Linda Thomas-Greenfield: “America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”

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Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has been nominated by President-elect, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, on Tuesday, delivered, perhaps, what was one of the strongest messages that echoed in many capitals around the world, a striking difference between the outgoing administration of Donald J. Trump, and the incoming Biden government.

“America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back,” she said in her acceptance speech in Wilmington, Delaware, after she was introduced by President-elect Biden.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden introduces his national security and foreign policy team
President-elect Joseph R. Biden introduces his national security and foreign policy team in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The incoming top American diplomat to the UN in New York was signaling to the international community that President Trump’s “America First” that came to be known as “America Alone” policy was over.

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Thomas-Greenfield echoed President-elect’s central argument that “politics is personal.”

“That’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground,” she said.

The veteran diplomat with more than 35 years of foreign relations experience explained what she described as “Gumbo diplomacy.”

“In my thirty-five years in the Foreign Service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. It’s called Gumbo diplomacy. Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to make a roux, chop onions for the holy trinity, and make homemade gumbo — my way to break down barriers, connect with people, and start to see each other on a human level: a bit of lagniappe as we say in Louisiana,” she said.

Read her full remarks below.

Mr. President-elect and Madame Vice President-elect, I am humbled and honored by the trust you’ve placed in me as a member of your Cabinet as Ambassador to the United Nations. 

In the years we’ve known each other, I’m always struck by how only in America would we be where we are today. Where life can be hard and cruel, but there is hope in the struggle, there is promise in our dreams. Where you learn to believe in yourself and that anything is possible. 

Like both of you, I learned that from my family. Mr. President-elect, thank you for those generous words about us. My parents had very little back in Louisiana, but they gave me and my siblings everything. I know how proud they would be of this day. 

On this day I’m also missing my mentor, Ambassador Ed Perkins, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton, and who was also from Louisiana. He told me constantly, “don’t undersell yourself” and would always lift me up. He passed away last week, but I know he’s here today.

And on this day, I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants serving around the world. America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.

Mr. President-elect, I’ve often heard you say how all politics is personal. That’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground.

In my thirty-five years in the Foreign Service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. It’s called Gumbo diplomacy. Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to make a roux, chop onions for the holy trinity, and make homemade gumbo — my way to break down barriers, connect with people, and start to see each other on a human level: a bit of lagniappe as we say in Louisiana. 

That’s the charge in front of us today. The challenges we face — a global pandemic, the global economy, the global climate crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice — are unrelenting and interconnected. But they’re not unsolvable if America is leading the way.
 

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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