Matthew Barzun

U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom

What Makes a Good Diplomat?

It’s a tough question to answer and a bit like trying to describe what makes a good artist.  It has also lent itself to some decent jokes over the years. For instance, it’s been said that a diplomat is someone who thinks twice before saying nothing.  Or that diplomats are people who can always make themselves misunderstood.  Then there is diplomacy itself, which has been described as the art of letting someone have it your way.

But, in seriousness, as the global community comes together to address stark flash points in international relations, we are reminded again of diplomacy’s critical role. We need to ensure our diplomats are as knowledgeable, professional and highly-skilled as possible, and there is much we can learn from our allies.  Yet, whereas the U.S. and British militaries have long trained side by side, our diplomatic corps have not.  It’s time to change that.

So as a start, Embassy London has teamed up with the UK’s new Diplomatic Academy.  At our first joint session, the UK’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sir Peter Westmacott, and I conducted a masterclass.  The subjects we covered were how to build a network and the power of asking for help – both essential tools for modern diplomacy.  We’re also now working together to develop a course on Internet governance.  And in October I look forward to attending the UK’s Ambassadorial seminar.

Our countries more often than not look at the world the same way.  We share values that we want to promote on the world stage.  So it makes sense that the U.S. and the UK pursue all means to make sure our diplomatic partnership is as strong and effective as possible – even, dare I say, “special”?

specialrelationshipambassadors:

During the war, American GIs invited me to their camp for a dance contest. I took the trophy off them and still have it.  I have been in seven dance competitions and won them all! I’ve been lucky all my life.
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specialrelationshipambassadors:

During the war, American GIs invited me to their camp for a dance contest. I took the trophy off them and still have it.  I have been in seven dance competitions and won them all! I’ve been lucky all my life.

Fourth of July Remarks

Good evening.
 
I want to give a hearty welcome to everyone joining us today—to my fellow Americans…
 
…to my fellow ambassadors and diplomats from around the world…
 
…and especially to my British friends.

I always assumed that this date … well, technically tomorrow’s date … must be somewhat…how do I put this diplomatically…. infamous on the British calendar.

I now understand, however, that the British are very happy to celebrate Fourth of July…
 
…only, they call it Thanksgiving Day.
 
Nonetheless, celebrating our independence in London has required a certain degree of …shall we say…tact through the years.
 
You might say there’s an elephant in the room.  Pretty big one, in fact.
 
But in the spirit of the day I’m feeling a little radical—dare I say even revolutionary—and I’m going to go against custom.
 
Against the advice of Basil Fawlty, I’ll say it: We fought each other.  In a war.  That’s kind of what today is about.
 
And not just the War of Independence 238 years ago—while we’re at it, let’s mention ALL the wars between America and Britain.

Because there wasn’t just one.
 
It’s easy to forget, but New Orleans — the inspiration for today’s event — is a city that our ancestors fought and died over.
 
In that same war, British soldiers burned down the White House.
 
There was fierce animosity between our nations 200 years ago.
 
And while we’ve more often stood shoulder-to-shoulder than toe-to-toe ever since, there have been plenty of times when we’ve not exactly seen eye-to-eye.
 
So why isn’t this party…well…really awkward?
 
Because — instead of diminishing our relationship, that history is exactly what makes it so special.
 
Our nations did something that we in the global diplomatic community strive for every day: We healed. We forgave. And we built a new and stronger partnership.
 
In fact, we did better than that. We built the greatest alliance the world has ever known.
 
So today as we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, we also — at this very special gathering in London — celebrate the great virtue of reconciliation – and the peace, prosperity and justice that it has brought the world for generations, and will continue to bring for generations to come.
 
Happy Fourth of July!