History

The American tradition of citizen diplomacy began in the 18th century when the Second Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France.

Following in Dr. Franklin’s footsteps, Americans, including Washington Irving, James Longstreet, Ellsworth Bunker, John Sherman Cooper, C. Douglas Dillon, Michael J. Mansfield, George H. W. Bush, Paul H. Nitze and hundreds of others, have left the private sector or other governmental (non-diplomatic) responsibilities at the President’s call to serve in a diplomatic capacity on behalf of the United States.

These citizen diplomats bring to their ambassadorial assignments important knowledge and experience accumulated from successful careers in academia, business, the law, the arts, the military and political and public life.

In 1983, a group of former citizen or non-career Ambassadors met to organize the Council in an effort to support and encourage the Foreign Service, enhance the image of the State Department in the nation and in the Congress, and to recognize the achievements and contributions of non-career diplomats in the conduct of America’s foreign policy.

Kenneth Rush, former Deputy Secretary of State and Ambassador to Germany, and William J. vanden Heuvel, former Ambassador to the United Nations, served as founding Co-Chairmen. Marvin Warner, former Ambassador to Switzerland, was the founding President and Milton Wolf, former Ambassador to Austria, was Vice Chairman. Angier Biddle Duke, Averell Harriman, John Sherman Cooper and Ellsworth Bunker were there at the beginning.

Today, the Council has over 230 members, both retired and on active duty, whose service collectively extends over five decades and ten US Presidents. The Council thus represents an important and current resource whose members bridge both political parties and many Administrations and link the private and public sectors.