The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 65

Based on insights honed dur-
ing earlier assignments with various
United Nations Trustees Committees,
he was able to steer the formulation of
U.S. foreign policy toward actively pro-
moting the democratization of newly
independent countries, rather than
simply following the Western colonial
powers or acceding to the influences of
Cold War antagonists on the continent.
He proved that size does not matter
in diplomacy; proactive leadership in
policy articulation is what counts.
Amb. Todman considered himself
a professional who served at the will
of the president, regardless of political
party affiliation. He developed strong
professional and personal relations
with both Republican and Democratic
administrations and faithfully sup-
ported the policy objectives of each.
In this regard, he took his mother’s
counsel beyond the confines of the
U.S. Virgin Islands. In fact, he never
short-circuited the system by claim-
ing residence in a mainland state for
federal voting privileges.
The Duty to Give Counsel
On more than one occasion, Amb.
Todman strongly presented advice
to the department, even when it ran
counter to Washington thinking. He
took the position that as a career dip-
lomat, he had the duty to offer the best
counsel in the furtherance of the execution of U.S. foreign policy.
On one occasion, while working on certain issues as COM
in Madrid, Amb. Todman encouraged Secretary of State George
Shultz to visit Spain. Todman flew to Paris to meet the Secretary
prior to the visit and, on reading the Secretary’s briefing book,
was astonished to find that Washington had turned his recom-
mendations on their head.
As Amb. Todman tells the story in his oral history: “So when
he got on the plane the next day, I said, ‘Mr. Secretary, they have
set you up for disaster. If you follow what this book says, things
will go very bad for your visit and for our relations.’
“‘Then what should I say?’ Shultz
“‘Go back to what I wrote,’ I said.
And we went over again what I had
“‘Well, okay, [if] you insist on this,
I will do it,’ Shultz replied. ‘But, if it
doesn’t work, it is your neck.’
“‘Of course,’ I said. ‘If I give you bad
advice then I shouldn’t be here.’
“The people back in Washington
who felt they knew all about it had just
turned things around. Fortunately,
Shultz followed [my] advice, and things
went very well. At the end of it, Secre-
tary Shultz said it was one of the best
trips he’d taken.”
Amb. Todman also recognized the
essential role of the Foreign Service
family. On one occasion, he took his
younger son with him to a civic orga-
nization where he was scheduled to
speak. Explaining all of the parameters
of the event on the way to the program,
he sought his son’s advice and feedback
on the planned presentation. When
introduced to speak, Amb. Todman
announced that his son had contrib-
uted to the preparation of his presenta-
tion; and, to his son’s utter surprise, he
introduced the young man to make the
presentation in his stead.
As his sons eulogized Amb. Todman
at his funeral in St. Thomas on Aug.
23, they eloquently summed up their
father’s life mission by reading lyrics from the last verse of “The
Unreachable Star” in Joe Darion’s musical,
Man of la Mancha
. In
this song, Don Quixote explains his quest and the reason behind
And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
When I’m laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.
Ambassador and Mrs. Todman arriving for the
ambassador’s 85th birthday gala on March 11,
2011, at the Frenchmen Reef Marriott Resort
Hotel in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Terence Todman and Henry Kissinger in
Courtesy of James Dandridge II
Courtesy of James Dandridge II
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