Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recalled Harrison Ford jumping out from behind a big potted plant. He wasn’t playing Han Solo or Indiana Jones, but rather a conservationist handing out a position paper on the oceans.
“I was there for days,” Ford said of waiting for Clinton at her far-flung hotel.
“He had moss growing on his hair,” Clinton joked.
The pair stood in front of a wall of moss last night, on the stage of the Plaza hotel ballroom for Conservation International’s 16th annual New York dinner.
Ford, a board member of the Washington-based organization for more than 20 years, talked with Clinton for 45 minutes. Topics covered: ocean health in the South Pacific and the Arctic, potential threats of damming the Mekong River and African elephants.
“Poaching animals is a huge, international, criminal enterprise,” Clinton said. “It is no longer taking a tusk to the nearest market. It’s carried out by highly armed, vicious bands who come in helicopters wearing night goggles.”
Clinton said she’d like to fight back by helping African leaders protect their natural resources; she’d also like to impose more severe U.S. penalties on stores that falsely claim to sell pre-ban ivory.
Clinton also mentioned how much she is looking forward to the Clinton Global Initiative Latin America conference in Rio de Janeiro Dec. 8-10. To avoid any conflicts, the initiative avoided international events during her term as secretary of state.
Roger Altman, chairman of Evercore Partners Inc., said the statesman Clinton most resembles is Thomas Jefferson, noting his foreign service as U.S. minister to France and two terms as president. The crowd applauded at the idea of a Clinton candidacy.
Peter Seligmann, founder, chairman and CEO of Conservation International, gave a tribute to former board member Julio Mario Santo Domingo, who died in 2011. He was introduced to Conservation International by David Rockefeller Sr. and served on its board for seven years. He also built a beer business and investments, making his family the second-richest in Colombia.
“He was the most ram-rod straight person you’ll ever meet. He asked piercing questions,” Seligmann said.
The patriarch’s two sons offered more personal reflections.
“I learned to keep an open mind and to listen to people,” said Alejandro Santo Domingo, who runs the family businesses.
“The most important lesson my father gave me is by his example: Be kind to people, be kind to everything,” said Andres Santo Domingo, dinner chairman. He also said his father admired Conservation International for its “pragmatic, science-oriented approach.”
Others attending: James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., and Ian Snow of the private-equity firm Snow Phipps Group LLC. Designer Oscar de la Renta and his wife, Annette de la Renta, dined with Clinton on beet ravioli and poached branzino.
Also among the 450 guests were Tory Burch and Huma Abedin. The event raised $1.5 million.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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