Meet America’s New Career Ambassadors

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Meet America’s New Career Ambassadors

The U.S. Senate has confirmed and the President has conferred the personal rank of Career Ambassador on Philip Goldberg, Charge d'Affaires ad interim at the United States Embassy in Cuba, David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Michele Sison, United States Ambassador to Haiti, and Daniel Smith, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

According to the Foreign Service Act of 1980, the President is empowered with the advice and consent of the Senate to confer the personal rank of Career Ambassador upon a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period. There have only been 59 Career Ambassadors confirmed prior to 2018.

In recognition of this honor, we congratulate the Ambassadors and invite you to learn more about them.

Philip Goldberg

Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg is serving as the interim Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.  He has previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia.  , Chief of Mission in Pristina, Kosovo, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile. Other overseas tours include Kosovo, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa.

Ambassador Goldberg served in Washington as Special Assistant and Executive Assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.  From 1994-1996, he was the Department’s Bosnia Desk Officer and was a member of the American negotiating team in the lead-up to the Dayton Peace Conference and Chief of Staff for the American Delegation at Dayton. 

Ambassador Goldberg is a native of Boston, Massachusetts.

Question: What initially attracted you to a career in the Foreign Service?

Ambassador Goldberg: I always had a great interest in government, world affairs and public service. I just needed to find out more about the Foreign Service.

Question: What has been your most memorable career moment to date, and why?

Ambassador Goldberg: Where to start? Almost everything I’ve had the chance to do in my career has been incredible, but perhaps the most memorable period was as a member of the negotiating teams that ended the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990’s. Nothing is a higher calling in our profession than working successfully on an agreement that prevents or ends conflict and eases human suffering. In the process, I learned a great deal about diplomacy, negotiations and American leadership in the world.

Question: How have you seen the Foreign Service change since your career began?

Ambassador Goldberg: The two biggest changes are in how we use information technology and the quality of people we recruit. When I started, we still had to print and sort cables each morning. As a Special Assistant on the 7th floor, I had a beeper. The internet was not around. I don’t need to say how all that has changed. On personnel, I think new officers are in some ways better prepared and bring greater experience. As for the Foreign Service exam, I don’t even know if I’d pass it now.

Question: What one piece of advice would you give to Department employees on how to succeed in a foreign affairs career?

Ambassador Goldberg: Seek out jobs where you can make a difference. Be a good colleague. And when you get to a leadership position, take the advice of former Secretary Colin Powell: “Be good to your people.” Oh, and have fun. Because if you not having a great time at this, there are probably easier things to do.

Question: Most incredible place you’ve travelled?

Ambassador Goldberg: This would take a book. Maybe I’ll write one in a few years.

David Hale

David Hale is serving as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.  Previously, he was the Ambassador to Pakistan (2015-2018), Ambassador to Lebanon (2013-15), Special Envoy for Middle East Peace (2011-2013), a Deputy Envoy (2009-11), and Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8), after multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and service in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN.

In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant (2008-9) and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs (2001-3). He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright.

Ambassador Hale is a native of New Jersey.

Question: What initially attracted you to a career in the Foreign Service? 

Ambassador Hale: My grandparents were world travelers, at a time when it wasn’t so easy.  They returned with stories, pictures, and books that opened my eyes to a world beyond our shores.  I gained a growing realization that what happened overseas mattered a great deal to America’ security and prosperity.  I also came to realize there was a career path that would allow me to witness and participate in the effort to advance our interests abroad, namely the Foreign Service.

Question: What has been your most memorable career moment to date, and why?   

Ambassador Hale: I have two similar moments, one on my first tour and one on my current one.  As a vice consul in Saudi Arabia, I helped achieve the return to the U.S. of a young American mother and her infant son after an auto accident killed her Jordanian husband.  His parents wanted to take custody of the baby, and the authorities were on their side.  I negotiated for over a week a hard, but amicable separation and the return of two Americans to our country.  More recently, I led a team effort in Pakistan that successfully seized an opportunity to bring about the release and return home of an American citizen, Caitlan Coleman, and her family.  Our work on big policies may be more valuable in the long-run, but there are few things more satisfying than using your diplomatic skills to help individual Americans in deep distress abroad.

Question: How have you seen the Foreign Service change since your career began?

Ambassador Hale: So much has changed, but I feel it most positively in two ways:  the growing diversity of our workforce and our ability to reach millions of people through social media.  Together, these two developments enhanced our ability to represent the American people and our diversity more broadly and effectively.

Question: What one piece of advice would you give to Department employees on how to succeed in a foreign affairs career? 

Ambassador Hale: Pursue the jobs that interest you, not those you think will lead to advancement.  You are bound to do well something that interests you; promotions will follow from a job well done. 

Question: Most incredible place you’ve travelled? 

Ambassador Hale: Alaska.  I was 11 years old and we traveled on the state ferry through the Inland Passageway and then hiked for several days over an old gold rush trail, the Chilkoot Pass, from Skagway into Canada.  I have traveled the world since, but that was my first big trip.  It is a wonderful, fascinating part of America, so that trip will always be the best for me.

Michele Sison

Ambassador Michele Sison is serving as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. Previously, she served as U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations (2014-2018), U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives (2012-2014), U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon (2008-2010), and U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (2004-2008). Other overseas assignments include Assistant Chief of Mission in Baghdad, Iraq; Deputy Chief of Mission in Islamabad, Pakistan; Consul General in Chennai, India; and tours in Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, and Haiti.

In Washington, Sison has served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and the State Department’s Director of Career Development and Assignments.

Ambassador Sison’s home state is Maryland.

Question:  What initially attracted you to a career in the Foreign Service?

Ambassador Sison: I’m a proud Filipina-American, and I’ve always been interested in communicating across cultures and telling the story of the United States in all its amazing diversity. One of my favorite questions over the past 36 years as an FSO has been, “Where are you from? You don’t look like an American!”   This opening has allowed me to share my family’s unique story and our country’s unique history with people all over the world. Our diverse backgrounds help produce Foreign Service leaders who value inclusion and who encourage creative solutions to the complex challenges we face every day.  I continue to believe that this diversity is one of our key Foreign Service strengths.

Question:  What has been your most memorable career moment to date, and why?

Ambassador Sison: Presenting my credentials as the new U.S. Ambassador to Haiti to President Jovenel Moise at the National Palace this past February represents coming full circle, as I began my career in 1982 as a young junior officer in Port au Prince.  Since that first tour, I’ve always remembered the warmth of the Haitian people, the country’s great natural beauty, and Haiti’s unique culture and proud history.  The country has gone through many changes, and so has our Embassy.  But I was so happy to reconnect with three Locally Engaged Staff colleagues I’d known in the 1980s who have continued to serve at Embassy Port au Prince  – Kettly Jean-Baptiste, Gabriel Georges, and Dominique Gerdes.   Knowing they are here as senior mentors in our Management, Regional Security, and Consular sections really does underscore the importance of the Department’s Locally Engaged Staff in the United States’ ability to conduct diplomacy abroad!

Question:   How have you seen the Foreign Service change since your career began?

Ambassador Sison: One major change has been the number of posts that are now unaccompanied due to dangerous conditions.  The challenges of unaccompanied or “limited accompanied” posts weigh heavily on employees as well as their families, and so many in the Foreign Service have served in more than one such assignment.  I experienced this first-hand, having served in Pakistan, Lebanon and Iraq, and having seen my daughters depart twice from post on ordered departures.  However, I think it’s important that the Department has been able to continue to staff all unaccompanied posts via volunteer assignments; this is a testament to the dedication and resiliency of our Foreign Service.  The other major change has been the number of women who are now in the Senior Foreign Service.  I joined State in 1982 in an incoming class of some 45 FSOs.  However, only six of us were women.  Since that time, we’ve seen the number of women entering the Foreign Service grow dramatically, as well as seen a growing number of women gain the valuable leadership and management experience needed to rise into the senior ranks and succeed.

Question: What one piece of advice would you give to Department employees on how to succeed in a foreign affairs career?

Ambassador Sison: My advice would be to remember the importance of openness, flexibility, curiosity, and connecting with people. It’s our life’s work to build the mutual understanding needed to cement partnerships that serve the interests of the American people. Those of us who choose a foreign affairs career commit to serving as a bridge between the United States and the rest of the world; genuine cross-cultural communication is a critical factor in our ability to promote our foreign policy successfully.

Question: Most incredible place you’ve travelled?

It’s hard to pick just one, so here’s a list keyed to each of my overseas postings:  Haiti’s Citadelle mountaintop fort; Togo’s Koutammakou Somba mud tower-houses; Benin’s royal palaces of Abomey; Cameroon’s Foumban royal palace; Cote d’Ivoire’s Grand Bassam; India’s Mahabalipuram  7th-century monuments; Pakistan’s Taxila Gandharan archaeological site ; UAE’s  Al Ain oases; Lebanon’s Baalbek temples dating from Roman times; Iraq’s Erbil Citadel; and Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura Buddhist temple complex are all forever embedded in my memory.   What an amazing opportunity the Foreign Service provides to serve our country and to represent the American people abroad -- as well as to see and appreciate the cultural heritage, natural beauty, and history of each of the countries to which we are posted!

Daniel Smith

Daniel B. Smith is serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

Ambassador Smith served most recently as Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic from 2010 to 2013. Prior to that assignment, he served as Executive Secretary of the State Department. He has held other senior positions in the Department, including Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs and Deputy Executive Secretary. In addition to Greece, his overseas service includes tours in Bern, Istanbul, Ottawa, and Stockholm. He also taught Political Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Ambassador Smith’s home state is Virginia.

Question: What initially attracted you to a career in the Foreign Service?

Ambassador Smith: I have always had a strong interest in international relations and foreign policy, but I confess that I did not know much about the Foreign Service before I joined.  In fact, I had met only one Foreign Service Officer and I took the Foreign Service Exam largely because some of my fellow graduate students recommended it.  Once I entered, however, I quickly developed a passion for the work and a deep respect for the commitment and professionalism of my colleagues.  I have also benefitted from some terrific role models throughout my career.

Question: What has been your most memorable career moment to date, and why?

Ambassador Smith: That is a tough question.   I have had a variety of experiences that I value highly, but one incident I often share with new Foreign Service Officers happened on my first tour when I was a Vice Consul.  An American citizen who had probably never been overseas before got into some serious trouble and I assisted his family who traveled from a small town in the Southwest to bring him home.  They were deeply grateful for my assistance in a very foreign environment for them and as I drove them back to the airport for their trip home the young man’s sister remarked to me that she “never knew my government would help people like me.”  That has stuck with me as a powerful reminder of why our work matters and the difference we can make not only on big policy issues, but also in the lives of our fellow citizens.

Question: How have you seen the Foreign Service change since your career began?

Ambassador Smith: By far the biggest change has been the expansion of what some term “expeditionary diplomacy” and the number of very dangerous posts where the Foreign Service is present.  We have always known that our work entails risk and that we are targets for various groups and even governments that wish to harm the United States.  We go to great lengths to keep our people safe, but the plaques in the C Street lobby and at many of our missions abroad are a constant reminder of the dangers we face and the sacrifices our colleagues and their families have made. 

Question: What one piece of advice would you give to Department employees on how to succeed in a foreign affairs career?

Ambassador Smith: Do your job.  Often people worry too much about their next assignment or whether this or that career move will help them advance.  My experience has been that you don’t always control what opportunities will come your way or where you are headed next, but you can control how well you do your job and the reputation you acquire as either someone who helps solve problems, or someone who creates them.

Question: Most incredible place you’ve travelled?

Travel is one of the great benefits of the Foreign Service, and I have visited many fascinating places.  I will highlight just one.  When I was in Sweden, my wife and I had the chance to travel north of the Arctic Circle to visit the Jokkmokk Winter Market in February.  It was a great introduction to Sami culture, but also a powerful lesson in the importance of wearing the right shoes.  I now own some very warm and dry winter boots that I acquired on another tour and I could care less that they don’t make a very compelling fashion statement.  

Editor’s Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.

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