Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
San Francisco, California
September 9, 2022
I’d like to thank the executive director for having me here, and just let me say it’s so wonderful for me to be here. I mean, you basically let me crash the party. [Laughter.] And I am well-known for crashing parties, but I am also well-known for telling people: look for an open door. Sometimes you haven’t been invited and you just see a crack in the door – go through it. I saw this crack and I came through the door. So, thank you.
This summit is all about the rich contributions African Americans have made to the food system not only in the United States, but around the world. We know that black food nourishes our body. It nourishes our mind and our souls. And I was with Speaker Pelosi this morning, and she said: food is medicine, because it is a lifesaver for so many people.
So many of my ancestors have always been one with the Earth in some way, whether they’re farmers, they’re gardeners, or they are cooks. And I come from a long line of cooks. My grandmother was a cook; my mother was a cook. And they both took pride in showing me the way around the kitchen, and I will tell you if I wasn’t an ambassador, I think I would be a fulltime cook. Notice, Bryant, I did not say chef – [laughter] – because I know that there is a different between a chef and a cook. Chefs are creative; cooks are cooks. We can be creative but not always, and I try sometimes to be creative when I cook because I also want to make what I cook healthy. And so I also told Bryant that I heard that he has a vegan collard green recipe, and I will put my collard green recipe against his any day. [Laughter.] And win. [Laughter.]
So I am a very competitive cook, because I enjoy cooking. I enjoy people enjoying my cooking. And I always tell people that the best food that I ever eat, I cook myself. [Laughter.] So I’m not – I’m generally very modest about my accomplishments. [Laughter.] I’m very modest about being an ambassador and having done everything, but I am not modest about being a good cook. [Laughter.]
But thankfully, I’ve been able to infuse my love of food, my love of cooking, with my work as a diplomat. And you may have heard people talk about gumbo diplomacy, which is what I practice. I practice it in the kitchen and I practice it at the diplomatic table. So whenever I’ve been posted around the world, I’ve made a point of inviting people of all backgrounds over to cook with me, whether it’s to cook gumbo, and people talk about my gumbo diplomacy, but actually the thing I cook best is red beans. And again, my red beans, whether vegetarian or with turkey or with pork, can go up against the best chef in the world. [Laughter.] This is not in my talking points; I’m going off. [Laughter.] I’m going off the points now.
My gumbo diplomacy approach has extended to my work as the Ambassador to the United Nations, where my job is all about sitting down with diverse groups of diplomats and leaders to tackle an array of global challenges. And while there is no shortage of challenges right now, global food insecurity is at the top of our agenda. In fact, it has been since day one of this administration when I first arrived in New York and made conflict-inducted hunger the subject of one of my first Security Council meetings.
But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, food insecurity has only become more pressing as millions more people, especially in Africa and the Middle East, now face a hunger crisis. So that’s why we’ve called over 103 countries to sign on to our Roadmap for Global Food Security – because even though we are the world’s top donor for addressing food security, no nation can do this alone. And that’s why President Biden will convene heads of state from around the world for our Global Food Security Summit this month. And that’s why I recently traveled to Africa, where I delivered a keynote address in Ghana on the future of peace and progress on food security in Africa, one where Africa serves as its own breadbasket.
And you might ask why I’m here talking about food insecurity. I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, and I visited an urban farm and talked about food insecurity. The reason I’m here is because what we deal with globally – food insecurity globally – also impacts us locally. You’ve heard Bryant today talk about some of the challenges urban communities have in accessing food. So this is an issue for all of us. It’s an issue for the world. It’s an issue for our community.
But I can tell you that this is a challenge that we will not solve overnight, and it’s not going to be solved by our government alone. It’s going to require all of us, all people, all communities, all nations, and we need you – we need you to also engage on these issues. And I know so many of you are already engaged in the vital work of ensuring every single person has access to affordable, nutritious – and that’s an important word – affordable, nutritious food. And we know that that can happen.
Bryant, let me thank you and let me thank all of the organizers here at the museum for inviting me here today. It really was a drive-by that I happened to find out about and take advantage of. It was for me an extraordinary experience just for the few minutes that I’ve been here with you meeting all of you and hearing about all of your commitments. And while I’m going to have to leave as I walk away from the podium, I am truly being dragged out by my staff. [Laughter.] Because I would love to stay here with you the entire day, be here with you tomorrow and in the future. And I just want to thank you. I want to encourage you to continue to do what you’re doing. So thank you very much. [Applause.]