Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 5:20 am | Fair 52º


Foreign Service Officers Pay Special Visit to Laguna Blanca School

Last week, Laguna Blanca School hosted its second annual Global Studies Symposium, which explored the topics of American diplomacy and the role of Foreign Service Officers and embassies.

On Friday, the school welcomed Ambassador Susan Elliott, Cate School junior Abraham Tall, Foreign Service Commercial Officer Geoffrey Walser (Laguna Blanca class of 1962), and Ambassador John Ordway for the Global Studies Symposium titled “American Diplomacy: Facing Global Challenges — Past, Present & Future.” Laguna Blanca students also welcomed Ambassador Susan McCaw to their assembly last Thursday.

Laguna Blanca initiated this program last year to educate students on the challenges and responsibilities they face as global citizens. Through the Global Studies Program, students are given the opportunity to learn about life outside of Santa Barbara and the United States and to think as “global citizens.” Laguna Blanca’s Global Studies Program is made possible by a grant from the Mosher Foundation.

To begin the symposium, Ambassador Elliott spoke to guests live via Skype from Tajikistan and was projected onto a large screen for the 250 students, faculty, parents and alumni to see. She discussed the role of the U.S. State Department and answered questions from the audience about her position in Tajikistan. She shared that one of the greatest struggles in Tajikistan is corruption — in the schools, medical system, government, economy, all around. As the ambassador to the United States, she has introduced cultural, economic and governmental programs to the Tajik government in an effort to eliminate the corruption.

Cate School’s Tall spoke next about being the son of American diplomats, and his life growing up abroad in Senegal, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This experience has given him a unique perspective on the way he views American diplomacy, as well as how the countries he has lived in views the United States. He appropriately described himself as a “citizen of the world.”

Laguna Blanca alum Walser was next up at the podium and started by reflecting on his days at Laguna Blanca as a young student and soccer enthusiast. He then spoke to his experience abroad as a Foreign Service Officer in the United States and Foreign Commercial Service. He discussed the intricacies of promoting American commerce abroad and working with commercial officers from other countries.

Laguna Blanca instructor Martha Elliott, left, Foreign Service Commercial Officer Geoffrey Walser (Laguna class of 1962), Laguna Blanca Headmaster Paul Slocombe, Ambassador John Ordway and Laguna Blanca trustee Sue Birch. (Laguna Blanca School photo)
Laguna Blanca instructor Martha Elliott, left, Foreign Service Commercial Officer Geoffrey Walser (Laguna class of 1962), Laguna Blanca Headmaster Paul Slocombe, Ambassador John Ordway and Laguna Blanca trustee Sue Birch. (Laguna Blanca School photo)

Keynote speaker Ambassador Ordway closed the symposium by highlighting the characteristics of a good Foreign Service Officer. Ordway also visited the Lower School last Thursday to speak to the younger students about his experience as a Foreign Service Officer. As the second-, third- and fourth-grade students are studying country borders, he discussed his role in solving border issues in Kazahkstan.

For more information about the invited speakers of this year’s Global Studies Program, please see the biographies below:

» Ambassador John Ordway — Ambassador Ordway is a retired Foreign Service Officer who is the commissioner to the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Consultative Commission under the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Regulations Treaty). He served as ambassador to Kazakhstan (2004008) and to Armenia (2001-04). He was director of African Affairs at the National Security Council during the first Bush administration, as well as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1999-2001. Born and currently residing in California, Ambassador Ordway graduated from Stanford University and the University of California’s Hastings College of Law before entering the Foreign Service in 1975.

» Ambassador Susan McCaw — McCaw served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Austria from 2005 to 2007. Prior to this appointment, she was president of COM Investments, a private investment firm, where she serves today. McCaw was a principal at Robertson Stephens & Co., a San Francisco-based investment bank and also worked as an associate in Robertson Stephens Venture Capital Group. She started her career as a business analyst for McKinsey & Co. in New York and Hong Kong. Born and raised in Orange County, she now lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and three children.

» Ambassador Susan Elliott — Ambassador Elliott is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan. Prior to this position, she was the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs deputy assistant secretary responsible for Central Asia from 2010 to 2012. She has served as the deputy chief of mission to Moscow, Russia, and as counsel general to Northern Ireland. She is also the sister of Laguna history instructor Martha Elliott.

» Geoffrey Walser ’62 — Walser served a 19-year career as a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. He started his career at the U.S. Embassy Singapore (1981-84), where he served as the Commerce Department’s first senior commercial officer. From 1988-92, he served as the senior commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand and in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. He also promoted U.S. commercial and investment interests at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal, Quebec, from 1988-92. From 1994-95, he was principal commercial officer to the U.S. Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Walser was a part of a USFCS team that implemented best practices programs at USFCS posts in France, Austria, Kuwait, India, Ivory Coast, Indonesia and China. He finished his USFCS career in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (1998 to 2000). He now resides in Laguna Woods with his wife and two children.

» Abraham Tall — A junior at Cate School, Abraham has a young person’s perspective on the life of foreign service. Abraham was born in 1995 in Dakar, Senegal, and attended a private Catholic French school — Cours Sainte Marie de Hann — from 1999 to 2002, where he learned French and Wolof. In 2002, his family moved to Bamako, Mali, where he attended the American International School of Bamako. In 2009, he and his family moved to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo where his parents currently live. Abraham attended The American School of Kinshasa until 2012 when he transferred to Cate School in Carpinteria.

— Jennifer Guess is a publicist representing Laguna Blanca School.

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