I’ve taken on a surprising new assignment. I have a nice official title, but what it boils down to really is writer in residence.
And what is this residence? I report to a cozy white cottage behind a row of heirloom corn off the beaten paths traversing the expansive training grounds of our nation’s foreign affairs community. Henry David Thoreau would be inspired by such a setting. I wonder how it will look this winter, blanketed in snow.
The outfit I write for is a wholesome enterprise dedicated to the study of U.S. diplomacy. In formal parlance: ‘Capturing, preserving, and sharing the experiences of America’s diplomats.’ This noble enterprise, the Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training, has accumulated 2500 oral histories since its founding in 1986. They also produce podcasts, publications, and educational materials suited for the classroom.
My task, if it can be reduced to such a word, involves researching the careers of U.S. ambassadors who served as Peace Corps volunteers. How do the lessons of village life inform delicate negotiations at the highest levels? I hope to find out.
The number of individuals who fit this description reaches above five dozen and growing. A dozen or so more former Peace Corps staff have also served as ambassadors. Follow along in the year ahead as I explore the rich experiences of our nation’s top envoys who got their start on a humbler path.