Better Know Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s Pick for United Nations Ambassador Who Will Bring “Gumbo Diplomacy” to the UN

Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is a veteran diplomat who most recently served as Assistant-Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Obama administration. Prior to that she served as the US Ambassador to Liberia during a critical time in that country’s transition to democracy.

Her experience in African affairs will serve her well at the United Nations. The majority of the work of the Security Council pertains to peace and security issues in Africa and many recent American ambassadors have had deep experience in conflict management issues in Africa, including Susan Rice (also a former Assistant Secretary of Secretary of State for African Affairs) and Samantha Power.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield left the State Department in 2017, amid a wider purge by the Trump administration of senior career diplomats. Not long after, she sat down with me for a long interview about her life and career.  We cover a lot of ground in this interview, which alternates between a discussion about policy and her own fascinating life story.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is African American, was born in a small segregated town in Louisiana, the oldest of eight children. Her father was a day laborer, and not literate. Her mother was a cook. She graduated from a segregated high school and was one of the few African American women to be accepted into Louisiana State University in the 1970s, which was a deeply racist institution at the time. (The notorious KKK leader David Duke was a fixture on campus at the time, she explains).

After LSU,  Linda Thomas-Greenfield went to graduate school in Wisconsin before joining the Foreign Service in the early 1980s. She served in several posts throughout Africa and in senior positions in the State Department before becoming Ambassador to Liberia in 2008.

At the start of the interview, Linda Thomas-Greenfield tells me that her second career choice is to be a famous Louisiana chef. To that end, she explains to me her theory and practice of Gumbo Diplomacy — which she is sure to bring to the United Nations.

If you want to learn the fascinating life story of the next US Ambassador to the United Nations, have a listen.

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