Linda Thomas-Greenfield Steps Up as UN Ambassador: “The Challenges We Face Are Not Unresolvable if America Is Leading the Way”

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Just before Thanksgiving, President-Elect Joe Biden introduced six national security appointees who will serve key roles in his administration.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominated U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, took the stage alongside Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris to accept her nomination. She also voiced her perceived responsibilities in serving the U.S. government, come Jan. 20, 2021. If confirmed, Thomas-Greenfield will become only the second Black woman to be ambassador to the United Nations.

In her speech, she called for civility and empathy under the new administration:

“On this day, I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world. I want to say to you, ‘America is back, multi-lateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.’ Mr. President-Elect, I’ve often heard you say how all politics is personal, and that’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground. And in my 35 years in the foreign service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. I called that gumbo diplomacy.

Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux and chop onions for the Holy Trinity and make homemade gumbo. It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level. A bit of lagniappe is what we say in Louisiana. That’s the charge in front of us today. The challenges we face, a global pandemic, a global economy, a global climate change crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice are unrelenting and interconnected, but they’re not unresolvable if America is leading the way.”

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Thomas-Greenfield retired in 2017 after 35 years with the U.S. Foreign Service. Her most recent positions include assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, director general of the Foreign Service and director of Human Resources. She has been stationed as an ambassador in several countries including Pakistan, Nigeria and Jamaica.

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However, after three years working under former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, leading the Africa Practice at Albright Stonebridge Group, Thomas-Greenfield is returning to public service within the federal government. 

Harris, who will join with the Cabinet as key figures of the executive branch, concluded her public nomination by affirming one of the transition team’s central goals: “making sure we selected a Cabinet that looks like America, that reflects the best of our nation. And that’s what we have done.”

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Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.