An Invitation to a Global Community Partnership
July 20, 2010
When Harry K. Thomas, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, spoke to the Class of 2010, he challenged Loyola’s newest alumni to think beyond themselves and their own communities. Here is an excerpt from his remarks.
I took the Foreign Service exam and entered the State Department in 1984. I had never been out of the continental United States. I spoke no foreign languages. My peers had traveled extensively, had long wanted to be diplomats, and it seemed had their careers planned out. All I knew was that I had to keep my job so I vowed to outwork them all.
My wife, Ericka, and I first went to Peru, saw the wonders of Machu Picchu, but came face to face with terrorism under the Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path. There is no excuse for terrorism, but in Peru I learned something that has never left me. Poor governance must be checked and corruption eliminated or governments risk having their people channel their anger in heinous ways.
We lived in Zimbabwe when it was still a paradise. It was one of the front-line states intent on ending apartheid in South Africa. I will never forget the outpouring of pure joy when Mandela was released from jail or his first visit to Zimbabwe when he had everyone near tears as the great man tossed away his prepared notes and spoke of never truly believing that an African black man and woman could truly live together or raise a family in love and harmony until he traveled to Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Tanzania as a free man. I was doubly proud to meet him and look at the amazement in his eyes when he learned that I was an American diplomat.
I was working at the White House on Sept. 11 and perhaps it is an accident that I am still alive. That was a challenging year for me and the nation.
I escorted murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s widow, Marianne Pearl, when she came to the White House. I recall her grace and ability to forgive and move on, something I doubt that I could have done.