THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
THE USEFULNESS OF
Cecile Shea, AFSA’s 2003 post representative of the year, is the State Department Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Her
previous postings include Canada, Thailand, Israel, Scotland, Pacific Command and Japan. The views presented in this article are
her own and not necessarily those of the State Department or U.S. government.
Richard C. Longworth reported from more than 80 countries during his career. After retiring from journalism in 2013, he became a
distinguished fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where he has focused on globalization’s effects on the Midwest and on
the role of global cities in the 21st century. Longworth’s books include
Caught in the Middle: America’s
Heartland in the Age of Globalism
(2009). Cecile Shea interviewed Mr. Longworth in Chicago on Aug. 21.
foreign correspondent Richard C. Longworth
discusses his 1977 “Primer for Diplomats,” a concise and still timely survey
of the duties of diplomats and the importance of diplomacy.
BY CEC I L E SHEA
from January 1977 through September 1979,
Reverend Andrew Young—a former executive
director of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, a former member of Congress and
a hero of the Civil Rights Movement—served as
the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Young, who had spent his life speaking
bluntly and, as a member of Congress, independently, was
ill-suited to the life of a circumspect administration official.
He garnered attention overseas and caused heartburn in
Washington with blunt, not-always-aligned-with-U.S.-policy
statements. He described Zimbabwe’s 1979 election as
“neofascist” and referred to the government of South Africa as
“illegitimate,” a sentiment no doubt shared by many Americans
but not accurate as a matter of U.S. foreign policy. His musings
that Cuban troops in Angola could be viewed as a force for
stability angered many in the United States.
Six months into Young’s tenure as ambassador, and in
response to the civil rights icon’s apparent difficulties adapting
to his new job,
foreign correspondent Richard
C. Longworth wrote his“Primer for Diplomats.”
the July 10, 1977,
, Longworth’s remarkably timeless
piece was both an explanation of why diplomacy mattered
and a concise survey of the duties and responsibilities of an
Intrigued both by Longworth’s forceful opinions on what
makes a good ambassador and his obvious familiarity with
how embassies operate, I sat down this past summer with the
two-time Pulitzer finalist to ask what inspired him to write the
primer almost 40 years ago.
A theme of your piece seems to be that even
extremely accomplished individuals may not be cut out for diplo-
Richard C. Longworth:
Not everyone is cut out to be an
ambassador, any more than good businessmen make good poli-
ticians or good journalists make good managers. Some do, most