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John Paul II was one of the most charismatic popes in recent history, a rock star who attracted millions during his frequent trips abroad and who was considered a beacon of hope for people in his native Poland. Born Karol Joseph Wojtyła on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice in southern Poland, he was elected pope in 1978, the first non-Italian pope in 500 years. He was critically wounded by a Turkish terrorist while in St. Peter’s Square in 1981; he later took the unprecedented step of meeting his would-be assassin in his prison cell.

He was fluent in eight languages and his pontificate, which lasted more than 26 years, was the third longest in history. He greatly expanded diplomatic relations with other states, from 85 countries in 1978 to 174 countries in 2005, including the U.S. The man who oversaw a record number of canonizations was himself canonized on April 27, 2014.

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“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”—First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton

At the United Nations’ 4th World Conference on Women, which was held from September 4-15, 1995, several countries united in support of women’s equal rights to life, education, and security across the world. The conference crusaded for female empowerment and women’s inclusion in national and international decision-making. Discussions on such controversial issues as contraception, reproductive rights, and equal inheritance allowed advocates to raise women’s rights to the forefront of international diplomacy. Once the conference had ended, however, nations, including the U.S., struggled to incorporate those precepts into foreign policy or to negotiate with those countries that violated conference principles.

In the following interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning May 2007, Peter David Eicher, who was serving in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), recalls his experience of the Beijing Conference, the unlikely alliances, the ways of finessing compromises, the hard work of implementing those commitments, and the tortuous road on reform in China.

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Walter Mondale, born in Ceylon, Minnesota on January 5, 1928, was the 42nd Vice President of the U.S. under Jimmy Carter, after having served 12 years as a senator from Minnesota. He later ran against Ronald Reagan as the Democratic Party candidate for President in 1984. After the loss, he spent a few years working for a Minnesota law firm (Dorsey & Whitney) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs until he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President Clinton in 1993.  He was in Tokyo for three years, after which he returned to the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney.  In an interview with ADST’s David Reuther in April 2004, Senator Mondale discusses his long career in the U.S. government:  his time in the Senate, his tenure as Vice President, including his dealings with South Africa, China, and the Iran Crisis, and his frustrations and insights from his years as Ambassador to Japan

 

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The San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed by 48 nations on September 8, 1951, officially ended Japan’s position as an imperial power, provided compensation to those who had suffered in Japan during the Second World War, and terminated the Allied post-war occupation of Japan. The treaty’s seven chapters and preamble marked the end of hostilities between the signatories and provided the foundation for the strong U.S.-Japan political alliance and important bilateral military relationship still in place today. The treaty required Japan to give up all special rights and privileges in China and accept the decisions of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). Japan relinquished claim to Korea, Formosa and other territories and gave the U.S. control of the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa).

The agreement also provided for the revival of commercial treaties, including granting the Allied powers most-favored-nation (MFN) status. Other chapters regulated property claims, reparations and compensation, referred unresolved disputes to the International Court of Justice and defined the ratification process. Seven months after the signing of the treaty, Japan formally regained its sovereignty.

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It was unusual for any Americans during the Cold War to travel in the Soviet Union but Russell Sveda did just that in 1969. After serving for two years as a Peace Corps (PC) volunteer in Korea, he decided to make his way home by taking the path less traveled and riding the Trans-Siberian railroad. He talks about meeting ethnic Koreans in Samarkand, his offer of marriage by a woman he didn’t even know, and an hours-long “interview” with a KGB agent posing as a journalist.  He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in 2000.

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In 1990, Nepal’s centuries-long history of monarchical rule and more recent autocratic substitutes were finally brought to an end in what may consider to be one of the most notable non-violent revolutions of the twentieth century. With the death of King Mahendra in 1972, the future of Nepal’s government was uncertain. His son, King Birendra, ascended to the throne and implemented amendments to the ancient panchayat system that allotted virtually unlimited power to the monarchy.

In her 1998 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy, Julia Chang Bloch, the first Asian-American to become an ambassador, recalls firsthand the last months of the Monarchy’s reign and the events that shaped Nepali democracy shortly afterward. Ambassador Bloch served at her post in Nepal from 1989 to 1992 and also became a leading organizer for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs in Nepal.  Her Deputy Chief of Mission, Albert Thibault, discussed Ambassador Bloch’s leadership during the upheaval during his 2005 interview with Kennedy.

 

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It is remarkable to think that there have been three female Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.  However, the Foreign Service was not always so accommodating to women. Times were quite different in the Mad Men era — including the assumption that women should resign from the Service once they got married — as these three women point out in excerpts from their oral histories.

Susan Klingaman entered the Service in 1966 and served in several posts, including Bonn. Elizabeth Ann Swift entered the Foreign Service in 1963 and served in Indonesia and Iran. Arma Jane Karaer would become Ambassador to Papua New Guinea in 1997. All three were interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy; Klingaman in 1998, Swift in 1992, and Karaer in 2004.

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The years leading up to the autumn of 1979 in Iran proved to be turbulent, resulting in a radical transformation of the nation. The U.S had backed the semi-absolutist monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, even when the increasing popularity of Islamic fundamentalism, Iranian Nationalism, and opposition to western influence exploded, culminating in protests against the Shah in 1977. The Shah used increasingly brutal tactics to suppress rebellion; his actions only further inflamed the revolutionary fervor of the populace.

Organized armed resistance began in 1977. The Shah fled the country on January 16, 1979, leaving a provisional government in power. Meanwhile, the fundamentalist leader Ruhollah Khomeini, who had lead opposition movements before his exile, returned and resumed leadership over the revolution. Khomeini rallied his forces and disposed of both residual royalist troops and the provisional government that ruled in the Shah’s name, thus formally establishing himself as Supreme Leader of the new Islamic Republic. Rival factions were subverted, and Revolutionary Guards roamed the country to ensure the preservation of the new order.

After the Shah left Iran, he became ill with cancer and was granted medical asylum in the United States in the October of 1979 with the reluctant approval of President Jimmy Carter. Many Iranians viewed the Shah as a war criminal and demanded that the U.S hand him over for trial. When the U.S government refused, a group of revolutionary student protestors rallied outside the U.S embassy in Tehran to demand justice.

On November 4, 1979, students scaled the walls of the embassy and broke into the compound. Fifty two U.S diplomatic personal were captured and held hostage for what would become 444 days. The Khomeini regime welcomed the new-found leverage against the U.S. and Khomeini deployed the Revolutionary Guards to round up any American personnel that may have escaped into the city.

Kathleen Stafford served as a visa clerk in the U.S consulate center within the U.S embassy in Tehran during the revolution. She, along with her husband Joseph Stafford, Robert Anders, Cora Amburn-Lijek, Mark Lijek and Lee Schatz, escaped the initial breech of the embassy. The escapees divided into two groups to avoid attention.

Stafford and her group evaded capture by moving from vacant house to vacant house before finding a more lasting refuge at the homes of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and Consul General John Sheardown, who welcomed them despite great personal risk.  The group would remain guests of the Canadian diplomats for almost three months until a CIA extraction operation lead by Tony Mendez, made famous by the movie Argo, allowed them to escape Iran on January 28, 1980 by posing as a film production team. The movie was criticized by Ambassador Taylor, who died in October 2015, and others as discounting the role the Canadians played. Kathleen Stafford was interviewed by Marilyn Greene in 2012.

 

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While America was evolving into a more gender-equal society at the end of the last century, conflicts could arise when female Foreign Service officers went abroad to lead diplomatic missions in countries whose foreign contacts were not used to seeing women in positions of authority. This sometimes led to uncomfortable situations. It was the perseverance, forbearance and common sense of these women in pushing past the stereotypes to get the job done that paved the way for a new generation of female FSOs.

Anne Cary was among them. A native Washingtonian, she joined the Foreign Service as an Economics Officer in June 1974. She served at the State Department in the Operations Center, the office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and other domestic assignments. Overseas, Anne was posted to Brussels, Port-au-Prince, Paris, Addis Ababa, New Delhi, and Casablanca.

Anne Cary overcame gender bias to have a fulfilling career as a Foreign Service Officer, becoming the first female Consul General of Casablanca (1992-1995) and balancing a series of demanding jobs in the State Department with life as a wife and mother.

Anne Cary was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in November 1995.

 

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Among the challenges of serving as a U.S. diplomat in the USSR during the Cold War years of 1945 to 1991 were the certain knowledge that one’s words and actions were being monitored and reported back to the host – and often hostile – government. Intelligence gathering was carried out by both sides to learn about the other’s intentions, technological advances and military capabilities.  Diplomats served under restrictions in terms of the people they could meet and the places they could go, and U.S. officers knew that wherever they went, agents from the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or Committee for State Security) would surely follow.

James E. Taylor and his wife Louise Pfender Taylor were U.S. diplomats stationed in the Soviet Union from 1974-1976. They experienced the KGB’s watchful eyes during their tenure, realized their apartment was bugged and were mistaken as being spies themselves by a grievously disappointed Russian contact.   Charles Stuart Kennedy interviewed James Taylor in December 1995 and Louise Taylor in January 2001.

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