Speaking to Josef Korbel School students about the successes and challenges of diplomacy, Ambassador Stuart Symington emphasized personal relationships as the cornerstone of conflict resolution in foreign diplomacy.
Currently serving as the foreign policy advisor to General Jacoby of NORAD/NORTHCOM, Symington looked back on “Diplomatic Lessons Learned” from his time as Ambassador to Rwanda (’08-’11) and Djubuti (’06-’08).
“The hardest truth in diplomacy is understanding that there are a lot of problems that cannot be solved, but many problems that have to be managed, and some problems that have to be compartmentalized,” said Symington.
Weaving in anecdotes and one-liners, Symington continued to return to the necessity of buy-in from the people of a country, fostering grassroots movements and encouraging systems where governments are dependent on their people, not the other way around.
“You can liberate a country, but no person can create another person’s democracy,” said Symington.
This sense of humility and relationship building was key for diplomatic success, he noted.
Giving advice to students entering the job market, Symington encouraged pursuing careers as “expeditionary entrepreneurs” who bring jobs to developing countries.
Symington stayed to talk individually with students and give personal advice for those hoping to pursue the Foreign Service.
- Sarah Crozier, MA Candidate, International Development
Josef Korbel School of International Studies