End of an Era

With the embassy attacks across the Middle East these last few days it has been a tumultuous week for all of us. Here in Conakry things have been calm and peaceful, but here too big changes are on the horizon: Ambassador Moller has left post.

At this point in my brief career, Ambassador Moller is the only ambassador I have ever worked for. As such, she has been not just an ambassador but THE ambassador. Everything I currently know (or think I know) about what ambassadors do and how they do it, I learned from her example. For me she is the default, the standard against which all future ambassadors (and specifically, incoming Ambassador Laskaris) will be judged. And I have to say, for a tiny woman she’s leaving some pretty big shoes to fill.

From Ambassador Moller I learned that the most important part of communication is not speaking, but listening. I learned that patient persistence pays off. I learned that the theory of diplomacy may be about policy, but the practice of diplomacy is almost entirely about people. I learned that hospitality is an essential tool of the trade: it’s amazing how much gets done over lunches or dinners, and how more open people can be on a couch with a cup of coffee than in an office. I also got the recipe for her outstanding oatmeal bars.

Especially in a small post like Conakry the ambassador sets the tone for the whole mission, so a new ambassador can mean a whole set of new procedures, new relationships, and new quirks to adjust to. More experienced officers have told me that Embassy Conakry under the Moller regime was unusual in many ways, and not an accurate model for how things work at a “normal” embassy.  But for the moment it’s the only model I know, so it will be interesting to see how things change when the new guy arrives.

In any case, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to serve with Ambassador Moller, and we’ll all miss her warmth, her energy, her decorating flair, and her famous punch. Au revoir excellence, et bonne chance!