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BOOK CORNER: Ambassador shares story in ‘Diversifying Diplomacy’

“Diversifying Diplomacy: My Journey from Roxbury to Dakar,” by Ambassador Harriet Lee Elam-Thomas, tells the story of her rise as a black woman from Boston’s inner city to being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Senegal.

The ambassador was inspired by her husband, students and others to write her book.

“All of these individuals convinced me that younger professionals, no matter what career path they choose, needed to be conversant with global issues, sensitive to different cultures and fluent in at least one other foreign language to be effective communicators in the global marketplace,” she said.

Her book gives readers an inside look at her more than four-decade career in the U.S. Foreign Service, recounting her experiences of making U.S. foreign policy, culture and values understood abroad.

Inside her book, Ambassador Elam-Thomas also details her work to create a generation of diplomats of color (and women) as the director of the University of Florida Diplomacy Program. Her goal is to encourage young people to start careers in Foreign Service.

Harriet Lee Elam-Thomas

“We have much to learn from other cultures much older than the United States,” Elam-Thomas said. “As a young diplomat on my first visit to Africa, I learned of the long history of African kingdoms and cultures, none of which I learned in the Boston Public School System. I learned that many of the students were fluent in English and knew more about American history than I could recall.

“It was a sobering, but important lesson for me and, in fact, for all American diplomats to learn,” she added.

Ambassador Elam-Thomas is the former diplomat-in-residence at the University of Central Florida and currently directs a diplomacy program at the university. She lives in Central Florida with her husband.

“Diversifying Diplomacy: My Journey from Roxbury to Dakar” is available for $29.95 on and at major bookstores.