Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield shares experiences with La Follette students

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield sits smiling, surrounded by students.
La Follette students Muhammad Rehan and Jing Ling Tan had the good fortune of being seated beside the Ambassador during her recent visit to UW–Madison. Photo courtesy of the office of Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

Earlier this month, students in the La Follette School had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when they were offered the chance to meet with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. The Ambassador earned a master’s degree from UW–Madison’s Political Science Department in 1975, and she was the May 2022 UW–Madison Commencement speaker. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was in Madison for a distinguished alumni event; however, she made time to meet with a small group of current students from both the La Follette School and the Political Science Department to share how her time in Madison helped shape her 35-year diplomatic career.

La Follette School students who attended the event reflected on the experience and what they learned from the Ambassador. “I joined La Follette School with the intention that one day I will be working for the United Nations,” said Muhammad Rehan, a double degree MIPA-English student from Pakistan and former Fulbright Scholar. “To have the opportunity to meet and converse with U.N. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was like winning the lottery for me! She explained her daily routine to our group and presented a clear and authentic picture of what working for the U.N. looks like. I’m so grateful to have attended this discussion!”

In her remarks, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield reflected on the importance of public service, something she emphasized with a personal anecdote about a former Sudanese refugee who recognized her as “Linda” when they passed each other on the streets of Arlington, Virginia. The Ambassador had held a previous post with the State Department, and 15 years earlier, had processed the woman for resettlement in the United States. “It was very, very moving to me. You know at that point that it’s having an impact on people’s lives. This was the first time that I met someone directly, and I thought, Wow. I had done good. You’re doing something good.”

Curious about how the Ambassador managed working relationships with various leaders from different countries, MPA-MPH dual degree student Eli Tsarovsky reflected: “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said she treats all people with human decency and acknowledges the humanity in people. She said she is able to do this even when she is debating with adversaries, too.”

MIPA student Jing Ling Tan, who is from Singapore, also shared his thoughts after the event: “Five weeks in at La Follette: how lucky I am to meet Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. How empowering to know that the chair I sat in, the hills I climb to class – she was once there too. I found her commitment to service deeply resonating even – or especially – as an international student. To see her service to the country and to the world inspires me and reaffirms my belief in how public affairs can bring good to the world.”

“Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is an incredible leader and role model for all of us to ‘do good’ in service to others” said MPA student Lauri Asbury. “She gave us all something to aspire to and energized us in an urgent call to action regarding the important work that needs to be done for positive change in the world. I’m grateful for the opportunity and will never forget the experience.”

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