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Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 3, 2023
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: [Applause.] Oh my, wow! [Laughter.] Okay, we’ll give everybody a chance to come in, because you’re not going to want to miss this panel. Let me thank Governors Holchul and Hogan. And thank you Andrea for facilitating that. It was very, you know, very good to hear from both of them.
This next panel is obviously very close to my heart. You know, women have always played both informal and formal roles in security and peacekeeping. They’ve been unsung agents of change in conflict and in more peaceful times, but luckily, we have seen a lot more representation in official capacities in recent years and global diplomacy is the stronger for it.
Now, the show you just saw it’s pretty exciting. The trailer for The Diplomat. It’s a little more exciting than some of the lives of the real women it depicts. [Laugher.] But, you know, there’s been some real moments that I think every one of our panelists is going to be able to reflect that: Yeah, it can get pretty stressful from time to time. The women joining us today are just extraordinary. They have engaged in high stakes, diplomacy, development, they have worked their hearts out to keep our country strong and safe. And they have a lot to share with us.
So let me begin by welcoming Deborah Cahn, the Executive Producer and Showrunner of Netflix’s The Diplomat. Henrietta Fore the former Executive Director of UNICEF, the Director of USAID, current Chair and CEO of Holsman International. Ambassador Beth Jones, former Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Chargé to India. She just told me she’s going back coming out of retirement. We’ve pulled her out of retirement all the time. She is one of the great frontline diplomats. She’s on her way to Egypt. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, former Ambassador to Liberia where she dealt with the aftermath of a vicious Civil War. One of the very first American diplomats to negotiate with the Taliban, when she was working on refugee issues in Pakistan in the mid 1990s. Maria Yovanovitch, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine and somebody who literally has been on the frontlines. And our moderator Errin Haines, Editor-at-Large for The 19th, a nonprofit and independent news organization. I think it’s fair to say, Errin, originally named for the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. So, please join me in welcoming this amazing panel. [Applause.]
MS. ERRIN HAINES (MODERATOR): Having a great inaugural summit. Congratulations again to the Institute for Global Politics. As Secretary Clinton mentioned, my name is Errin Haines. I’m Editor-at-Large for The 19th. And yes, it is named for the 19th Amendment. We cover the intersection of rights, power, gender, equity – really at the center of what we do. And so, I’m just so thrilled to be a part of this inaugural summit and thrilled to be part of a program that is so aligned with our values as a newsroom. So, thank you, thank you so much.
Let me also just say: Would watch a podcast where Secretary Clinton recaps The Diplomat. [Laughter.] Going to put that out there.
So please join me in welcoming our distinguished and esteemed panelists. Secretary Clinton, I just want to say, you know, I read the op-ed that you wrote on the late Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose trailblazing political career obviously included being the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee. And so, I just really want to open our discussion by offering anybody who has any thoughts or reflections on Senator Feinstein to take that opportunity now.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Wow. I guess I’ve been selected. [Laughter.] You know, she really was a trailblazer for all of us, and watching her in action for so many years really gave all of us hope for the future of women in politics. So, her departure sends a real chill over all of us.
MS. HENRIETTA FORE: I’ll just add into Linda’s thoughts: She was a very thoughtful senator, and that made a difference. So, she reached across the aisle, she understood the issues, she cared about the issues. She was certainly interested in Asia and how the United States would interact in the future in Asia. And those areas of knowledge were very important for the administrations and for the Civil Service as well as for Congress.
MS. HAINES: Absolutely. Well, thank you both for that. I know we just saw that brief trailer from The Diplomat. Deb, I’m going to come to you first. Obviously, as creator and showrunner of The Diplomat, you had the privilege of spending time and becoming acquainted with the careers of many other women on this stage – the real diplomats, if you will. [Laughter.] What can you tell us about what drew you to tell the story of the diplomatic lifestyle, and why did you feel that this story was so important to be told now?
MS. DEBORA CAHN: There are a bunch of things that really pushed me toward this subject matter. One was an interest in who our leaders are in the world, who we want them to be and who we need them to be versus who they are. There was a moment a few years ago that really sort of drove me toward that. No one knows what it was.
The thing that I think started first when I started working on a new show was Ambassador Yovanovitch had just testified in Congress, and I had met Ambassador Jones a couple of years earlier when I was writing for Homeland, she used to come in – and a lot of experts came in – and talked to the staff about how to make it more real and what was the real versus the melodramatic, which is what we sort of lean toward. And she talked for a few minutes, and it became clear that there was nothing that we could come up with that was more melodramatic than what she would do on a Tuesday. [Laughter.]
So, there was a moment where I called her up and I said, “Maybe I’m going to write about an ambassador.” And she said, “Well, let me get you in touch with a couple of friends,” and the next day she sent me a list of 40 female ambassadors. [Laughter.] And I started going through that list and had the most incredible series of conversations.
One of them I remember having with I think it was Janet Bogue or maybe it was Heather Conley. You know how presidents when they leave, they leave a letter in the desk and it says inspiring things about how you’re worried about filling the shoes, but the moment will come to you, and you will rise to meet the moment. Well, Janet and Heather said that there was a letter that got left in the desk from one female ambassador to the next female ambassador, and it said you should always have a go bag in your office, and it should contain sneakers and a rope because you may have to rappel down the side of the building and run. [Laughter.]
And these were stories that I had never heard, and nobody has heard, and these are the people who very – and with a very sort of quiet and unassuming manner – march around the world being really the front line of diplomacy. Before we put boots on the ground, we put suits on the ground. They’re the first ones in and they’re the last ones out, and we never know anything about what they do. [Applause.]
MS. HAINES: Yeah, absolutely. Raise your hand if you had that go bag. [Laughter.]
AMBASSADOR BETH JONES: We always had a go bag, absolutely. Yeah.
MS. HAINES: Well, as we know, women were not permitted into the Diplomatic Corps in the United States until 1922, and it wasn’t really until the last few decades that we began to really see women in leadership positions. But of course, this new wave of women leadership did not appear overnight. In 1981, for example, Jeane Kirkpatrick became the first woman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Years later, in 1997, Madeleine Albright was named Secretary of State, preceding Condoleezza Rice and Secretary Clinton in the 2000s.
Ambassador Jones, I now want to come to you as part of that legacy. In your view, how has the emergence of women at the most senior ambassadorial levels shaped how diplomacy is really conducted?
AMBASSADOR JONES: Thank you very much, I want to start by saying that my mother was a graduate of Barnard. So that [inaudible]. [Applause.] She went into the Foreign Service right after the Second World War, met my father in Munich, and when they were married, she was forced out of the Foreign Service. So that was what used to happen to women. There was a period of time in 1970 when women who had been forced out were invited back in at the jobs that they had had, even though they had in the meantime gone on to greater heights.
But to get more to your question, it was at about the time that I joined the Foreign Service in 1970 that it became clear to the leaders of the Foreign Service, mostly men, that they were forcing women out just after they’d started, they’d been trained, they’d spent a lot of money – it’s probably a money issue more than a gender issue – [laughter] – they’d spent a lot of money training these women and they were being forced out for no reason. And so, about the time I joined it became okay for women – men and women to marry in the Foreign Service.
What is it about women that makes the Foreign Service a better place? And I would say that one of the things that I think we’re very, very good at is – well, let me back up a little bit. To do our work we have to listen, we have to ask a lot of questions, we have to try to figure out what’s going on with the people that we’re talking to in order to be able to understand where they’re coming from so that we can formulate our advocacy points in ways that meet their needs and wants. Because we can’t go in and harangue them and shake our finger at them and try to – and think that’s going to change behavior. That isn’t going to change behavior. But if we can get them to understand what it is that we’d like to have happen that might be something that they also agree with, and they can see why that’s in their interest as well, then we’re that much further along in terms of changing behavior in ways that meet the goals of the American people, which is after all who – the American people are our clients.
There are plenty – we all have plenty of male colleagues who are very good at this too, but one of the things that a friend of mine has just written a book about feminist diplomacy or feminist politics – Stephanie Foster – and she says that what the thing to keep in mind is it’s better to have greater variety at the table. We’ve talked a lot about that today in various of the panels that the more variety you have at the table, whether it’s more women, certainly more ethnicities, more races, more gender identifications – whatever it is – that conversation is going to be richer and therefore the result, I believe, is going to be better.
MS. HAINES: Absolutely. Well, we certainly believe in that at The 19th. So, and the idea that diplomacy is gendered is yet another thing to really consider. I wonder if any of you, anybody else, has thoughts about the ways in which diplomacy is gendered and what women specifically bring to the diplomacy conversation. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield or Ambassador Yovanovitch, if you have any thoughts on that, I’d love to hear those. Because I think we kind of see it play out on The Diplomat, but as somebody – people who are living this, I wonder if you have some thoughts.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, just speaking from my own experience and my perspective, I have found that – and having dealt with President Sirleaf, who was the first woman president in Africa – that she brought, and I felt that I had that same skill: Compassion to her approach to the job. And compassion is something that many of our male colleagues in the earlier days thought was soft, that it was not something that should be brought to the diplomatic table, it should not be brought to the negotiating table. But I found that it worked. It worked for me. I saw it work for her. I’ve seen it work with other women who are dealing with issues that are important but also require a sense of compassion and kindness and an openness to the other side.
I think I may have heard you say, Beth, that, you know, you’re going to deal with people you don’t always agree with. But ultimately, what you need to understand is that they are people, and you need to understand them and understand why they have come with this approach that is something you absolutely cannot accept or abide by. But there’s some commonality that you have with that person, and so we tend to have the patience to find that commonality, so that once you attach that string, you can deal with all of the other difficult issues. And it’s something that I learned from women leaders, and I think is very effective in diplomacy.
MS. HAINES: Okay. Compassion, consensus? Ambassador Yovanovitch, what would you add?
AMBASSADOR MARIE YOVANOVITCH: Well, I certainly agree with Beth and Linda that women have superpowers, and one of them is listening and one of them is compassion. But I also think that partly because of the way we were raised, the way we came into the Foreign Service, the opportunities that were afforded or not afforded, I think women have a really superb work ethic. We have to work twice as hard in order to get to where we need to go. We don’t get the same benefit of the doubt – even today. I mean, we’ve come a long way, baby. But even today, we aren’t where we need to be. And so, I think that work ethic – you know, I heard Beth a couple of nights ago talking about how, you know, she and her cohort of female diplomats when they came into the Foreign Service, they knew they had to be good at their jobs. They knew that they had to be subject matter experts first and foremost, and then everything else would follow. And I think that’s still true today.
AMBASSADOR JONES: I have one quick story that encapsulates a bit of the basics of what we do. And that was when Henry Kissinger first arrived in Cairo after the ’73 war, and he met with President Sadat for the first time. They were off on their own. I was at the intersection then. And when the team got back to the hotel, the Assistant Secretary’s walking down the hall and I grabbed him by the arm and said, “How did the meeting go?” And he said they liked each other. I said, “No, no, no – how did the meeting go?” thinking, you know, what are the details. And he stopped and he turned to me, he said, “Beth, they liked each other. That’s the most important thing. Everything else is easy.” And that goes to compassion, understanding, asking the right questions, et cetera.
MS. HAINES: Yeah. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, I want to come back to you, because for the first time in history, we have five women permanent representatives presiding over the Security Council. I want to ask you how has this leadership made a difference in terms of Council priorities?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, it’s been interesting, and I’ll tell a story before I answer the question. When I saw Madeleine Albright before coming out to the Council, she said: I have my group of G7, you know, women I work closely with. So, when I got to the Security Council and saw that there were only five women, I’m like, “Darn, I have two less than Madeline had. What is going on?” And so, when I saw her later, I said, “You know, I’m working with the G5, but it really is sad that we only have five.” And she said, “Linda, I had seven in the entire General Assembly. I was the only woman on the Security Council.” [Laughter.]
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: So, we have made progress –
MS. HAINES: Actual progress, yes.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We actually have made a great deal of progress. And what I find is, even though we’re there to represent our countries and we have differences, we are so much alike on so many issues. And we can drive an agenda that our male colleagues may not have an interest in, whether its issues related to women, peace, and security. It’s how do you deal with issues of women not being brought to the table, women sitting in the background but not sitting in the forefront.
So, we’ve all, as we served as presidents of the Security Council, ensured that we brought women briefers to the front of the table to brief Security Council members. And we have pushed – we call ourselves the Fab Five, so not the G5 but we are the Fab Five – and we do look for those opportunities to pressure our 10 male colleagues into supporting agendas that support issues related to women.
MS. HAINES: Well, that is very interesting, yes. Well, I wanted to come to both you, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, and Ambassador Yovanovitch to talk about Ukraine since we have some of the foremost Ukraine experts on the stage. Is there a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: It’s all yours about that.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I know. [Laughter.]
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: You’re on the front lines here. So first of all, I would say that, yes, there is always a diplomatic solution to a global problem – always. But I think there is a season for everything, and I’m not sure that a diplomatic solution can be successful right now. First of all, Russia is waiting, waiting at least through our presidential elections of 2024, and we’ve heard former President Medvedev say that this war isn’t going to end before 2025. I don’t think the Russians are serious about negotiations. You need two serious partners. I don’t think the Ukrainians are ready for diplomacy either because they want to improve their situation on the ground, and they are every day. Whether it’s in the Black Sea, whether it’s in the east, whether it’s in the north, they are improving their situation with our help, which is why it’s so important that we continue to provide them with assistance. But I think they’re looking to have a strong negotiating table – at the table backed–up by the facts on the ground. And so right now, I’m not sure that a diplomatic solution is ripe, exactly, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t diplomacy going on. And I’ll throw it to you on that one.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes. And we have always stood strongly behind a diplomatic solution. We tried diplomacy before the war started, and particularly with the Russians, and we have continued to support diplomacy as this war rages, as Russia continues its brutal attack on the people of Ukraine. But a diplomatic solution does not mean an immediate ceasefire, which is what some of the diplomatic efforts have called for, because the ceasefire actually rewards Russia for its attack on Ukraine by allowing them to hold on to their ill-begotten wealth, their territory that they have taken from the Ukrainians. A ceasefire does not bring about the accountability for this brutal attack, the atrocities that Russia has committed, the human rights violations, the war crimes that they have committed.
So, as we talk about a diplomatic solution and an end to the war, we have to also talk about accountability, which of course Russia does not want to talk about. We have to talk about what happens to Ukrainian territory, what happens to Ukrainian children who’ve been stolen. So, there are so many parts of this diplomacy that will have to be taken into account before we actually get to a place where the two sides are sitting across the table from each other trying to figure out the path forward.
MS. HAINES: Well, thank you both for that insight. Ambassador Yovanovitch, I want to come back to you because normally career diplomats do not become household names, but you became one when you were removed from your post as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in 2019 because of a public and politically motivated campaign against you. And you had to testify in front of Congress. I wonder if you can share a little bit about that experience. You and I had a chance to kind of talk about that a little bit. Some of your key takeaways, and also kind of what you really remember from that congressional testimony in particular.
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: Yeah, so thank you for the question. Key takeaways, I’ll give you two very broad ones and you can ask me other questions if you’d like. I guess the first big takeaway for me – and you may think that I’m super naïve – but I always thought our democracy was unassailable. My parents were immigrants to this country. They came to the U.S. after World War II. They’d lived in totalitarian countries, and they knew what it was not to be able to say what they wanted to say, not to worship the way they pleased, to be afraid – my father was a prisoner of war. They knew what it was to live in an authoritarian state.
And so, when they came to the United States, they were grateful for the shelter that was provided by the U.S. And they brought my brother and I up to, you know, believe in democracy, to believe in the Constitution, and the privileges and the responsibilities that we have. And somewhere – they also taught us that we needed to give back, that, you know, everybody had a role in our democracy to do our small bit to preserve and defend our democracy. I mean, some people join the military, other people are part of, you know, the school PTA or whatever. It’s all part of our civil society and what we do as concerned, engaged, informed citizens to build our country. And somewhere along the way, some of those core assumptions, I think, have gone by the by.
And that really came home to roost for me in 2019 – I mean, because my saga started long before it became public – where the President of the United States was using his position as the, you know, leader of our country to extort another country for personal and political gain, which I found shocking and surprising and wrong. And so, you all know the story very well of what happened, but I think the key takeaway for me is that all of us need to do our bit to protect and defend our democracy, whatever that may be.
You know, in our case, the four of us over here on this side, that is, you know, working in diplomacy and protecting the interests of the American people and our values overseas and explaining what it is about America. You know, Debora, obviously, you have a creative way of doing those same things, and you’re in the press. I mean, all of those, I think, are ways that we contribute to the greatness of our country. But I think that was a key takeaway for me in that year that we all need to be informed and engaged in the defense of our democracy.
On a smaller note, what I would note is when, you know, there was so much noise in 2019 around the impeachment – and it was, I mean, I’ll be candid, a very frightening time for me – when the most powerful person in the world says, “She’s going to go through some things,” talking about me. And I didn’t know what that meant. So, it was a very frightening time, and I couldn’t control any of that noise or what anybody else was saying or doing.
But I told myself that what I could do was I could control myself and that I had to get through this process – because I didn’t know where it was going to go – and what it would mean for me personally, you know, in terms of going through some stuff. But that I had to get through that process with dignity. And to the extent that I could – because the State Department as an institution was also under assault. And to the extent that I could bring honor to the State Department as well and to my many colleagues who were doing just extraordinary things in the interests of the American people. So that was my other big takeaway: That you can’t control everything else, but you can try to control yourself.
MS. HAINES: Henrietta, I want to come to you. Because as The Diplomat depicts on the show, diplomacy has many branches to it, whether we’re talking about the State Department or the Department of Defense or USAID. And you were the first woman administrator of USAID. So, talk about the nature of the relationship between aid and diplomacy, especially in conflict zones in countries. And how did your work really coincide with the U.S.’s diplomatic relationships?
MS. FORE: Thank you. May I add into the earlier conversation about women leaders? One other thing that I’ve seen that I think is a real asset is that usually the women leaders build a network. [Laughter.] I saw it with Secretary Clinton. I saw it with Secretary Albright. I saw it with Secretary Rice. But that network really allows women leaders to have a community around them for personal and professional reasons. And when you’re working in USAID or in development, you see it in communities too. There are communities of women that are looking after the health, the education of the community. They’re the ones who are looking after the children. But there’s a network effect that can’t be underestimated.
MS. HAINES: That’s such a good point that you’re raising, and I wonder if the – I mean, I would think that that probably is something that is sustaining even beyond whatever the role is that you may be in at the time, like these are lasting kind of lifelong relationships it certainly seems.
MS. FORE: They are. Decades-long. And it’s an asset. So, the development community is a large and vibrant community and very exciting, and it does humanitarian and development work, and it does it alongside the diplomats, and the diplomats also do humanitarian and development work. So, we’re all very intertwined, as Deb is writing on her show.
So, it’s usually the business arm. It has the projects and the programs, so it’s loved at the ambassadorial level, at the prime minister and president, and at the grassroots, which makes it an exciting activity and one very important for the United States but also for all the countries that you’re working in, because it has to reflect the culture of the people, it has to reflect their hopes and dreams, and that’s what the United States would like to help them achieve so that there is peace and prosperity in the world.
But right now, we have between 300 and 400 manmade or natural disasters a year, of which, as Linda knows better than anyone, 50 or 60 might be armed conflicts, 20 to 30 will be officially declared wars. And it means that it is a very frightening and volatile time around the world. And I think that volatility is something we’re going to have the next decade, probably two decades. It is economic as we heard this morning. It is political. It is social. And it’s also military. But there’s going to be volatility, and so therefore it’s a time when foreign assistance and foreign aid and diplomats are going to be exceptionally needed.
And so, all of our tools on the humanitarian and development side which need to be seamless have to be put to work, because most of the worry comes from failing states, from where there are voids. We learned this during ISIS. I think all of us have seen it. And when you walk the dusty roads of the developing world, you realize that there is so much that we can give to them. And one of the areas you worry about now is that half the world is connected to the internet, the other half is not. You don’t want our world pulling apart. So, what can we do to help that? And there is so much and it’s based in technologies. I mean, we could connect every school in the world to the internet. That would help this next generation. But there are just many, many things that we can do. And so, as a team out there in the world, we have to think about how to make the world a better place and to use the tools at our disposal to do that.
MS. HAINES: Absolutely. And Henrietta, it sounds like we also must really rethink what aid and diplomacy is going to mean in the world that we have today. But, you know, I really was struck listening to you talk about that network. And you all didn’t have a chance to really just see the camaraderie happening kind of even before we came out here between these four women – seriously. And so, I’m going to – I know all of you probably have an Ambassador Jones story, but Ambassador Yovanovitch, because we were talking, that network really came through for you in a big way you were telling me about. And I just wonder if you could share with our audience here that example that you shared with me.
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: Yeah, so at the risk of really embarrassing Beth, I will just say that, you know, I didn’t even realize how important she was to my own career until I wrote the book. And, you know, then you’re kind of reviewing everything in your past, and you’re realizing, wow, she was there then. She was there at this turn. And critically, in 2004, Beth was the Assistant Secretary for Europe and she said, you know, we don’t have any women on this ambassadors list. What’s up with that? We need to do better. And my name came up, and she supported that. And eventually I went to Kyrgyzstan in my first ambassadorial posting – absolutely critical to, you know, me moving along. And she was there in other important ways for me as well, including at the end of my career, where, again, to come back to my public testimony in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial – Beth, I was thinking about what do I want to say, you know, not only in my testimony but in the visuals of what people look at. You know? Who do I want to want to have sitting behind me? Obviously, my family, but also other people.
So, I invited Grace Kennan Warnecke, who is the daughter of George Kennan, you know, probably one of the most famous and important diplomats of the last century. And I also invited Beth, because she is a legendary diplomat, obviously very important to me personally, but people in the State Department really look up to her. So, I’m not surprised that Debora used her as the inspiration for a terrific show. But Beth was sitting behind me. She literally had my back, you know, just as she had throughout my career.
And I heard several days later from my younger female colleagues that there was a meme going around the State Department where, you know, many of our colleagues were feeling very beleaguered at that time, and they were asking each other who is going to be my Beth Jones. And I mean, I think there isn’t a better tribute than that to a legendary diplomat such as Beth. [Applause.]
MS. HAINES: Well, Deb, I don’t think you could – just when you thought you would have enough fodder for the show – [laughter] – here we have a show consultant right here on stage, giving you yet another story that maybe will find its way into –
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: You definitely have to put that in. [Laughter.]
MS. HAINES: – some future season. I think, you know, Deb, to kind of close out our conversation, I’m struck, you know, watching The Diplomat, which of course I binged immediately, and thought, you know, those of us in media or, you know, whether you’re a police officer or a teacher or a politician or a diplomat, like, inevitably we watch these shows and we say, well, that’s not right or that – no, that’s not how it really is or why would she have that on. [Laughter.] You know, but I think what – you know, regardless of what the topic is, it’s so exciting that you have created something where you have everyday folks that are now focused on geopolitics, everyday folks who are now focused on diplomats, not just as cool but as people who have very consequential jobs, you know, in this country and our world.
And I wonder, one, if you are hearing from other diplomats about, you know, how much they really kind of identify with what you’ve created, but also just from people who may not be in that world, who suddenly are completely obsessed, as maybe I am now, with just, you know, the idea of the Foreign Service and what it really means for our society.
MS. CAHN: I think for me one of my happiest moments in this whole experience was being at the Fourth of July party at Winfield House last summer and hearing not just American diplomats but diplomats from around the world saying thank you, my parents now understand what I do. [Laughter.]
And I think many of us, and certainly me, the politics of the last 10 years created sort of an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. And getting to know these people and certainly in the moment watching you testify, Ambassador, in the impeachment hearings, I had this feeling of there’s room for so many people to have such an impact, and the Foreign Service is kind of a gimme. You’re out there and you are in a retail way teaching people what the United States is on the level that we all want it to be. You know, these people get to go out and sell that every single day. And there’s a tremendous amount of power in that. And I just am glad that a few more people know, that a few more students, that a few more young people know that this a path that is there for the taking. She took on a president, I mean. [Laughter and applause.]
MS. HAINES: I think on that note I would ask – I mean, Deb’s already given you all the recruiting video and just, like, the recruiting pitch. If there are women, young girls, who are watching this and excited, getting excited, maybe have seen your show, excited about the Foreign Service or, you know, a career in diplomacy, what would each of you – one piece of advice that you would give for any young woman or girl or woman, period, thinking about entering this field? What would be your advice to them? Henrietta, I’ll start with you and we’ll just go down the line.
MS. FORE: So, my first choice would be get a good liberal arts education. I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken to – [applause] – who are presidents and prime ministers, and you’re talking to them about early Chinese bronzes and about Japanese Zen gardens and you’re talking to them about how to make a pineapple cake. I mean, it just – it goes across the board, and you really – you need to know about their history, their culture, their language. If you know that, you will connect with them, you will create the friends that you’re hearing about here.
But then I’m going to give you a second one, which is you’ve just got to get out to the field. You’ve got to go see what the people are doing. And so, the more you can travel, the more you can get out into the field and see people who are not living the life you know of and that are maybe less well-off. Understand them and see what our world has as possibilities. And get to Africa. It just has a booming, booming talent that’s coming into our world, and we’ve got to connect with it.
MS. HAINES: Yeah. I think that’s good advice for life but also for diplomacy. Ambassador Jones.
AMBASSADOR JONES: I completely agree with Henrietta about the importance of a liberal arts education. That’s sort of the basics. But the other thing I would say is that it’s very important to – it’s a perfect career for someone who is curious, who is outgoing. You can’t be somebody who waits in a corner for somebody to walk over to you. You’ve got to walk over to the stranger and say, “Hi, I’m Beth Jones. Who are you?” Not who are you, but something along those lines.
But I will also say – Henrietta’s talked about Africa, let me talk about the Middle East. I spent a lot of my time in the Middle East, a lot of my career in the Middle East, and I found that I had a special advantage. At first people said you’re a woman, you won’t have an advantage. But I found that I had a great advantage, because not only was I accepted by all the men with whom I was working, but I could walk into the room with women. I could walk into the tent that had only women. I could walk down the street and chat with a woman, where my male colleagues couldn’t do that without being in a lot of trouble. And I discovered –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Or putting a woman in a lot of trouble.
AMBASSADOR JONES: And putting the woman in a lot of trouble, sure.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah.
AMBASSADOR JONES: But I also found in various places that the women were great political gossips. I got great reporting information out of the women, more than the men. So, you know, it was sort of a double extra for me.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, the advice that I would give is: You can do it.
And while I agree with a great liberal arts education, I had a special assistant who was a physicist and had done science her entire life and decided she was bored with it and she wanted to come into the Foreign Service. And she’s now Deputy Chief of Mission and on a list to become an ambassador. So, you can do it whatever you major in as long as you want to do it.
And the other part is you can do anything. I have to tell you when I took this job, I was an Africanist. I had done humanitarian work and I’d spent most of my career on the continent of Africa. I am not sure I could have found Ukraine on the map without finding it on the map.
There were – I mean, every single time a new crisis would come up, I’d have to look at the map and kind of figure out what the issues were. And two and a half years into this, I don’t have to look at the map. My staff thinks they have to brief me before I go into a meeting, they really don’t. And what I have learned – [laughter] –
MS. HAINES: You’re killing them.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: – is that you can do it. I could do it. If I could do it – and I grew up in the segregated South in a not-so-great education system. Louisiana had – was fighting with Mississippi – and apologize to any friends and colleagues from Mississippi and Louisiana, but we would fight between Mississippi and Louisiana over who was going to be 49 or 50th in the States for the worst education system. That is the education system that I came out of, and I could do it. So, I want to say to young people everywhere, wherever you are, that this is something you can do. And particularly young women who might never have thought about this, you can do it. [Applause.]
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: So just to, you know, conclude on this, I would say not only can you do it – do it. This is a great career where you can make a difference in people’s lives every day. There is nothing like it. I spent 33 years – I think I’m probably the person with the least amount of experience on the stage. And what is great about it is the variety. You know, Linda talked about her background and expertise and now she’s a Ukraine expert. And you go around the globe. You do different things in different places. You’re negotiating on different kinds of things. You educate yourself. Your staff does help you. [Laughter.] And you –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They do.
AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: Like I said, you can make a difference in people’s lives every day. And there is nothing more gratifying, I think all of us would agree to this, than sitting in an office where there is a flag – the American flag is in the corner. There is no greater purpose, really. And, you know, I would just encourage everybody to think about the Foreign Service. And if the Foreign Service is not for you – it’s not for everybody, it’s a tough life – but if it’s not for you, then think about other ways that you can serve the American people. [Applause.]
MS. HAINES: Yeah. Well, all great advice. I’m going to go ponder a career change but thank you all so much – [laughter] – for your example, and thank you all so much for your service, and thank you so much for this show. [Applause.]