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Ambassador Shirley Barnes joined the Foreign Service in 1983. She served as Ambassador to Madagascar from 1998 to 2001 and as Director for the Office of Western European Affairs from 1996 to 1998.
On the how she was introduced to the Foreign Service . . . “had learned about the Foreign Service when I was in the Congo with the Ford Foundation. I’d been in the Congo and started getting into the diplomatic world and I liked it. This is nice. I met people from different institutes including a lot of contracted groups and administrations which I knew associated with the Ford Foundation in finances. We met lots of people from the U.S. embassy. A lot of activity centered on USAID giving loans, grants, etc. to the National School administration and a lot of the other multinational organizations; the donors as they’re called now were involved. So it was always, kind of an international setting that we found ourselves in whether we liked it or not."
Ambassador Barnes on her appointment as Ambassador to Madagascar "Well before I worked with the State Department I was at the African-American Institute, which is now called the Africa-American Institute. In AAI I worked in what was known as the Women’s Africa Committee. But there was a group–they used to bring groups over on what they called “leadership training programs.” These were women who were either leaders or potential leaders that were selected to come to the United States. They were programmed around the United States to meet with women leaders either through established organizations like the girl scouts. These women leaders, these African leaders were programmed. They would select a country every year to bring these women leaders and we did have the Malagasy women came over as a group. So I had some idea or notion of, there was a Madagascar and where it was located and more or less what the people looked like and some historical background. But that was just put into the recesses of my memory. So literally I had to educate myself on where it was. I knew it was off of the coast of East Africa. But to really become oriented ... I now know as much about Madagascar I think, or more than most Malagasies do."
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