REVIEW: Article

Remarks at the Inauguration of the Council’s Cooperative Program with the Department of State

Good Afternoon. Mr. Director-General of the Foreign Service, Ambassador George Staples, members of the Council of American Ambassadors, and Distinguished Guests:

My name is Abelardo Valdez, Vice Chair of the Council of American Ambassadors (CAA) and Co-Chair with Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch of the Council’s Fellowship Committee. We are delighted that you are able to join us today [June 19, 2006] to inaugurate the first full year of our cooperative program with the Department of State and to welcome our 2006 CAA Fellows. We are grateful for the cooperation of Director-General of the Foreign Service, Ambassador George Staples, and his predecessor, Ambassador W. Robert Pearson, in helping the Council to implement this program and look forward to working with him and his staff in the years ahead.

The Fellowship Program is one of three major initiatives undertaken by the Council of American Ambassadors on the 20th Anniversary of its founding. The other two programs are the Ambassadors’ Forum, which is a series of conferences to educate the public about critical foreign policy issues confronting our nation, and the initiative to expand the circulation of the Council’s bi-annual foreign affairs journal, The Ambassadors REVIEW, to key foreign policymakers in Washington, all United States ambassadors abroad, all foreign ambassadors in Washington, members of Congress, schools and universities around the country, and to the general public.

As a result of our cooperation with the Department of State, we have been able to assure that all our Fellows will obtain internships at the Department, where they can receive valuable experience and guidance from members of the Foreign Service by performing substantive assignments. Complementing this practical experience is the high-level mentoring on international affairs careers, provided by former United States ambassadors, who are members of our Council, and academic studies in international political economy at Georgetown University through our collaborative agreement with The Fund for American Studies. 

This combination of practical training, mentoring and academic study is truly unique. I know of no other program that offers such a combination of practical and academic learning opportunities. We hope that it will inspire the Fellows to pursue careers in international affairs and contribute to the conduct of our nation’s foreign relations. In the tradition of the Council, we know that these young men and women can make valuable contributions as citizen diplomats, be they in the Foreign Service or in the private sector or in both, as have the members of our Council.

Every year of this program, the members of the CAA Fellowship Committee have been impressed with the high academic achievement, extensive participation in school activities and community service, and outstanding personal qualities of the applicants.*

This year has been no exception.  Out of a very competitive group of applicants, we selected four whom we considered most outstanding and most likely to meet the goals of the program.  It gives me great pleasure to present them to you at this time. They are:

  • Evan Hill, who is majoring in journalism with a minor in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at  Northwestern  University;
  • James Madsen, who is majoring in political science with a focus on international relations at Stanford University;
  • Megan Mahoney, who is majoring in international studies and economics at American University; and,
  • Aisha Sabar, who is majoring in both political science and Arabic at Washington University in St. Louis.                                                                 

Each of the four Fellows will be mentored by two former ambassadors. The mentors are among our most experienced Council members, having achieved distinguished careers in diplomacy, business, academia, journalism and the law.  They are the backbone of this program and Ambassador Bloch and I are deeply appreciative of the time and effort they devote to this program. The mentors for this year are: Ambassadors Julia Chang Bloch, Timothy Chorba, Patricia Lynch Ewell, Stuart Holliday, Philip Hughes, Thomas Patrick Melady, Robert D. Stuart, Jr., Timothy Towell and myself.

We also are pleased to have with us today the supervisors—or their representatives—of the Fellows during their internships at the State Department. They are:

  • Frank J. Finver, Chief of the Arab and Regional Media Division, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, represented today by Robin Smith of that office;
  • Thomas Washburn, Acting Director of the Office of Plans, Policies and Analysis, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs;
  • Larry Gumbiner, Deputy Director of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, who is represented by Jeffrey Young of that bureau; and,
  • Kim Archea of the Regional Affairs Office, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. 

Thank you for your cooperation with our program and your attendance here today.  We know that our Fellows will learn a great deal from you this summer.

The Fellowship Program depends on our Council members and foundation and corporate sponsors for financial support and we appreciate very much their strong and continuing support. The academic component of the Fellowship Program is made possible through our cooperation with The Fund for American Studies, and we are grateful for the support they give to our program. We are delighted that both the President of the Fund, Roger Ream, and the Fund’s Chairman, Randal Teague, are with us today.

Today marks a milestone for the CAA Fellowship Program. Three years ago this was just the seed of an idea, but today we can see the blooming of this program to prepare young leaders for careers in international affairs. I can think of no more worthy endeavor to which former American ambassadors can contribute their knowledge, experience and devotion. Those of us who have mentored these young leaders feel about this program as Daniel Webster did when he said about Dartmouth College in a famous argument before the United States Supreme Court, “Sir, it is a small school—but there are those who love it.”

Thank you.**                                     

* Editor’s Note: During the two-year pilot phase of the Fellowship program, the Council placed interns in various United States government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. The 2004 CAA Fellows were: Jennifer Allison (Grove City College); Amanda Licht (University of North Dakota); David Sibal (Georgia Institute of Technology); and, Ahmad Yilmaz (Carlton College). The 2005 Fellows were: Brian Katz (Duke University); David Little (Pepperdine University); Gabrielle Maor (Oberlin College); and, Samuel Semwangu (Northwestern University).

** Editor’s Note:  On August 28, 2006, the CAA Fellowship Program was given a major endorsement when the Annenberg Foundation made a $500,000 grant in the name of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg to endow six fellowships in perpetuity.