Since time immemorial, diplomacy and foreign policy have attracted some of the most dedicated, brilliant, and colorful people of their generation. In this feature, ADST focuses on some of the more enthralling ones.
When the Life of the Party became Ambassador to France
An effective diplomat, dazzling socialite, and the mother of Winston Churchill’s grandson, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman won the respect of fellow diplomats and adroitly handled complex problems related to the war in the Balkans, export subsidies, and intellectual property rights during her tenure as U.S. Ambassador to France from 1993-1997. Richard Holbrooke said of her service in Paris: “She spoke the language, she knew the country; she knew its leadership. She was one of the best ambassadors that ever served the United States.”
Pamela Beryl Digby was born in England in 1920. The daughter of a baron, she was well-educated and moved in prominent circles from a young age. At 19, she married Randolph Churchill. She soon became the confidante of his father, Winston Churchill, and through him she met the administrator of the lend-lease program, Averell Harriman, whom she would marry 30 years later. Together, the Harrimans worked to raise millions of dollars and rebuild the Democratic Party in the 1980’s. Pamela Harriman played such an important role that one biographer called her the “Life of the Party.”
Patt Derian, A Straight Shooter for Human Rights
Patricia “Patt” M. Derian was one of the key proponents of integrating human rights in U.S. foreign policy at a time when such a concept was regarded with skepticism, if not outright hostility, by most State Department principals who were more accustomed to the Realpolitik of recently departed Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. After Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, he nominated Derian to be Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs—a post later elevated to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Patt Derian describes her early life and her time in Mississippi, which forced her to confront the appalling reality of racism and poverty, as well as how she came to be the leading advocate of human rights at the State Department.
George Shultz: “Your Country is the United States”
George P. Shultz was Secretary of State for President Reagan from 1982 to 1989, the longest such tenure since Dean Rusk in the 1960s. As Secretary, Shultz resolved the pipeline sanctions problem between Western Germany and the Soviet Union, worked to maintain allied unity amidst anti-nuclear demonstrations in 1983, persuaded President Reagan to dialogue with Mikhail Gorbachev and negotiated an agreement between Israel and Lebanon in response to the Lebanese civil war.
Shultz was a no-nonsense manager and highly-prepared negotiator who did not suffer fools gladly, but was compassionate towards those displaced by political upheaval and appreciative of those who served him and the U.S. well. Thanks to his long tenure as Secretary, Shultz touched the lives of many Foreign Service Officers.
Selwa Roosevelt: The Lucky Chief of Protocol
Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt is best known for her role as Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1982 to 1989. After graduating from Vassar College in New York, Lucky pursued a career in journalism, covering social events in Washington D.C. She was invited to take the position of Chief of Protocol by Nancy Reagan and Mike Deaver after showcasing her talent as a reporter. As Chief of Protocol, Lucky organized over 1,000 visits of world leaders to the United States and directed the restoration of Blair House, the President’s guest house.
Selwa Roosevelt was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in November of 2003. She talked about growing up in Tennessee as a daughter of Lebanese Druze immigrants and the start of her long career in journalism. She also described her career as Chief of Protocol at the State Department, the challenges of organizing state events with conflicting personalities and cultures, and how being the wife of career CIA officer Archibald Roosevelt changed her life in ways she never predicted.
Charles Z. Wick: Diplomacy Hollywood-Style
Before being absorbed and restructured by the State Department in 1999, the United States Information Agency (USIA) was an independent agency devoted solely to public diplomacy: dealing with the media, culture, and academic and professional exchanges. Considered by some America’s propaganda agency, its methods spanned broadcasting, printed materials, art exhibits, concerts, and above all, face-to-face personal interactions to communicate information about America’s policies, society and culture.
Charles Z. Wick, a close personal friend of Ronald Reagan, was appointed the director of USIA in 1981 and served until 1989, setting a record for length of service in that job. A former talent agent and film producer, he served through both of President Reagan’s terms and pioneered a more assertive image for the agency.
Melissa Wells — From Vegas Showgirl to Chief of Mission
Melissa Foelsch Wells, accomplished diplomat and four-time ambassador, was among the pioneers who paved the way for women to work in the Foreign Service. The daughter of a physicist and a renowned Estonian opera singer and film star, Wells grew up travelling around the United States and Mexico before settling in New York. She served as Ambassador to Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau (1976–77), Mozambique (1987–90), The Democratic Republic of Congo (1991–93), and Estonia (1998–2001), as well as long service at the United Nations.