In Diversity There is Strength

One of the many things that sets U.S. diplomacy apart is its diversity. There’s no doubt about it, we are the most diverse diplomatic corps in the world. To become a diplomat, an Ambassador, or even Secretary of State, you don’t need to study at a certain school or come from a particular background. Many people who represent America abroad are former lawyers, doctors, journalists, business executives, teachers, or come from a range of other professions. Some, like me, were born outside of the United States. This diversity of backgrounds and experiences makes us stronger and better equipped to respond to 21st century challenges.

Listen to Ambassador Daniel W. Yohannes discuss his life and work in Meet the Ambassador, an original podcast series by the U.S. Department of State. 

Take my story, for example. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At age 17, I immigrated to the United States with nothing but $150 in my pocket. Yet, I was driven by the idea that in America, anyone could succeed with hard work and perseverance. They were right. I put myself through school working as a stock clerk and rent collector, and eventually landed scholarships to Claremont McKenna and Pepperdine University for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.  

After my studies, I spent 30 years working in banking and finance but never forgot how lucky I was to live in a country where people have the opportunity to excel. So, when I was called on to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2009 and then United States Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2013, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to give back to the country that gave me so much.

Daniel Yohannes, then CEO of MCC, visits with students in Ghana. [State Department Photo]

I was almost surprised by how well my background prepared me for these roles. My childhood in Ethiopia convinced me that we need to help countries become self-sufficient by transitioning from aid to private investment. It made me a passionate advocate of MCC’s approach to development, which focuses on empowering partner countries and rewarding good governance.

My experience in the private sector helped me understand how our economic diplomacy benefits U.S. business. The countries we work with at MCC are our future trading partners. The policies we promote through the OECD help level the playing field for U.S. companies when they do business abroad. So, as Ambassador, I have worked to engage the private sector and ensure we are doing everything we can to advance their interests.

Ambassador Yohannes (far right) poses for a photo with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, President Barack Obama, and Gabriela Ramos, Chief of staff and G20 Sherpa of the OECD at the OECD Headquarters in Paris, France. December 1, 2015. [© OECD/Julien Daniel]


In diplomacy as in every other area, America’s greatest resource is its difference. Maya Angelou put it best when she said, “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” 

About the Author: Daniel W. Yohannes serves as U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

Daniel Yohannes, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United States to the OECD. OECD, Paris, France. May 2, 2014 [© OECD/MIchael Dean]
June 29, 2016


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