Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Inaugural Minority-Serving Institutions Conference

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 14, 2023


Thank you, Kayla, for that kind introduction and for all you did to make today possible. I’m grateful for the chance to share a few thoughts and reflections as we close out the State Department’s first-ever Minority-Serving Institutions Conference.

And I want to give a special shout-out to today’s panelists and to the State Department’s Public Liaison team, which led the effort to bring students together in person and online from all over the country.

We have participants from New York and South Dakota, Georgia and Alaska, Texas and Hawaii. No matter where you joined from, today, you have had an opportunity to learn from some incredible State Department leaders and from each other.

You know, when I was your age, I didn’t have this kind of exposure. I couldn’t have even dreamed of joining the State Department, where I’ve served for nearly 40 years. I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, where I was bussed to a segregated school and where the Ku Klux Klan regularly burned crosses.

When I went off to college, I didn’t attend a minority-serving institution. Instead, I was in the minority as one of the very few Black students on my college campus. It was daunting. It was uncomfortable. And when I fell down, no one picked me back up and that meant I was at risk of not getting to where I am today. Some of my fellow Black students didn’t graduate with me. They lacked a support network.

In my view, what really differentiates minority-serving institutions is that you have a strong community that ensures no one gets left behind – that opens doors for you.

This inaugural conference is about opening up those doors. It’s about closing resource gaps and hopefully, inspiring the next generation of Civil Servants and Foreign Service Officers.

This work is at the heart of the Biden Administration’s efforts to build and retain a workforce that reflects the diversity of America. Because our diversity in backgrounds, experiences, race, and countries of origin is one of America’s most powerful competitive advantages.

Our different backgrounds make us stronger. They make us smarter. They make us better. And we need our best and brightest to take on the global challenges of the 21st century.

That’s where you come in. It is your generation who will be the diplomats of tomorrow, representing the United States around the world.

And through today’s conference, I hope you have realized that there are so many pathways for you to serve our country. Service will make the world better, but it will also make you better. It will enrich your life.

But don’t let me sugarcoat it, it’s tough work, its challenging work. But you will find, as I have, that nothing is more rewarding than a life of service to others.

Thank you for joining us for this inaugural conference. And best of luck in your continued studies.