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Ambassador to a Small World

Back to Memoirs and Occasional Papers

Ambassador to a Small World is a highly personal portrait of Chad from the vantage point of Christopher E. Goldthwait, the longest-serving U.S. Ambassador to N’Djamena. The book touches on Chad’s politics, economy, and society and on U.S. foreign policy, foreign aid, and the life of the small American community in one of the continent’s most isolated countries.

More deeply, the book comprises Goldthwait’s perceptive reflections on the country and its people and his thoughtful account of what he learned from them. He relates the joys and frustrations of being ambassador in a so-called “presence post.” Goldthwait’s final letter, written a month after he returned to Washington, tells how experiencing Chad led him to see his own country and city in a new light.

Originating as a series of monthly letters to a dozen close friends, the book preserves the epistolary format, with the letters grouped into topical chapters. Much of the book is a travelogue, describing 25,000 miles of travel, of which 15,000 were overland, to nearly every corner of Chad. What began as descriptive quickly became analytical and reflective. Because the letters deal more with the nature of the country and its people than with specific events, they can still pass contemporary muster.

“Christopher Goldthwait, accomplished diplomat and agricultural economist, is a gifted practitioner of the forgotten art of letter writing. Graceful, funny, and brimming with insights, these sketches from his stint as Ambassador to Chad wonderfully capture this ‘small’ but enthralling world.”        ––MARC WALL, former U.S. Ambassador to Chad 
 “Ambassador to a Small World paints a dynamic picture of Chad’s geography, history, politics, and economy….Recommended reading for all FSOs assigned to Chad and similar African posts.”  ––MATTIE SHARPLESS, U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic 2001–2002
Chris Goldthwait’s letters from Chad offer an intriguing commentary –– and fascinating travel chronicle ––by an experienced observer on the challenges facing a developing country.”  ––MICHAEL B. SMITH, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

CHRIS GOLDTHWAIT set a record of four years and four months as U.S. ambassador to Chad, from late 1999 until early 2004. He was the first Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) career officer to be selected as an ambassador. Before going to Chad he was FAS’s General Sales Manager, an associate administrator–level position, for more than eight years. Prior FAS tours included Germany and Nigeria. He holds degrees from American University and Harvard’s Kennedy School. Since late 2004, Goldthwait has had his own consulting business, focusing on agricultural policy and international agriculture. He was principal author of Modernizing America’s Food and Farm Policy: Vision for a New Direction, the report of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Agricultural Task Force.