“Priorities for the Next President of the U.S. in Foreign and Security Policy”
7:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 16, 2008 – Kresge Auditorium
Good evening. I’m Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College, and I am delighted to welcome you to this discussion on a topic of tremendous importance to our nation and the world.
Members of the United Nations Association of Maine join us this evening, and before I introduce our speaker, I am pleased to invite Bruce Stedman of UNA-Maine to say a few words.
Mr. Stedman served in the United Nations Secretariat from 1946 to 1977 in management posts at headquarters and with the UN Development Program in East Africa. His assignments took him to the Middle East, and his last post was Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Program. After retiring with the rank of Assistant Secretary General, he became a resident of Maine in 1994, and is today an Advisor to UNA-Maine.
Our speaker tonight is no stranger to this campus. A native of Orange, NJ, Tom Pickering arrived in Brunswick by train – remember those days?! – in the fall of 1949 with plans to one day join the ministry. But as often happens here at Bowdoin, the variety and depth of our liberal arts curriculum and the influence of respected faculty propelled Tom in a different direction.
With advice and encouragement from admired Bowdoin professors Ernst Helmreich and Athern Daggett, Tom’s vision for his future began to take a different shape. He majored in history, graduated with honors in 1953, and went on to earn a master’s degree at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. A Fulbright Scholarship took him to the University of Melbourne in Australia, for another master’s degree, this one in international relations. He was then off to the U.S. Navy where he would become an intelligence officer, learning how to interpret surveillance photos.
Two years after graduating from Bowdoin, as his career was getting started, Tom married Alice Jean Stover. Alice was a Foreign Service officer before Tom was. Unfortunately, the rules of the Foreign Service would not permit a married couple to serve together. Alice resigned her post, providing what Tom remembers as “the most support and the harshest criticism” as they traveled the world working “as a team” raising two children, Timothy and Margaret, in the process. We are delighted to have Alice with us this evening.
Tom’s early State Department assignments ranged from intelligence to arms control to a variety of other positions. By 1964 he was a political adviser at the 18-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, and was rapidly gaining a reputation as a rising star at the Department. By the early 70s, he had been named Special Assistant to Secretary of State William Rogers. He would later serve in the same capacity for Dr. Henry Kissinger.
From 1974 to 1978 Tom served as U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, earning the respect and admiration of both his colleagues in the State Department and his foreign hosts. He was praised by Jordan’s King Hussein as, “The best American ambassador I’ve ever dealt with.”
Ambassador Pickering’s success in Jordan would later be replicated in posts around the globe – among them some of the State Department’s most sensitive assignments. As U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, the United Nations, India, and Russia, Tom Pickering earned a reputation for sound judgment, for the ability to manage the most delicate of situations, and for being a representative of the United States eager to totally immerse himself in the language and culture of his host country.
Today, Tom Pickering is fluent in French, Spanish, and Swahili, and has a working knowledge of Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic.
In 1989, President Bush chose Tom Pickering to represent the United States at the U.N. During Tom’s tenure as U.S. Ambassador and Representative to the U.N., the United Nations reasserted itself on the world stage. The period would come to be dominated by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Throughout the fall and early winter of 1990, Tom worked tirelessly at the United Nations to organize what became an effective international response to the Iraqi invasion.
In 1992, Tom stepped down from his post at the U.N. He was named ambassador to India, then to the Russian Federation. From 1997 to 2001, he served as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.
Ambassador Pickering is currently vice chairman at Hills and Company, having served as Senior Vice President for international relations at The Boeing Company from 2001 to 2006.
Ambassador Pickering twice won the Distinguished Presidential Award and also received the Department of State's highest award, the Distinguished Service Award. He is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2005, Tom Pickering was awarded the Bowdoin Prize, the highest honor that the College bestows upon one of its members.
Tom, we are honored to have you and Alice with us this evening.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ambassador Tom Pickering of the Bowdoin Class of 1953….