American Diplomat goes behind the scenes to hear real stories from diplomats who lived newsworthy events overseas. Experience the Cuban revolution, Central American insurgencies, the end of apartheid and more through the eyes of those who were there. A project of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation in partnership with the American Academy of Diplomacy.
The Sequoia: A presidential yacht? A floating icon of American and diplomatic history? A loan gone south? Pete schools Laura on the proper pronoun for a thing of such great beauty (a "she", not an "it"), and Mike Cantor does his best to answer our nosey questions about what really went on onboard.
We're in LA right now promoting a TV script we've written, inspired by many of AmDip's greatest stories including this one from an interview with Kate Canavan on the many things that can go wrong in Tijuana. Two air traffic controllers, fired for going on strike, go into (very) private industry. Pete's words: "Breaking Bad, in the skies."
AMLO, or Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico, takes the long view, and so does the Mexican populace, in the face of insults and other perhaps spontaneous diplomatic communiques conveyed by tweet. As the 13th largest economy in the world, expected soon to be the eighth, they have big enough plans not to take the bait.
This one went to work in the Lyndon Johnson White House at the tender age of 25, became Johnson's Appointments Secretary (a role now called the Chief of Staff) at 28, and later became a congressman and US Ambassador to Mexico. Do you know how much time Lyndon Johnson spent in his pajamas? And what do Mexicans really think about their neighbor to the north? Find out both, in the first of two episodes with Jim Jones.
Communism drives immigration decisions, 1956. Hank Cohen is in love. It's his first tour, and he's in Paris. The Soviets invade Hungary and Hank helps thousands of refugees flee Communist aggression and make new lives in the US. But what about heartthrob megastar Yves Montand, who is an avowed Communist? How can Hank get him a visa? And about that girl...
We're refreshing one of our earlier (and best!) episodes from the early days, before anyone had heard of us. But now you have! And so we offer you the joy you may have missed, of learning what it is to be black, creole or colored, all words that have been used to describe Desiree Cormier, both here in the US and during her posting in South Africa. Enjoy!
We love music. We love it almost as much as we love listening to our friends tell stories about life overseas. So here's our end-of-summer look back on some of our favorite music in the series. Enjoy! Your pals, Pete and Laura
Larry Dinger regales us with tales of tires on fire, pollution, trekking, and one of the most bizarre episodes in monarchy in the world. Now Laura wants to join the Foreign Service and all of us want to go to Kathmandu.
It's 1991 in Ethiopia. President Mengistu and the rebels are at war. Drought and famine are killing thousands. As Charge d'Affaires in Addis Ababa, Bob Houdek oversees the evacuation of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and why? Because, as Bob explains, "Immigration is one of the fundamental human rights under the UN convention."
Bill Burns says it best: "This is exactly the moment when you need to attract the best in our society to lives in public service, whether it's in the State Department, the US military or elsewhere. I am a passionate believer in that." We are, too! Uncle Sam needs you.
Vicki Huddleston, our ambassador in Mali (not to be confused with Bali), helps us understand the Sahel, the Sahara, and their vast range of inhabitants. Everyone got along so well, so how did this land become what the UN now calls the most dangerous mission on earth?
We have Independence Day, and for Nicaraguans Liberation Day is just as important. Celebrated July 19, this is the day the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dynasty in 1979. But what really is a Sandinista, and what's up with their leader Daniel Ortega now? Most importantly, how is life today for Nicaraguans?
Social Democracy in Northern Europe, not to be confused with socialism of any stripe. And what is socialism, anyway? With Ambassador Jimmy Kolker. Plus knowledge test: What fabulous 70s band brought us the name of this episode?
Peas in a pod? Or something much more complex? As it happens, each country is different, even if each would-be strong man looks much the same. Join Tom Shannon and Melvin Levitsky for an expert look at a fascinating polity. Part of our "Is It Happening Here?" series.
You think of your loved ones first: Honoring the lives of those who sacrificed theirs in the line of service. With remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the story of Ambassador Jonathan Addleton.
What happens when Fulanita arrives? And what is this wall, really? And what do drugs have to do with all of this? Bill Brownfield and John Feeley, together with Pete, unpack the deets in our second of three episodes on the border. Plus, a barnyard narco song you do not want to miss.
Episode One, in which John Feeley, Bill Brownfield and Pete lay it all out: How and why does Fulanita, our Guatamalan every-gal, end up at the US border with young son Javier, delivered by the cartels' fancy coach service?
Miss us? Here's a midweek extra: Ashley Inman, a master's student at Georgetown who will become a US diplomat upon completion of her studies, shares her passion for service and her reasons for joining. Go, Ashley!
The life and (near) death of Indonesia's Palm Oil Pledge, a guy named Anderson and an air pollution monitor in Jakarta. Bob Blake works with private industry and government to foster lasting change in Indonesia.
Me, neither. Chris Teal, filmmaker, author and diplomat, shares the little-known tale of integrity and courage of the first African American diplomat, appointed 1869, preceding longtime friend Frederick Douglass by 20 years.
Courtesy, respect, denial (painful, but often true). Tourist visas to visit the US, with Michele Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. Can you guess why Pete is admitted and Laura is not?
In case you don't (say, you were born after 1960), Lauri Fitz-Pegado remembers him for us: his vision, his vim, his leadership, his significance to our participation in the worldwide economy. With bonus continuing comment from Pete on Venzuela.
You might survive your coca eradication crop duster plane going down, but then the mosquitoes will get you, which is still better than ripping the crops out of the Colombian earth. But, says Virginia Bennett, many small people in many small places doing small things can change the world. Perhaps it does.
Virginia Bennett's security detail made sure no one hurled bricks at her, while the Greek populace contemplated boiling the family bunny for dinner. Bennett helps us understand what the U.S. did to help average Greek people during their economic disaster of 2011-2014.
It's hard for an American to make friends in Cuba, circa 1990. But Jeff DeLaurentis finds a way, and learns that Communists can be complicated. And what are all of those old cars doing in Havana, anyway?
The Chavez/Maduro kleptocracy in Venezuela masquerades as a people's revolution. Almost two decades later, millions flee en masse. Pete was there when it all began and explains why Venezuela is suddenly all over the news.
What do Teddy Roosevelt, China, and the band Afrodisiaco all have in common? Panama! Learn why concerns that Pete once thought were partisan paranoia might be a serious, unrecognized source of concern today.
Gerald Feierstein, counterterrorism expert for the State Department, helps us understand how violent extremist groups attract young men, and what different nations do to bring them back to the fold, according to local values and customs.
Did you know that over 11 million jobs in the U.S. come from exports? And that they pay U.S. citizens 15-20% more than non-export related jobs? Dan Crocker debunks our most intrenched myths about trade. Plus, why does Pete ask if he's a meatball? Learn this and more, workin' at the Car Wash! (If you weren't alive in the 70s, this song will fill your heart with longing for the decade you missed.)
Why do we care about diversity in the Foreign Service? When did you know this job was "the one"? How do you do your job with so much danger out there these days? Students visiting the State Department as Cox Fellows have some pretty good questions. Julie Chung, Stacy Williams and Luis Mendez, plus of course Pete, give their two cents. Even Laura chimes in, when truly moved.
The American dream is alive and well at the U.S. Department of State. Stacy Williams, Luis Mendez and Julie Chung share with visiting Cox Fellows inspiring stories of their journeys from where they began to leadership roles in the Foreign Service. And to keep the inspiration going, music from Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove!
Did you know that 95% of the world's consumers live outside the United States? As President, Global Public Affairs at UPS, former Economics Officer Laura Lane helps reduce corruption at borders, in turn helping small and midsize businesses prosper, while advancing global rights for women and reducing poverty throughout the world.
Ambassador Laura Lane served in Rwanda during its period of genocide in the 1990s and learned when you should, and when you should not, follow the rules. Here is the audio track of her TED talk on the subject, bookended with comments from Pete.
James Baker, Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, remembers President Bush and puts today's foreign policy events in perspective as he receives the Walter and Lenore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy. "A golden age for humanity," he calls our times, and recalls a day when "we all sang from the same hymnal, which meant that our allies and our adversaries clearly understood U.S. policy and could not twist differences to their advantage."
Ambassador Joe Sullivan has known a lot of dictators. Who are they? What are they like? How do they do it? "All I want to do is make this a prosperous, democratic country," is a good thing to say to Americans, these charming men have found.
Diamonds, Petroleum, widespread human suffering and a decades-long civil war. Ambassador Joe Sullivan talks about the U.S. role as monitor of the peace and demobilization process: "It was time to choose, and choosing was not between the angel and the devil; we had to chose the less bad option."
Turkey, Russia, Venezuela: In what ways is the rise of strongmen in those countries similar and different from what we're seeing in the United States? What role do press freedom and demonizing adversaries play in the rise of a dictator?
November 18 is the anniversary of the Jonestown massacre (40th, can you believe it?). Chuck English walks us through his experience as the first American diplomat to witness the aftermath. With bonus discussion about Congressman Leo Ryan, an "experiential congressman", whose arrival on the scene immediately preceded the tragedy.
Populism and religiosity: Erdogan begins as a reformer, then builds a corrupt government that leads Turkey into economic peril and total political control through a narrative that stokes fear of victimization at the hand of external enemies. Bob Pearson shows us how Turkey got where it is today in the second part of our discussion with him as part of our series, "Is It Happening Here?"
Corruption, hostage-taking, and a populace divided over Erdogan's Muslim Brotherhood-style government. Ambassador Bob Pearson helps us understand Turkey's era of us-vs.-them politics in the newest episode of our series Is It Happening Here?
Why was the Nairobi attack not prevented? How was it planned, and why did al-Qaeda choose that embassy? Ambassador Prudence Bushnell helps us answer these questions and tells how she led in the aftermath, in ways that only a woman can lead.
"I could not take away people's pain or anger or injuries or post-traumatic stress, but I could accompany them." Ambassador Prudence Bushnell leads the US Embassy in Nairobi through the aftermath of a massive bomb attack on August 7, 1998. 213 people died instantly, 500 were wounded, 750 businesses were blown up. Says Bushnell, "Take care of your people, the rest will follow."
Reporting from fictional Sulandia, a skill that can be developed. Dorothy Mayhew and Michael Gray, diplomats who teach at The Foreign Service Institute, lead the way. Plus bonus info on the life of a State Department cable: What is it? Who writes it and who reads it? What is its impact?
Want to go to jail in Sri Lanka today? Just mention the Tamil Tigers in a positive manner and you will be on trial. That's how upset people still are about the war that ended almost ten years ago. Bob Blake unpacks this time of terror in Sri Lanka.
Sandy Vershbow, US Ambassador to Russia 2002-2005, recounts Putin's gradual seizure of power over more and more of the Russian State, leaving ordinary Russians with little, if any, voice in the policies that affect their lives.
Conditions precedent and the rise of populist autocrat Putin, via Sandy Vershbow, US Ambassador to Russia, 2001-2005. Plus bonus Russian hit song "One Like Putin". Your internal soundscape may never be the same. The second country in American Diplomat's series, "Is It Happening Here?"
Pete visits the Huarani Indians, botches up a boar hunt, drinks the mystery drink chicha, and receives upon his departure a marriage proposal, ambiguously addressed either to himself one of the other fine young gringos. Follows first episode, titled "Cowboys and Indian at the Embassy."
Brian Naranjo describes life for a middle-class voter during the lead-up to the election of Hugo Chavez, a former coup plotter who becomes the elected dictator of Venezuela. This is the first episode in a series within American Diplomat titled, "Is it happening here?"
Pete and Laura introduce a new series within American Diplomat, in which they talk with diplomats who witnessed the beginning phases of democracy's doom and who can tell the story from the perspective of the individual voter who unwittingly elected a dictator.
A social media battleground for hearts and minds in Venezuela, an American in prison on false charges of espionage and terrorism, and a prison riot. Brian Naranjo puts his neck way out there to protect Joshua Holt.
Venezuela today: People are starving and the currency is almost worthless. The government is stealing as much as it can and destroying democratic institutions. The message to American diplomats: Welcome to Venezuela, let me show you the door.
Two air traffic controllers, fired for going on strike, go into (very) private industry. A naked American, on a balcony and intent on self-destruction, finds safety. More tales of what can go wrong in Tijuana, via Kate Canavan, plus tips on how to make your own travels abroad much safer.
Poor Elian! He's left Cuba with his mom, who has now drowned. Possibly aided by dolphins, he arrives alone on the shores of Florida, to be made into perhaps the youngest pawn ever to be used in international and domestic policy wars.
Surveillance can be good - if you need a potato, just ask. But if you're a Marine, be careful! And what made Cuba's Special Period in Time of Peace so special? Deprivation, starvation and flight. Vicki Huddleston connects the dots and helps us understand our relationship with Cuba today.
Feeley's ambassadorship begins with the leak of the Panama Papers, a trove of documents exposing massive international financial fraud. When the US is accused of orchestrating the leak, what's an ambassador to do? Video diplomacy is born.
From an evangelical upbringing, Albertson studies in Kenya and then devotes his life to international development. He survives three bombs in Afghanistan while working with USAID, and now leads the diplomacy advocacy organization Foreign Policy for America.
Do you know where to find a hooker in Oman? Go to the hospital! And what happens when your boss nixes your husband's job choice in Saudi Arabia, and you are intent on preserving your marriage? Reposted from October 2017
In places like Pakistan where governments may not be friendly, cultural diplomacy, often called a form of "soft power", is power indeed. And in Haiti, Husbands gains the nickname, "dread la ki te refize m '," or "the dread who refused me."
Cormier, raised in part by her civil rights activist grandfather, identifies as African American, or, black. So why does everyone in Pretoria tell her she's not black at all, but instead, "colored"? And how does she persuade our government to stop considering Nelson Mandela a terrorist? Also hear how she comes to dance to Pata Pata during Barack Obama's state visit.