The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 64

A retired career Senior Foreign Service officer and retired U.S. Army
pioneer Special Operations officer, James T.L. Dandridge II is chair-
man of the board of directors of the Association for Diplomatic Stud-
ies and Training.
preconceptions and ambitions. He
always worked the person, not the
agency, office or organization. And,
above all, it was never “about me.”
A Born Diplomat
Born in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin
Islands, on March 13, 1926, Terence
Todman exhibited early signs of con-
cern for others, especially for the plight
of his Caribbean neighbors in Haiti. This
was the beginning of the development
of a desire to prepare himself to do
something for the region. He undertook
to learn to speak Spanish and com-
menced his university studies in Puerto
Rico. Recognizing this budding interest
in reaching out to help his fellow man,
his mother gave him one indelible piece
of counsel: “Don’t get involved in Virgin
Islands politics.” And by extension, he
carried that advice through life, recog-
nizing the need to be politically aware
while not becoming politically involved.
Amb. Todman was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945 and was
commissioned into the officer corps and assigned to General
Douglas McArthur’s U.S. military government staff in Tokyo. He
plunged into exercising his diplomatic skills in dealing with the
Japanese populace, teaching himself enough of the language to
be professionally conversant in his areas of responsibility. He
was already developing skills that would later serve him so well.
Amb. Todman quickly discovered that there was a gulf of mis-
understanding between Japanese and American citizens and, as a
result of acquiring proficiency in Japanese, his third language, he
was able to serve as a cultural bridge to help neutralize the miscon-
ceptions andmisinformation each society held about the other.
Many are aware of the role that Amb. Todman played in
desegregating the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute
in 1952 when he entered the Service. But few know that his Army
assignment to Tokyo had come as a result of his having “stirred
up problems” over the lack of access for minority officers to the
Ambassador Todman with President George H.W. Bush at a White House reception.
officers club and swimming pools at the U.S. Army Aberdeen
Proving Grounds in Maryland, where he was trained as an ord-
nance officer.
An Unequaled Career
In 1952 Amb. Todman embarked on a Foreign Service career
that is unequaled by most. His postings included India, Lebanon
(for Arabic language training), Tunisia and Togo (as deputy chief
of mission). Then he took up three consecutive ambassador-
ships, in Chad, Guinea and Costa Rica. After serving as assistant
secretary of Western Hemisphere affairs, he held three more
ambassadorships, to Spain, Denmark and Argentina. In addition
to Spanish and Japanese, Amb. Todman showed a proficiency for
difficult languages by learning Arabic and Hindustani.
If there were to be a Todman-100 course on how to excel in
diplomacy, one of the things it would highlight is his demonstra-
tion early on that there is no such thing as a “small post.” After a
stint as DCM, with extended time as chargé at an African post,
he was selected as chief of mission to what were perceived as
obscure posts in Africa. In each, he displayed outstanding skills
in focusing U.S. foreign policy on issues that had continental
Courtesy of James Dandridge II
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