On Thursday, April 14, the University of Maine Alumni Association hosted a webinar with three UMaine alumni to discuss the topic of American diplomacy during turbulent times.
The webinar was mediated by Captain Jim Settele, who serves as the executive director of the School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA).
This discussion included a panel of three UMaine alumni, retired U.S. Ambassador Anne Hall ‘81, retired Admiral Gregory Johnson ‘68 and retired U.S Ambassador Pamela Murphy White ‘71.
The event was presented by the School of Policy and International Affairs and the UMaine Alumni Association and was free and open to the public via Zoom. The guest speakers all have expertise in world affairs and discussed the practice of diplomacy in maintaining U.S. relations and world peace.
“The world is changing and this is a pivotal moment where I think there is a time for a big adjustment of global policy Hall said. “This is a time of enormous opportunity for the United States if we can take advantage of it.”
Hall highlighted that as the United States witnesses the events taking place in Ukraine, this is a ideal time to re-evaluate the idea of diplomacy.
“What we’re seeing in Ukraine is not a surprise,” Hall said. “It’s not a surprise that Putin attacked but also the will of the Ukrainian military and people to fight the Russians and defend what they have gained is also not a surprise.”
Hall spent most of her career in Europe as the former U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania. There, she led a multi-agency team that focused on strengthening the Baltic states’ defense and security. Hall also graduated from UMaine with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs.
The former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti and the Republic of The Gambia, Pamela White, discussed how the United States is viewed by other nations and how we need to devote more money to development and personal relations with these nations.
She spent a lot of her career in Africa as a member of the Peace Corps and served as their deputy director in East Africa. Ambassador White highlighted that the people she met in Africa viewed America as a sanctuary of freedom and democracy.
“No one was greater at spreading the word of how great democracy was and how great the United States of America was,” White said. “Our inability to spread our message is critically important.”
White highlights that the United States should definitely support the efforts of Ukraine. However, she believes that the U.S has lost focus on a lot of important issues going on in the world.
White earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UMaine before later earning a master’s degree from the School of International Training. She believes there is a major issue in journalism where the American public is not being told just how much suffering is going on around the world.
“I think that it’s not a good thing for us to only focus on what’s happening in one part of the world and taking our eyes off the rest of the world,” White said.
The third member of the panel, Admiral Gregory Johnson, talked about what he believes is the role of diplomacy and that he is happy to see the efforts made by the U.S in support of Ukraine.
“I do think that we have now come together and have a coherent network for Ukraine, we are still a little slow but we are making progress,” Johnson said.
Johnson served 36 years in the U.S. Navy, holding various flying and staff positions. Johnson grew up in Westmanland, Maine, and is also a graduate of UMaine with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and is an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
“At the end of the day, diplomats are selling America,” Johnson said. “That’s what their job is and that’s what diplomacy is.”
Johnson highlights a critical point about diplomacy and that the better we do at diplomacy the more allies we have, which results in stronger economies, better salaries and the more America will flourish.
“The world is watching… I think we are tough but I think we still need to be tougher still with our support to Ukraine,” White said.
John Diamond, the president and CEO of the UMaine Alumni Association was also present for the webinar.
“It is a wonderful showcase of what our university alumni can do,” Diamond said.
The webinar can be found on Youtube and according to Diamond, there is going to be one more webinar from the UMaine Alumni Association this semester on May 5, 2022, with retired UMaine professor Kathy Olmstead.