Diplomacy at its best is about service, wisdom, consensus, and compromise.

On the surface, diplomacy is about the web of relationships between countries around the world. But at its heart, it is about the people who work together to realize a different, and hopefully brighter, future for their fellow citizens. Complex and multi-dimensional, collective stories of diplomacy are told from many different perspectives. And like the many different challenges in our world, there may be more than one correct solution for diplomats to try.

Explore Diplomatic History

First Japanese Embassy group photo

Our History Has Been Shaped by Diplomacy

Diplomacy shapes the everyday lives of every person on our planet. From the intertribal and colonial interactions of indigenous peoples to the rise of industrialization and global trade to the universal struggle for civil rights, diplomacy has played a central part in shaping world history and creating modern life as we know it.

Pop Quiz

From 1776 to 1785, who served as the first American diplomat?


America’s first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, was sent by the U.S. Congress to France to gain support for independence. While at home in America, Franklin was considered a dapper dresser, he cleverly chose to wear rustic American-style clothing in France. His famous fur hat instantly distinguished him from his European counterparts. The French aristocracy was wowed by his New World fashion and even began adopting his style, calling it “coiffure à la Franklin.”

Try Again!

He’s a famous name in American history, but not in a good way. U.S. diplomats take a solemn oath to protect the United States from “all enemies foreign and domestic,” which is the exact opposite of Arnold’s actions. A highly decorated officer in the United States Continental Army during the American Revolution, Arnold betrayed the trust the U.S. government had placed in him and plotted to turn over the fort in West Point, NY. His treason was discovered and Arnold later joined the British army and lived out his life in Britain after the Revolution.

Try Again!

But a very good guess! Hamilton possessed a number of qualities diplomats must have. But being only 19, he lacked the experience and wisdom of the person who is the correct answer. And during the American Revolution, young Hamilton was busy serving on the battlefield as George Washington’s aide-de-camp and reading anything he could get his hands on about the principles of democracy and governance. Although he never served as a diplomat abroad, his views on foreign policy would help shape the United States after the Revolution.

Try Again!

You may recognize his name though! While very influential during the Revolutionary period, Paine lacked patience and composure–essential diplomatic skills. He is most famous for authoring the 1776 book, Common Sense, which explained why the North American colonies had the right to separate from Great Britain. But he does have a diplomacy story! During the French Revolution, Paine lived in Paris and inserted himself in political fights. One side had him jailed in 1793, and James Monroe, future U.S. president and then-Minister to France, used his connections to free him in 1794.

Topics in Diplomacy

See How Diplomacy Has Influenced:

  • Climate and Environment

    Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. No country is immune from the effects of climate change, and no country can solve the climate crisis alone.

  • Human Rights and Democracy

    The defense of democracy and the protection of human rights have been core values of the United States since its establishment more than 240 years ago.

  • Trade and Commerce

    America’s strong position in the global economy can be credited to its diplomats, who work around the world and around the clock for the benefit of America’s economy and its consumers and businesses.

  • Cultural, Educational, and Sports Diplomacy

    Sports and culture can bring people together over their shared passions. American diplomats arrange people-to-people exchanges that build mutual understanding and respect between countries.

  • Health and Disease Prevention

    Preventing the spread of diseases internationally is critical to the United States’ national health, commerce, trade, and security.

Skills of Diplomacy

Anyone Can Play the Role of a Diplomat

Most people may not ever think about how diplomacy impacts their daily lives, but that does not mean its influence is not there. From access to your favorite tea at the grocery store to watching the World Cup on TV to where you can go on vacation with a U.S. passport, diplomacy has played a role in making those everyday moments possible.

Diplomatic Scenario

You're working as a public diplomacy officer in the fictional country of Varensia. One of the embassy’s goals is to encourage Varensia's youth to learn about issues related to climate change. What approach would you take?

Nice! 50% of people made the same selection. 
Now, think to yourself: what about the situation caused you to make your choice? Do you see any issues with the path you took?

Want to explore more in-depth diplomatic scenarios? Explore our diplomacy simulations.

graphic of a person sitting at a desk

Play the Role of a Diplomat

Diplomacy Decision Points: Crisis After the Hurricane

If you were a diplomat, how would you respond to a crisis? What skills of diplomacy would you draw from? In our new online interactive game, Diplomacy Decision Points, users get the chance to play the role of a diplomat and practice their diplomacy skills.

Play the Game