Ambassador David Passage Discusses Modern Day Challenges in the International Community with MSFS Students
By Haysel Hernandez-Holzshu (MSFS '13)
Ambassador David Passage, an alumnus of the Master of Science in Foreign Service Class of 1966, came back to his alma mater for an engaging talk with current MSFS students. Amidst moments of lightheartedness and memories from his time at Georgetown, he highlighted the major goals and challenges for students of international relations today.
“Today you face challenges that, whether you go into the Foreign Service or not, it’s difficult to extrapolate or draw comparisons to,” Passage told students. “When I went into the service, the U.S. was in the midst of the Cold War. Our major concern was the Soviets and containing them.” Now, Ambassador Passage envisions our greatest challenge to be China.
“Your big challenge will be to figure out a way to work with China and integrate it with the rest of the world, not just economically, but politically as well,” he stated. Ambassador Passage went on to explain that the way foreign policy is conducted is changing, “Before, we as a nation expected others to do what we want[ed] them to do. And, it was easier to achieve because they needed us. But, now with China in the picture, things have changed.”
When asked about the current attitude toward China, Passage commented, ”I feel the current administration is trying to make sensible decisions. Because of President Obama’s background, he is very thorough in getting all sides of the story and that helps the decision-making process.”
As the evening progressed, Ambassador Passage discussed the additional challenges students will face, including the situation in the Middle East and the United States’ need to push for a fair and equitable settlement between Israel and what he called “the neighborhood”. Students had the opportunity to also ask about his opinion on the current situation in Syria, “The U.S. has had diplomatic relations with countries we morally oppose[d] because they are needed. But, it sends a signal when we pull out an Ambassador from a country. There are many steps that can be taken to send a message that we disapprove of actions, and it will be interesting for you all to see what happens now that the Ambassador has left [Syria] over safety concerns,” he said.
Ambassador Passage retired from the U.S. Foreign Service after 33 years of service. He entered the FSO after his graduation from Georgetown in 1966 and served under nine presidents. Over the years, he was posted in various countries with a range of duties, including acting as political officer in Quito, Ecuador and Charge d'Affaires in El Salvador during the civil war of the mid 1980's. In 1990, he was appointed Ambassador to Botswana, yet another reason for his stellar reputation in the international affairs community. Currently retired from the FSO, Ambassador Passage serves as an External Researcher at the U.S. Army War College, sharing his extensive knowledge in political and military affairs with a new generation.