By Tara Sonenshine
I was proud to be an American last night and honored to say a few words about Ambassador Thomas Pickering on the occasion of his delivering the Third Annual Walter Roberts Lecture at GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs which houses the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication.
It was Ambassador Pickering’s birthday and he was in fine form as he answered tough questions from Frank Sesno director of the School of Media and Public Affairs. With a diplomatic career spanning more than four decades, Tom Pickering is the quintessential American diplomat–the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, and beyond. In 2000, he retired from the State Department as the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and co-chaired the panel which investigated the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Ambassador Pickering minced no words in describing the serious “blow” that Benghazi was and the seriousness with which the Accountability Review Board approached issues of embassy security. He also decried the politicization of the tragedy and the lack of accurate, factual reporting that has accompanied the entire story.
What I found most surprising about the interview with Ambassador Pickering was how positive he is about the prospects for a deal with Iran. Pickering believes that Rouhani, the new president of Iran, is serious about the outreach to Washington and has the green light from the Supreme Leader to make a deal.
Let’s hope he’s right.
Editor’s note: Catch up on the Twitter conversation from the lecture at #PickeringPD!
Tara Sonenshine is a fellow at the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. In February, she delivered the second annual Walter Roberts Lecture on cultural diplomacy. Previously, she served as the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy following a distinguished career in government, non-profit organizations, and the media.