“What about the Welsh?” Rep. Morgan Griffith asked more than a year ago.
When the congressman of Welsh and Scottish descent was approached about joining the Friends of Scotland Caucus, he was surprised to learn that there was no Welsh caucus. So the Virginia Republican set out to start the new group, which launched this week.
Griffith attended the annual St. David’s Day event at the British ambassador’s residence on Wednesday in celebration of the patron saint of Wales. British Ambassador Peter Westmacott hosted U.S. lawmakers, representatives of the British and Welsh governments and business leaders in a lavish hall lined with mirrors and lit by three glistening chandeliers.
Between the fish and chips and bite-sized shepherd’s pies, Westmacott and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones addressed the attendees. “I think it’s a great start,” Westmacott said of the new caucus. He welcomed the congressmen to the celebration of all things Wales, noting that the event was complete with Welsh whiskey. The British ambassador said the Welsh drink was “back by popular demand,” eliciting a hearty “Here, here!” from one man in the crowd.
Jones also praised the congressional caucus, but proceeded to poke fun at the United States when describing the origin of the Welsh flag. The red dragon on the flag stems from Welsh lore that says Merlin saw a vision of such a creature defeating a white dragon in the sky. “Merlin was Welsh as well,” Jones noted, “despite what Disney might tell you.”
Following the two diplomats, Welsh harpist Claire Jones played three songs for the attendees. Jones is a world famous musician who also performed at the wedding of England's Prince William to Kate Middleton, duchess of Cambridge.
“I really loved the harp music,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas. “I’ve never seen this many people stand still and listen.”
Marchant is also a member of the Friends of Wales Caucus, although his ancestors were not Welsh. “I’ve just always been fascinated by the Welsh,” he said, adding that he is interested in exploring economic opportunities with Wales.
A few business cards exchanged hands as the night went on, with representatives from the aerospace, cybersecurity, engineering and automotive sectors in attendance. Dan Cecchin of the Welsh government also said “many defense-related companies” were represented at the event.
The businessmen and other attendees wore name tags displaying Welsh surnames such as Davis and Williams. Each person in the crowd also donned a daffodil pin, one of Wales' symbols . Griffith had the pin proudly fastened to his lapel.
He said the daffodil pin helped gather more caucus members as he wore it around Capitol Hill during the week of the dinner. Fellow lawmakers were curious about the yellow flower and a number of them — 13 and counting — joined the Friends of Wales Caucus after talking to him about his pin. The Virginia Republican said he hopes even more members join the caucus, which will work to foster cultural and economic ties with Wales.