A crowd gathered in the Gallery Theatre on Jan. 23, for the return of alumnus William Wood ’73 to campus for his lecture on diplomacy and its relevance in the world today. Wood is a former U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (2003-07) and Afghanistan (2007-09) and is the recipient of the Distinguished Service award, which is the highest award offered by the Department of State.
Wood used many of his own experiences abroad to stress the points he made.
Wood began by defining diplomacy, saying that it is “a privileged, confidential channel between two sovereigns through an ambassador.” Diplomacy is different than military or covert actions, Wood stressed, because unlike using force or stealing in order to gain the outcome they desire, diplomats convince the other side to agree with them.
Wood discussed the current problems with diplomacy in America, with one of the biggest being that Washington D.C. believes they can do the jobs of diplomats for themselves, which actually weakens diplomacy. This has caused a change in the role of diplomats who now act more as branch managers, as Wood put it, and simply report back to Washington. According to Wood, making diplomatic decisions from Washington D.C. instead of at the source weakens the entire State Department, which is why diplomats continue to be crucial to foreign relations.
The lecture was “a very interesting and informative talk on diplomacy and foreign relations,” Dr. Tony Massoud, associate professor of political science said. “Ambassador Wood provided many useful insights about how diplomacy is conducted and effectively used examples and stories from his own experience as ambassador to Colombia and Afghanistan to show the challenges a diplomat faces in the real world. It was wonderful to hear this perspective from a practitioner in the field,” Massoud said.
“One thing I think we can take away is that people in the State Department want to do good, and I think we should let them,” Andrew Schlicht ’20 said.