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Parallels in Protest: From the Civil Rights to the First Intifada

In the 1960s, the United States experienced nationwide protests for the justice of African Americans in a society where the status quo was against them. It was a massive movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King to force great change in America. It inspired people of all ages and backgrounds. It inspired people like William David McKinney who took his experiences across the country as well as the world in order to connect with diverse groups of individuals.

First Intifada, Palestinian uprising against Zionist occupation of their land. 12/08/1987, Photographer Unknown, Creative Commons
First Intifada, Palestinian uprising against Zionist occupation of their land. 12/08/1987, Photographer Unknown, Creative Commons

William McKinney served overseas, witnessing and experiencing cultures at peace and at unrest. Before his career in the Foreign Service, he was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He joined university protests against southern segregation, and closely followed the latest news at the time of boycotts in places like Montgomery; it seems like there was never a moment where protesting for civil rights was not on his mind.

More than twenty years later, Israel and Palestine mirrored these events with the First Intifada—a progressively escalating movement of uprising and protest lasting from December 1987 to the early 1990s against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The First Intifada began after an Israeli military truck crashed into a vehicle killing four Palestinian workers from the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza. As a consequence, violent protests erupted across the region, and Israel responded by sending army and paratroopers to quell the violence. These actions, however, only further ignited the movement.

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Trust in Diplomacy––Secretary of State George Shultz

Diplomacy is the practice of building relationships between people and countries in order to achieve mutual goals. Diplomacy, however, requires trust. Trust is an indispensable and noble virtue that opens great opportunities for cooperation and transparency. Without trust, there would likely be a lack of cooperation and transparency that could hinder diplomatic relations.

George Shultz and President Reagan (1986) | Wikimedia
George Shultz and President Reagan (1986) | Wikimedia

It is the first step to forming relationships, and in diplomacy, its role is central to assessing the needs and perspectives of others and building confidence in them. One of the great leaders who embodied this virtue well was former Secretary of State Geroge Shultz.

George Shultz served in four Cabinet-level positions. During the Nixon administration, he served as Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Secretary of the Treasury. However, he is most known for serving under the Reagan administration as the Secretary of State. During his long and reputable career, Shultz implemented trust as a value into all aspects of his work. From building trust with his colleagues to building trust with interlocutors abroad. He was confident that when trust was in the room, good things happened.

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Looking through the American Lens: Photography USA Exhibit in the Soviet Union

During the prolonged years of the Cold War, USIA [United States Information Agency] executed over a dozen exhibits highlighting components of American life to be shared with the people of numerous cities throughout the Soviet Union. Ranging from areas of transportation, to education, to medicine, these exhibits introduced the citizens of the USSR to America’s most prominent technological innovations as well as the general way of life in the United States.

An American guide describes the chemistry behind instant photos, Photography USA (1977), Paul Smith | U.S. Department of State
An American guide describes the chemistry behind instant photos, Photography USA (1977), Paul Smith | U.S. Department of State

One of USIA’s most enticing exhibits was entitled Photography USA. Attracting more than 1.5 million visitors, Photography USA displayed over 800 photographs depicting American life. While the exhibit provided the opportunity for Soviets to explore different aspects of American society, Photography USA also allowed many university students and recent college graduates to travel overseas to the Soviet Union with USIA to act as exhibit guides. Two exhibit guides who would later go on to enter the Foreign Service were Philippe Du Chateau and Jane Miller Floyd.

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The Consequences of Serendipity: From Peace Corps to USAID

Is anything ever truly up to chance? Or are these moments of chance instead a culmination of one’s hard work? Possibly both? Regardless, these moments of chance—or rather, serendipity—are something with which former U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Counselor Kelly Kammerer is familiar. Throughout Kammerer’s career in the Foreign Service, he describes several notable moments of serendipity that substantially changed the trajectory of his life.

Nepal (1998) Romana Villasenor | Peace Corps
Nepal (1998) Romana Villasenor | Peace Corps

While it is possible that these moments were simply a result of Kammerer being in the right place at the right time, it is undeniable that his persistent work ethic and charisma were a large factor for why Kammerer received these opportunities.

Kammerer began his Foreign Service career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia where he worked in the “most isolated and poorest” part of the country, Chocó State. Here Kammerer was primarily concerned with assisting the community to build infrastructure such as schools, teaching English at the public schools, and volunteering at the tuberculosis hospital. After two years, Kammerer went on to law school where he obtained his degree before joining the Peace Corps and then eventually applying for a position with the U.S. Department of State. Upon leaving this interview, Kammerer serendipitously ran into USAID Assistant General Counsel Denis Neil, an old college friend. In learning that Kammerer was looking for a job, he offered him a position.

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Education Programs in Romania: The Service of Public Diplomacy

A primary purpose of public diplomacy is to promote the interests of the United States. Public diplomacy officers on the frontlines of diplomacy represent the public face of U.S. embassies, often communicating and building cultural relations with people in the host country from all walks of life. One way they engage foreign audiences is through education programs.

Mark Tauber | Deputy Oral Historian
Mark Tauber | Deputy Oral Historian

Education programs help establish exchanges between students and people of different cultures, which then become relationship builders. This is the domain and responsibility of cultural affairs officers: to build relationships between the embassy and the local community through different programs.

Mark Tauber served as Cultural Affairs Officer at the United States Embassy in Bucharest, Romania from 2002 to 2005. While he was in Romanina, he represented the embassy on the local Fulbright Commission, which selected “local scholars for one-year study programs in the U.S.” These programs offer opportunities in research, graduate studies, and English teaching. In addition to selecting future scholars, Mark would assist the American Fulbrighters when they arrived in the country for their year-long residency “with orientation and enrichment programs.” Managing this program was itself a full-time job, which Mark relished, and it contributed to making his tour in Romania one of his best professional experiences.

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Providing Protections While Breaking New Ground in the Foreign Service: Saying Yes When Challenged

In the decades following the end of World War II, the United States went through tremendous restructuring when it came to the Foreign Service. The Foreign Service Act of 1946 created a sizable expansion in the Foreign Service by increasing the number of Foreign Service officer positions and improving the overall organization of the diplomatic service itself.

Clements Worldwide Offices | Clements Website
Clements Worldwide Offices | Clements Website

With this boom in the Foreign Service, many new officers went abroad, almost always bringing along their own vehicles and personal household effects. This was especially the case for those who were overseas for extended periods of time. The question soon became: To whom do I go if my car is damaged? What do I do if my personal belongings are stolen while I’m on duty?

Enter Robert Clements and his wife M. Juanita Guess. In 1947, the duo founded their own insurance firm to provide a new type of insurance service to diplomats, both rookie and veteran. This sort of service was brand new to the Foreign Service and the domestic insurance industry. Clements & Company rolled out their first insurance packages with a primary focus on automobile and household effects protections. But above all else, they strove toward one goal: coverage for all U.S. Foreign Service Officers, regardless of where they were posted or what their role was.

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Ceaușescu and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia: The Early Years of Dealing with a Dictator

The Romanian Führer. The West’s “favorite communist.” Both of these descriptions have been used to describe Nicolae Ceaușescu, the rapacious Romanian dictator of twenty-four years.

Ceaușescu rose up through the Communist Party ranks in post World War II Romania, becoming party general secretary in 1965 and eventually obtaining the presidency in 1967. Despite later being notorious for his disastrous economic policies and attempt to establish the most totalitarian state in Europe, Ceaușescu’s reign trended comparatively liberal in its early years.

Nicolae Ceaușescu (1988) Posta Romana | fa.m.wikipedia.org
Nicolae Ceaușescu (1988) Posta Romana | fa.m.wikipedia.org

Censorship in the public media was eased and the nation was “free” relative to other communist states. However, this period of stability was short-lived. Human rights abuses and increasing restrictions on the freedom of the press heightened while the Securitate, the secret police, skyrocketed in membership.

In a bold act of defiance, Ceaușescu made a point to distance his country from the Soviet bloc. He openly disputed the Kremlin’s views of certain issues, especially the Romanian role in regional agreements. Tensions were further aggravated following the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 led by the Soviet Union. On August 21, in what would become his most famous speech, Ceaușescu declared the invasion to be a “grave error and constituted a serious danger to peace in Europe and for the prospects of world socialism.”

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Diplomacy After Tragedy: Responding to the Cavalese Incident

When a disaster strikes somewhere in the world, the U.S. government often springs into action quickly, often offering critical aid or technical assistance to jumpstart the recovery. The international relations community often refers to this as “disaster diplomacy,” and it can have beneficial impacts. For example, after a successful Western-led response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the United States’ disapproval rating went down by more than 30 percentage points.

The Cavalese valley, where the tragedy took place. | Wikimedia Commons
The Cavalese valley, where the tragedy took place. | Wikimedia Commons

“Disaster diplomacy” takes on a new meaning, however, when the United States itself is responsible for causing a tragedy. In such cases, it must work with survivors and the host government to express its condolences, convey the measures it will take to ensure the disaster never happens again, and convince the public it can still be trusted.

Eric Terzuolo was a political-military counselor in Italy when such a tragedy struck. On February 3, 1998, a U.S. Marine plane flying recklessly snapped through a ski lift in the town of Cavalese, killing twenty people. For the next two and a half years, the U.S. Embassy worked to compensate the victims in a court of law and to repair its image in the court of public opinion.

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Diplomatic View of Vice President Joe Biden on Kosovo and Israel

When Vice President Biden sat next to then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at a dinner in 2012, Xi asked Biden why he held human rights in such high regard. Vice President Biden responded with a cool confidence that it was part of American foreign policy’s “DNA”—a non-negotiable value of the United States. Throughout his career as a senator, vice president, and future role as president, Joe Biden has kept his word by remaining steadfast in his belief that human rights and democracy are key goals of American diplomacy.

Vice President Biden with Chinese Vice President Xi and Secretary Kissenger
Vice President Biden with Chinese Vice President Xi and Secretary Kissenger

Biden complements these American values with a profound technical knowledge of U.S. diplomatic missions and international political conditions on the ground. In this “moment” in U.S. diplomatic history, we draw from ADST’s oral history archives for stories by Foreign Service Officers about Biden’s history in international relations that may shed light on how President Biden will approach the world. For example, his experiences working with Israel and Kosovo helped visualize “Biden the diplomat” in action.

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Making Lasting Impressions: Biden Vice Presidential Visits to Iraq and Mongolia

A vice presidential visit is a major diplomatic event. These visits can either be part of a crisis management strategy, or be used to cement diplomatic relations with countries that have just begun to gain prominence on the international stage. During his years as vice president, now-President Joe Biden traveled to many countries, making an impression on the Foreign Service officers who helped host him. In this “Moment,” we highlight his diplomatic visits to Iraq and Mongolia.

Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold (2011), David Lienemann Official - White House photo
Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold (2011), David Lienemann Official - White House photo

In August 2011, Joe Biden embarked on a diplomatic visit to Mongolia. Despite the country’s small size, it was still a relevant regional ally. The United States had grown closer with Mongolia in the years since the end of the Cold War and the country’s subsequent transition to democracy; so continuing to foster the relationship was important. In addition, given Mongolia’s relations with neighboring China and Russia, it was important for the United States to maintain a presence in the region. While Biden’s visit involved lots of entertainment and cultural activities, there were no doubt more important matters at hand—Biden’s visit occurred at a time when U.S exports to Mongolia were significantly increasing. Moreover, Ambassador Jonathan Addleton recounts that the visits from both Biden and Hillary Clinton meant even more as their own political ambitions grew.

By contrast, Biden’s visit to Iraq took place under much more loaded and inauspicious circumstances. In 2010, the year of Biden’s visit, the Obama administration was working to phase U.S. troops out of Iraq. The war had become increasingly unpopular, with the American public increasingly demanding the troops return home. As the United States weighed potential candidates for the role of Iraqi prime minister, Biden voiced his support for maintaining Nouri al-Maliki in this position—for pragmatic reasons, as he considered the U.S. status-of-forces agreement held with Iraq.

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