Who is a diplomat?
There is a stereotype of the diplomat as a professional in a pin-striped suit, sitting with other diplomats in formal meeting rooms, negotiating peace, threatening war, or hammering out the terms of a treaty. While this is part of what diplomats do, since diplomacy is about managing international relations, it is only a small part of what diplomats do. The great majority of diplomatic activity involves personal contact with officials and citizens of a host country, getting to know them and their perspectives while presenting the policies, values, and culture of the United States.
Department of State diplomats have a clear mission -- to carry out the foreign policy of the President of the United States and to represent the political and economic interests of the United States around the world. Conducting foreign policy is a complex business. The peace, safety, and prosperity you enjoy are a direct result of the hard work of many skilled -- and mostly unknown -- professional diplomats.
Diplomats do discuss bilateral issues between the United States and host countries, seeking cooperation that foster greater trade opportunities and gain support in international negotiations. But the perception that diplomats only meet with government officials is false. Most of their work involves meeting with members and institutions of the business community, NGO, and civil society as well as the media, academe and the artistic world to create links through common ideals and actions. While official discussions may bring about a trade agreement, conversations with social and commercial organizations can lead to assistance and exchange programs to promote, for example, better health care and the rights of women and minorities, while developing a more vocal and vibrant press, stronger social action programs, and greater educational and artistic exchanges.
All of these individual and communal meetings and activities create the atmosphere of understanding and cooperation that is the aim of all diplomacy.