The first line of defense

Former U.S. ambassador discusses the role of diplomacy with Ferris crowd

The president of the American Academy of Diplomacy and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann shared his insight on foreign policy and the place of diplomacy in modern culture. Photo by: Aubrey Kemme | Multimedia Editor

The president of the American Academy of Diplomacy and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann spoke to Ferris audience members Tuesday, March 14.

Ferris’ Office of International Education collaborated with the World Affairs Council of West Michigan to bring Neumann and his wife Elaine to campus. The presentation, “Looking Ahead in American Foreign Policy,” was part of the university’s effort to expand global engagement and encourage discussion with students.

“I really think foreign policy should be taught more in classes because it can help connect us to issues abroad,” said Ferris social work junior Alyssa Gardner.

After an introduction by Ferris State University President David Eisler, a short film detailing the history of America’s diplomats was screened for the room packed with students, faculty and local residents.

“We are the foreign-service, the diplomats, the first line of defense in much of the world. We are the people on the ground in 270 countries,” Neumann said. “If you get into trouble overseas, we are the people who will be first to help you if we can.”

With his years of service spanning three wars, Neumann formerly worked as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. He served three times as an ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain and Afghanistan.

Neumann focused on explaining what a diplomat’s job entails and the impacts on foreign policy throughout the years. He referenced several of his experiences serving abroad during times of crisis and how American servicepeople assisted other countries.

“I was initially expecting the presentation to be a bit more about the Middle East and specifically the issues there, but the fact that it ended up being more about diplomacy and the development of it is something that I didn’t expect to learn,” said Ferris chemistry sophomore Abby Demaet. “I think a huge issue right now and something I see on campus, is this division, especially with this new administration in the White House. I think diplomacy and hard-working American ideals are things this generation needs desperately right now.”

Near the end of his presentation, Neumann answered questions from the crowd and offered advice to those looking ahead.

“Personally, I think take a deep breath and be a little patient. For a lot of people this is the first transition to a radically different administration they’ve known and it’s very traumatic, including inside the state department,” Neumann said. “This is the ninth transition I have seen.”

To learn more about foreign policy and get involved, log onto the World Affairs Council of West Michigan webpage for more information.