Diplomat encourages possibilities in Foreign Service

Photo by Jeff Primozich

Photo by Jeff Primozich

Katie Paysinger

News editor


With a monumental election finally wrapped up and the inauguration of the first African-American president quickly approaching, the world is watching the United States to see what happens next.

U.S. Diplomat Eric Kneedler visited campus Nov. 10 to share with students what it is like working for the U.S. government and the possibilities of a career in the Foreign Service.

Kneedler has worked for the State Department for 10 years and was brought to campus by Assistant
Professor of Political Science Pat Cottrell. The two attended graduate school together at John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and served with the Foreign Service in Hong Kong. Kneedler visited Cottrell’s classes and spoke to students about foreign policy and life at the beck and call of the government.

“A lot of students seem really enthusiastic about the possibility of joining the Foreign Service,” Kneedler said. “The number one priority for the State Department is recruiting, and Linfield College has always been a
factory of excellence with a great reputation for potential diplomats.”

Cottrell thought bringing Kneedler to campus would be an excellent way for students to discover a career opportunity that is off the beaten path.

“I remember when I was in college wondering what careers were out there,” Cottrell said. “I personally feel that working in the Foreign Service is one of the most important jobs and the most exciting.”

Kneedler gave two talks in the Austin Reading Room of Nicholson Library Mon. Nov. 10. The first focused on the possibilities of pursuing a career in the Foreign Service and what it is like to be a diplomat abroad representing the United States.

“It is important to make the point that it is a dangerous job,” Kneedler said. “But for me, and I think for a number of people, the pros outweigh the cons.”

Senior Ryan Caple, a political science major, attended Kneedler’s talks to hear his perspective on foreign affairs. Caple served in the U.S. Coast Guard for four years and wanted to learn about the differences in
foreign policy views between the two.

“Most peoples’ perspective is that you just sit at an embassy, but really, it’s more than that,” Caple said. “[Working for the government] is a solid job and provides a unique opportunity that a lot of people forgo, especially in our generation.”

Kneedler is preparing to move to Thailand in the summer of 2009. His wife, who is also employed with the Foreign Service, and their two children will be moving with him. He has previously served in Hong Kong and on the island of Mauritius off the western coast of Africa, and he just recently returned from a post in Indonesia.

“I love that I work for the U.S. government,” Kneedler said. “Not everyone finds that to be the sexiest thing in the world, but it’s something I really relish in.”

Freshman Josie Stewart is contemplating becoming a political science and economics double major and was interested in hearing what Kneedler had to say about the two topics.

“I want to keep my options open because I’m only a freshman,” Stewart said. “This is definitely a possibility after college.”

The second talk Kneedler  gave centered on the post-election implications for U.S. foreign policy. If not for the economic crisis, Cottrell said he believes foreign policy would have been the focus of the presidential campaigns.

“There are a host of problems out there, and it will be a challenge for any president, including this one, to deal with,” he said, referring to President-elect Barack Obama.

Kneedler spoke on the image of the United States overseas, indicating it is not positive in a majority of the world. He said that the international support Obama received during this past election was phenomenal. 

A prominent issue in relation to Kneedler’s job as a U.S. diplomat is who will become the Secretary of State. The position is currently held by Condoleezza Rice. Kneedler said the feeling in Washington right now is that Sen. John Kerry will likely take the position. Other possible candidates include Charles Hale, Sen. Bill Richardson and Sen. Hilary Clinton. 

Kneedler strongly encouraged all those interested in pursuing a career in the Foreign Service to explore the  various internships offered by the State Department and consider taking the Foreign Service exam. Those looking for more information should contact Cottrell at pat@linfield.edu.

“It’s not a job where you are going to sit behind a desk all day,” Kneedler said. “Gone are the days of pin- stripes and cocktail parties in Paris. You are going to be out there exploring the world.”

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