6 American Diplomats of the 21st Century


In today’s complex world of politics, diplomats play a key role in international affairs and conflict management. As officials representing their country abroad, diplomats are responsible for helping build cooperation and alliances between countries, promoting peace among and between nations, and defusing tension before it has a chance to escalate into serious international conflict. Throughout history, notable diplomats have helped shape world events and established powerful legacies in international relations. For those interested in pursuing a career in diplomacy or international affairs, studying the accomplishments of such professionals as those below is a valuable way to understand geopolitics and gain the skills needed to become a successful diplomat.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

While she may be best known for her back-to-back presidential candidacies in 2008 and 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s diplomatic legacy is her most impactful. Clinton served as the sixty-seventh United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, overseeing the nation’s foreign policy initiatives. During her tenure, human rights emerged as a point of focus in her diplomacy policies, with special attention paid to the empowerment and welfare of girls and women worldwide, especially in the Middle East. During her tenure, Clinton established the first federal Office of Global Women’s Issues. Through the establishment of this office, Clinton has helped develop global awareness of women’s rights and human rights.

Clinton was also lauded for her commitment to personal diplomatic visits in a digital age. During her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton made official state visits to 112 countries. Clinton’s use of “smart power” has helped the U.S State Department use all available tools or the appropriate combination of tools, rather than resorting to hard power (use of military force and intervention) or soft power (economic aid and incentives) in diplomatic efforts.

Richard M. Mills Jr.

A lifelong public servant of the US foreign service, Richard M. Mills Jr., began his career as an assistant at the US Embassy in Paris. As his career progressed, Mills was stationed at the US embassies in Russia, Ireland, New York, Pakistan, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and England, holding a variety of high-level positions, including Senior Democracy Adviser and Senior Political Counselor. Most recently, Mills served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Beirut from 2012 to 2014, before being appointed to his current position as the US Ambassador to Armenia. As the ambassador to Armenia, Mills has partnered with the Armenian government to take positive steps toward addressing human and civil rights issues in Armenia, specifically pretrial detention and domestic violence. In addition, Mills has commended the Armenian government for establishing a Center for Human Rights and Building Integrity, which works with civil society to promote human rights, ethics, integrity, and anti-corruption within the military. Throughout his career, Mills has received nine Superior Honor Awards from the Department of State, as well as a nomination for the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Year Award in 2012. Aspiring diplomats can learn from Mills’ versatility, multiple tours and commitment to public service, particularly as it pertains to remedying human rights violations in countries with a history of rights abuses.

Michele Thoren Bond

Michele Thoren Bond spent her entire diplomatic career with the US Foreign Service, where she gained ample experience participating in Latin American, African and European affairs. During her career, she has worked as the consul general in Amsterdam and was stationed at US embassies in the Czech Republic, Russia and Serbia, to name a few. Her domestic assignments have been quite extensive as well, providing training to diplomats at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center and serving as the director of the Consular Affairs’ Office of Public Outreach.

Most recently, Bond served as assistant secretary of state for consular affairs from 2015 to 2017. In this role, she led a team of 13,000 consular officials stationed at home and abroad working to uphold the safety and security of US citizens living abroad. She also strove to increase international travel efficiency for consular officials and to protect US borders by helping implement new processes like passport safeguarding and issuing visas for international travel and work. Bond is a highly decorated public servant, having received the 2010 Mary A. Ryan Award for Outstanding Public Service and the 2015 Thomas Jefferson Award for her service to U.S. citizens abroad, recognizing her efforts to make American citizens’ experiences abroad safer, more valuable and comfortable, and thereby broadening the horizons of millions of Americans.

Clifford Hart

Clifford Hart began his diplomatic career in 1984 while a part of the US Foreign Service. Today, he serves as the American diplomat envoy to Hong Kong, having accepted the position in 2013 after extensive diplomatic experience in China. During his time in Hong Kong, Hart has focused primarily on Hong Kong’s human trafficking crisis, leveraging his position as a U.S. diplomat to call on the government of Hong Kong to develop stricter anti-trafficking laws. While Hong Kong sits on the Tier 2 Watch List of nations who do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, the country is making efforts to become fully compliant in a tier-two position.

Hart’s ability to immerse himself in the country’s culture has earned him the trust and respect of not only his American colleagues but also of public officials and citizens of Hong Kong in particular. Hart is also well-known for his use of social media to communicate with the public and is an example of how public service has evolved in a digital age.

Tina Kaidanow

Prior to being appointed the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the United States on May 30, 2017, Tina Kaidanow served as Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism (State/CT) and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. In her current role, she works as the principal liaison to the Department of Defense, managing aspects of US foreign policy, such as the provision of international security assistance; licensing-related issues regarding the commercial sale of US-made defense weapons, resources and equipment; negotiating international security agreements; and upholding the State Department’s security relationships across the globe.

During her time as ambassador, she was instrumental in rolling out the State’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism in 2014, which called Iran a serious threat and also helped lead US negotiations with Iran to ensure its nuclear program is peaceful. During this time, she also established and maintained critical relationships with national organizations, non-state actors and foreign governments across the world to ensure that the United States’ global counterterrorism objectives were being upheld.

James Pettit

A dedicated member of the US Senior Foreign Service, James Pettit holds the title of Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US Department of State. Pettit has spent the majority of his career serving in a number of diplomatic capacities in Taiwan, Austria, Russia and Mexico, as well as working for immigration reform, focusing specifically on migration and refugees. He is currently tasked with advancing bilateral relations in Moldova, a valuable asset in Eastern Europe because of the Moldovan government’s role in helping to maintain political and social stability within the region. Pettit is regarded for his deep knowledge of Russia, alongside his Russian language skills, as well as for his strong background in interagency processes and relationship management.

For those aspiring for a career in public policy or diplomacy, there is much to be gained from studying the accomplishments of career service members. These individuals’ perseverance, work ethic, and commitment to effecting change has played a valuable role in helping them to reach notable positions and make a positive impact on their country and the world.

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About Hillary, The Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton

Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Thoren Bond, House Docs

Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Tina Kaidanow Moves to PolMil Affairs, Justin Siberell Now Acting Coordinator, Diplopundit

How Hong King got under the skin of United States Consul General Clifford Hard, South China Morning Post

Report for the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate, U.S. Department of State

Ambassador Richard M. Mills Expresses Concerns About Human Rights Situation in Armenia, MassisPost

Michele T. Bond, U.S. Department of State

Hillary Clinton and the Story of Smart Power, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition

Hillary Uses ‘Smart-Force’ Negotiating, Newsmax

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