Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas to speak on diplomacy, civility, diversity Sept. 26 at Newhouse

September 17, 2018

Retired U.S. Ambassador Harriet Lee Elam-Thomas will speak at the Newhouse School Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m. in the I3 Center, 432 Newhouse 3.  

Elam-Thomas will share personal and professional reflections drawn from a lifetime of experience as a diplomat, public diplomacy expert and a communicator.

Photo of Harriet Lee Elam-Thomas

The event is co-sponsored by the public relations/international relations graduate program, a joint program offered by the Newhouse School and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; the public relations department (Newhouse); and the international relations program (Maxwell). 

Elam-Thomas comes to Syracuse as part of her conversation series entitled “Civility Strategies: Healing Approaches That Unite People and Strengthen Democracy.” The series focuses on uniting across lines of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and political affiliation.  She feels now, more than ever, that Americans must become self-appointed ambassadors to reinforce civility and decency in society. “In my 42 years of U.S. diplomatic service, I find the commonality among us is the respect and compassion for all humanity. We must forge new relationships with those that are different from us,” she says. “This is how we sustain the American melting pot.”

Elam-Thomas’ remarkable life journey is documented in the recently published memoir, “Diversifying Diplomacy: My Journey From Roxbury to Dakar.” She offers an insider’s look at her service to the nation, including perspectives on overcoming anti-American sentiment abroad and forging productive, mutually beneficial diplomatic relationships. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Elam-Thomas is director of the diplomacy program at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. She previously served as diplomat-in-residence at UCF.  During a distinguished 42-year career with the U.S. Information Agency and the U.S. Department of State, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal (1999–2002); acting deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency; public affairs counselor at the American Embassy in Brussels, Belgium; cultural attaché at the American Embassy in Athens; and director of the American Press and Cultural Center in Istanbul.  

She has received numerous awards, including the Director General’s Cup for the Foreign Service (the most prestigious honor for former foreign service officers), the U.S. Government’s Superior Honor Award and a Meritorious Honor Award for her work in connection with the first Persian Gulf War. She holds a B.S. in international business from Simmons College and an M.A. in public diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, as well as four honorary doctorates.

For more information, contact Betsy Feeley at or 315-443-7401.