Social Media Objects

Document of Martin Van Buren's Secretary of State Commission
Signed by President Jackson, and Hamilton’s son
Signed by President Jackson, and Hamilton’s son 1024 765

Martin Van Buren served as the 10th U.S. Secretary of State and the 8th President of the United States. He entered politics in 1813 and served as a New York state senator, a U.S. Senator, and later as New York governor. He resigned to join President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of State, serving from 1829 until 1831. Following his tenure as Secretary, Van Buren was elected Vice President under Jackson (1833-1837) and then was elected President, serving until 1841.

His accomplishments as Secretary of State include a settlement with Great Britain to allow trade with the British West Indies, a settlement with France gaining reparations for property seized during the Napoleonic Wars, as well as a commercial treaty with the Ottoman Empire that granted U.S. traders access to the Black Sea.

Van Buren’s Secretary of State commission is one of the oldest items in the Diplomacy Center collections. James Alexander Hamilton, the third son of founding father Alexander Hamilton, was acting Secretary of State at the time and signed this commission. Even today, the acting Secretary of State signs the incoming Secretary’s commission.

Historically, several people have sought the presidency either before or after serving as Secretary of State. Martin Van Buren was one of six Secretaries of State to later successfully win the presidency. This includes: Thomas Jefferson; James Madison; James Monroe; John Quincy Adams; Martin Van Buren; and James Buchanan.

United States flag and pole
A Symbol and an Inspiration
A Symbol and an Inspiration 640 386

This flag graced the office of Colonel Ron Roughead, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Kenya, at U.S. Embassy Nairobi. On August 7, 1998, in coordinated attacks by al Qaeda terrorists, U.S. Embassies Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were devastated by car bombs. Embassy Nairobi and the surrounding neighborhood suffered extensive damage and loss of life.

After the attack, the Embassy Nairobi Marine Security Guards made an initial sweep of the embassy building searching for survivors and recovering victims. The Marines found this flag in Colonel Roughead’s office along with a roll of masking tape. Knowing that the flag on the pole outside the entrance to the Embassy had been blown off by the blast, they taped this flag to the exterior window frame. During the initial days after the attack, it was a symbol that the U.S. embassy and the personnel were still standing proudly even though they had been hit very hard.

Colonel Roughead kept the flag exactly as it was when it was taken down, including the masking tape. He displayed the flag outside his home on every anniversary of the bombing, as well as every Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and 4th of July. In donating this flag to the Diplomacy Center, he expressed his hope that it gives inspiration to our nation’s diplomats and military serving on the front lines.

Ambassador Dubs in Afghanistan holding flag
“I would rather sacrifice my life…”
“I would rather sacrifice my life…” 1024 750
Letter from Ambassador Adolph Dubs to his daughter Lindsay March 3, 1973. This letter was donated to the Diplomacy Center from Letter from Lindsay in 2018.

Letter from Ambassador Adolph Dubs to his daughter Lindsay March 3, 1973. This letter was donated to the Diplomacy Center collection from Lindsay in 2018.

Adolph “Spike” Dubs was a career Foreign Service Officer and noted Soviet expert. In 1973-74 he served as charge d’affaires at Embassy Moscow, and in 1978, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.

On February 14, 1979, Ambassador Dubs and his driver were stopped in their car by armed militants posing as police. They overpowered both of them and forced the driver to take them to the downtown Kabul Hotel. There they held Ambassador Dubs at gunpoint and demanded the release of a political prisoner. Despite pleas from U.S. officials to keep the situation as calm as possible while they tried to negotiate the ambassador’s release, Afghan and accompanying Soviet officials hastily mounted a heavily armed rescue attempt. Ambassador Dubs was assassinated during the attempted rescue. The exact identity and motive of these kidnappers still remains a mystery.

Ambassador Dubs was a prolific letter writer during his diplomatic career. He kept in close contact with his daughter Lindsay who was in her 20s during this time. He opened his correspondence with “My Dearest Lindsay,” and relayed details of his official duties, conversations, and trips to local sites. He also dispensed fatherly advice, concern, and encouragement – all communicating how much he loved and missed her.

Six years prior to Dubs’ assassination, U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel was kidnapped and assassinated by a terrorist group. Ambassador Dubs wrote to Lindsay on March 3, 1973, and included his thoughts about this tragedy. His words sadly predicted the same situation in which he would find himself in Kabul. He wrote:

…we cannot afford to give in to the ransom demands made by thugs who direct such organizations as the Black September Group. I personally don’t like to think of being any kind of a martyr; but if I were ever taken in a situation such as that which occurred in Khartoum, I would want Washington to understand that I would rather sacrifice my life than to have someone capitulate to the demands of terrorists.

The next time a U.S. ambassador was killed at post was in 2012, with the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya. Read the full letter in high resolution or learn about contributing to the collection.

Sports Diplomacy
Sports Diplomacy 150 150

What do sports have to do with diplomacy?

People are at the heart of diplomacy. The U.S. Department of State engages youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders around the world and the United States through many types of exchange programs, striving to reflect the diversity of the U.S. and the global society. Sports exchanges have long proven to be a popular venue to bring people of all backgrounds together, oftentimes paving the way for further discussion and collaboration.

Ping pong diplomacy:

Zhuang Zedong, the Chinese ping pong player whose chance interaction with an American player helped lead to the “ping pong diplomacy” of the 1970s, presented this inscribed paddle to former Secretary Kissinger in 2007.

Baseball base:

This base was in play during innings 4 through 6 of the March 22, 2016, exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoame, Havana, Cuba. U.S. President Barack Obama and his family and Cuban President Raoul Castro attended the game. The game occurred during Obama’s historic visit to Cuba after the two countries re-established official diplomatic relations in 2015.

Gift Exchange
Gift Exchange 150 150

What type of gifts do Secretaries of State receive?

Secretaries of State receive wide variety gifts from many foreign officials and private citizens around the world. Gift giving is an age-old diplomatic tradition and is a common ceremonial aspect of diplomatic visits. Oftentimes, the gift reflects the tastes and personality of the giver. The gift may also reflect the culture and natural resources of the giver’s country of origin. There are laws setting limits on the gifts that government officials are allowed to personally keep. The Diplomacy Center has a selection of gifts to Secretaries of State in its collection. A few examples include:

 

Personalized tea set:

In the late 1990s, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright played a key role in managing the U.S. response, through NATO, to the hostilities that broke out in the Kosovo/Serbia region.  One of the tools she utilized was what she called “conference call diplomacy” where she participated in a daily conference call with her foreign minister counterparts to share information and plan strategy during this war.  The core participants were Foreign Ministers Robin Cook (UK), Hubert Vedrine (France), Joschka Fischer (Germany), and Lamberto Dini (Italy).  Additionally, regular communications included Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov (Russia) and Lloyd Axworthy (Canada).  Their constant communication not only resulted in a strong NATO response to the tragedy unfolding in the region, but also a strong friendship based on trust and a common understanding of the partnership.

 

These foreign ministers gathered at a dinner in Paris in January 2001 to honor Secretary Albright as she finished her tenure as Secretary of State.  Igor Ivanov presented Secretary Albright with a spectacular blue and white Russian porcelain tea set.  The 7 cups in the set feature the images of the faces of Secretary Albright and these six foreign minister counterparts [Igor Ivanov (Russia), Robin Cook (UK), Hubert Vedrine (France), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), and Lamberto Dini (Italy)].  The set’s round tray is inscribed “Madeleine and Her Dream Team” in gold lettering.

 

Vodka bottle:

This bottle of vodka in the shape of an AK-47 assault rifle was a lighthearted gift from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Secretary Colin Powell on the occasion of his 65th birthday in 2002. Also known as a Kalashnikov rifle, it was originally designed in the 1940’s for the Soviet military. Colin Powell has recounted on a few occasions, with some humor, that he was dismayed when Protocol officials deemed this gift to be “over value” and he was not allowed to consume its contents.

 

Qadhafi gifts:

This locket and diamond ring were gifts to Secretary Condoleezza Rice from Muammar Qadhafi in 2008. She was the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Libya in over 50 years and was the most senior U.S. official to ever meet with Colonel Qadhafi. The locket has Qadhafi’s image engraved on the inside. It was well known that he had a “crush” on Secretary Rice. He lavished her with praise during her visit. About the historic visit, Secretary Rice said: “This demonstrates that the United States does not have permanent enemies. It demonstrates that if countries are prepared to make strategic changes in direction, the United States is prepared to respond.”

Global Issues
Global Issues 150 150

What do a fire helmet, a missile launcher, and a Carnival costume have to do with diplomacy?

Each of these items represents a global issue that shapes the practice of diplomacy today. U.S. diplomats serve our nation by securing peace, increasing prosperity, promoting democracy, and sustaining development efforts worldwide, benefiting Americans at home. In practice, their efforts take many forms, involve many people, and can be surprising.

This yellow fire helmet represents an important life-saving partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). LACoFD’s Urban Search and Rescue Team serves with distinction as one of two departments in the U.S. trained and authorized to deploy with USAID disaster response teams to international crises. Notably, they assist with the search and rescue of survivors after powerful earthquakes, such as in Nepal in 2015 and Mexico in 2017. The team also provides training and equipment for local first responders. By providing emergency life-saving assistance, the United States helps these nations back to a path to recovery and stability.

This inert SA7 model of a Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) is an example of a type of conventional weapon removed under programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. These programs support foreign governments’ efforts to remove, secure, and/or destroy these weapons that threaten the health and security of their citizens. These efforts counter the illicit proliferation and use of MANPADS. In the hands of terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors, MANPADS pose a serious threat to commercial and military aircraft around the world.

In 2017, U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, invited dancer and Paralympian Amy Purdy to represent the U.S. as a cultural envoy during the annual Carnival celebrations. Amy is a double amputee who danced in the opening of the Paralympics, won a snowboarding bronze in 2014, was a runner up in Dancing with the Stars, and is a well-respected motivational speaker. She participated in the U.S. Consulate General Rio’s partnership with the samba school Unidos da Tijuca. Amy promoted the shared U.S.-Brazilian musical heritage and messages focused on disability rights and women’s empowerment. Amy’s rhinestone studded costume was the first-ever designed for a double-amputee athlete/dancer during Carnival.

The Department of State sends American arts professionals, known as cultural envoys, around the world to U.S. embassies and consulates to perform or run workshops in their areas of expertise — including dance, drama, visual art, poetry, literature, film, and more.

#AskACurator
#AskACurator 150 150

Ever wonder what kind objects we use to tell the story of American diplomacy at the U.S. Diplomacy Center?

Don’t wonder, ask our curator! For the first time in our museum’s history, we’ll be answering your questions about our collection. Between 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM EDT on September 12, 2018, tweet us questions about the only museum collection dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy. Our Directory Mary Kane, Associate Curator Kathryn Speckart, and Public Historian Dr. Alison Mann will be on hand to answer your questions. Initiated on Twitter in 2010, Ask a Curator Day is a worldwide Q&A that now has over 1,500 participating museums from 58 countries, is taking place. Tweet us at @DiplomacyCenter and use the #AskaCurator to participate! Or dive in right away!

A Passport Without A Photo
A Passport Without A Photo 150 150

Before affixed photographs were required in 1914, applicants swore “solemnly and sincerely” to be U.S. citizens and identified themselves by facial features, hair, eye, and complexion color. This is one of the oldest passports in our collection from 1859-belonging to Samuel Waller (1824-1864). A New York City dry goods importer, Waller traveled frequently to Europe to buy fine clothing for resale. While passports for international travel were not required until 1941, U.S. travelers often did so to prove their American citizenship for protection during foreign wars; in Waller’s case, the Franco-Austrian War. His economic forays served him well, for at the time of his death at the age of 40, his estate was valued at $166,000 (2.5 million today)! Waller identified himself as having a “straight” mouth, “round” chin, and “florid” (ruddy) complexion. But how could anyone tell under that fashionable beard!

Embassies as Safe Houses
Embassies as Safe Houses 150 150

Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty was the highest Catholic official in Hungary in the mid-20th century, and a vociferous opponent of communism.  After WWII, as the Soviet Union’s political influence extended through Eastern Europe, Mindszenty was tried, convicted of treason in 1949, and sentenced to life in prison.  He was released in 1956 during a political reform movement, which the Soviet army quickly suppressed.  Realizing his life was in danger, Mindszenty sought and received asylum as a political dissident at U.S. Embassy Budapest on November 4, 1956—the same day of the Soviet invasion.  The Cardinal remained at the embassy for 15 years, leaving in 1971 to seek medical treatment in Vienna, where he died in 1975.  Before leaving the embassy, he gave his missal to an American Foreign Service Officer in gratitude to the United States.  Now in our collection, the missal is a liturgical book containing instructions, prayers, and texts necessary for the celebration of Catholic Mass throughout the year.

Camp David Peace Accords
Camp David Peace Accords 150 150

On September 17, 1978, the Camp David Peace Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. President Jimmy Carter facilitated the long negotiations at the presidential retreat in Maryland in 1978. The talks represented the importance of diplomacy and paved the way for the March 26, 1979 signing of a formal peace treaty, notably ending the state of war, the Israeli military withdrawal from the Sinai, Egypt’s formal recognition of the state of Israel, and granting Israeli ships use of the Suez Canal.

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