February 6, 2019 - 1:00 PM

The Essential Diplomat

by GU Politics

A discussion with foreign service and career diplomats about the essential roles they play in service to state and country.


  • Barbara Bodine –Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen ('97-'01); Director, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University
  • John Negroponte – U.S. Deputy Secretary of State ('07-'09); U.S. Ambassador to Honduras ('81-'85), Mexico ('89-'93), the United Nations ('01-'04), and Iraq ('04-'05)
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield – U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs ('13-'17); U.S. Ambassador to Liberia ('08-'12)
  • Uzra Zeya – Chargé d'Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Paris ('14-'17); Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor ('12-'14)
  • Bernadette Meehan – Special Assistant to the President and NSC Spokesperson ('12-'16); Special Assistant to the Secretary of State ('10-'12) (Moderator)

This event was co-sponsored with the Walsh School of Foreign Service as part of the Lloyd George Centennial Lectures on the Future of the Global Order.

On February 6th, 2019, the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy, in partnership with the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, welcomed diplomats Barbara Bodine, John Negroponte, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and Uzra Zeya to a panel discussion moderated by Bernadette Meehan. This panel highlighted the essential role our diplomats and foreign policymakers have in protecting America and advancing our interests and values abroad.

Ms. Meehan launched the discussion by outlining what the “Essential Diplomat” truly is. She noted how the way we consume information has changed drastically but that these changes also open up vast opportunities for the United States. She then said,  “today we will discuss how we see our nation engaging with the world. Are we prepared to meet these challenges and opportunities?” Ms. Meehan asked Ambassador Bodine to discuss the mission of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD). Ambassador Meehan “designed to bring together the academic richness of the university and the considerable experience of practitioners in Washington,” “a bridge between the cultures” of academia and policymakers.

In response to a question on how the State Department is dealing with diversity and inclusion, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield stressed the importance of diversity in the foreign service and called it the “richest element of American culture.” She continued that the foreign service must display the diversity proudly and that the State Department is making “extraordinary efforts” to recruit for diversity. Ms. Meehan asked Ambassador Negroponte how we should prepare diplomats to confront new challenges in international relations such as China’s rise on the world stage. He responded that our relationship with China is “one of the biggest issues facing our diplomacy today” but is very encouraged by the progress American diplomats have made in learning about China and Chinese culture as a means facilitate better relations.

Ms. Meehan spoke on the rise of populism and nationalism as a counter to globalism, resulting in a turn inward for many nations. She then asked Ms. Zeya how diplomats can solve salient issues like migration when there is a disconnect between diplomats and the citizens they serve. Ms. Zeya responded that with an issue like migration, “we need to play that three-dimensional chess game and not reduce it down to a straight line security solution.” She added that “the U.S. cannot go it alone and must address the root causes behind mass displacement.”

The discussion then moved to an audience Q&A session. One student asked what challenges and obstacles the female diplomats had faced and how they had overcome them. Ambassador Bodine concluded that she found being a female an advantage and added that, “if you want to be taken seriously, then do your job seriously” regardless of your race or gender.

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