really meaningful because of its history: It’s only been 25 years since the fall of the Wall and before that, the Cold War. I love the creativity of Berlin and the people I meet here. The mix of new and old, before and after. The way it faces its WWII history. It’s a beautiful, green city with edge and grunge. It’s like New York in the late seventies, it offers you so much space to grow and is still affordable. Berlin is a cool place.

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The Livingroom: Remarkable is the beautiful wooden ceiling

MS: Your daily schedule is really packed. Do you still have time remaining for your family and hobbies?
KME: I have less time for everything, but I love reading books, even if it takes awhile. I spend time with my kids, and it’s a priority to go see my girls playing soccer. They actually attend a lot of events with us, which makes going even more fun. I make time to play tennis. It’s not just a hobby, it’s about health. And John and I try hard to keep up watching the TV series ‘Homeland’, where one scene of the last season was shot under the Berlin Reichstag in the subway station. Great, right?

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Library and small dining room

MS: Absolutely. I am also addicted to ‘Homeland’. Beside this, can you remember the last time John and you spent an enjoyable evening together, just the two of you?
KME: Yes, a month ago we went to an island for one week to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We had dinners on empty beaches, with nobody else around. Honestly, we couldn’t remember the last time we did anything like this. But we also realize how lucky we are to have had that luxury. Now we are back at work and really are dedicated to helping the less fortunate during the holiday season. That’s important for us.

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The Obamas and the Emersons

MS: You are already the so called Ambassadorable. Could you imagine becoming an Ambassador yourself?
KME: (Laughs) I have some background in foreign policy and foreign affairs. I got a Masters Degree in French Private Law and spent two years in France. I worked as an official in the US Information Agency during the Clinton Administration. Obviously to have this opportunity would be an enormous honor, but right now it’s not something I think about. Right now I am supporting John to do the best job possible.

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The Emersons are art enthusiastics. In the residence they have assembled and brought together a collection of abstract and representational artworks in a variety of media in collaboration with the US Department of State’s office of Art in Embassies. Here the painting ‘In every city’ by Martinez

MS: John’s term formally ends on January 20th in 2017 …
KME: … but fortunately there’s still a year left and we have many things to do. We have enormous affection for Germany and especially for Berlin. This is an important chapter in our lives. We are not ready to leave yet. BvH

This Interview was first published November 25, 2015.


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Kimberly Marteau Emerson and me





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