MEDIA CONTACT: Polly Burks
Former Ambassador to Israel and the United Nations to Speak at FAU
A Veteran Diplomat Looks at
Challenges from Iran to Israel and Beyond
BOCA RATON, FL (December 23, 2009) – Florida Atlantic University’s Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency presents Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering with the lecture “America’s Future in the Middle East: What is Obama to Do?” on Tuesday, January 26 at 2 p.m. in the University Theatre on FAU’s Boca Raton campus. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.fauevents.com or by calling 800-564-9539. For information about group discounts, call the box office at 800-564-9539. Students and FAU staff may obtain complimentary tickets at the box office in the FAU Student Union.
Pickering is one of the country’s most senior and experienced diplomats, with a distinguished career spanning five decades. A strong advocate for a vigorous American role in the Middle East peace process, he served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1985 to 1988. He also served as ambassador to Jordan, Russia, India, Nigeria, El Salvador and the United Nations. Pickering has held numerous senior positions at the State Department, including special assistant to Secretaries William P. Rogers and Henry A. Kissinger, and undersecretary of state for political affairs for President Clinton. He holds the rank of career ambassador, the highest in the Foreign Service. As testimony to his extraordinary service, following his retirement from the Foreign Service, the State Department named the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program in his honor.
“Pickering has had an amazing career,” said Kenneth Osgood, a professor of U.S. diplomatic history at FAU. “He has been at the center of some of the most momentous events in U.S. foreign policy over the past half-century. He has been involved in the Middle East peace process, arms control negotiations with the Soviets during the Cold War, the first war with Iraq in the 1990s, and much more. Pickering has been a real advocate for pro-active diplomacy to improve America’s position in the Middle East, and I’m sure his talk at FAU will generate a lot of interest in the community. His agreement to speak here is a real coup for the university.”
Pickering’s dramatic career included a critical role during the first Persian Gulf War when, as UN ambassador, he helped lead the Security Council’s response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. During the 1980s, as ambassador to El Salvador, he received death threats from right wing Salvadoran politicians and played a minor part in the Iran-Contra affair. Earlier, as ambassador to Israel, Pickering attracted some controversy for U.S. criticism of an Israel policy that expelled Palestinians accused of fomenting uprisings in the occupied territories.
In March 2009, Pickering co-authored a bi-partisan report to President Obama on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking titled “A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement.” Nine former government officials with extensive experience in foreign affairs joined Pickering in signing the statement, including former national security advisors Zbigniew Brezinski and Brent Skowcroft, former Senator Chuck Hagel, and former Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorenson. The report urges Obama “to engage in prompt, sustained and determined efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.” It also ominously warns that “the next six to 12 months may well represent the last chance for a fair, viable and lasting solution.” In May 2009, Pickering was one of four former U.S. ambassadors to the Middle East, including three former envoys to Israel, who signed a letter to President Obama urging an "active U.S. role" in pushing for a two-state solution.
The recipient of 13 honorary doctorate degrees, Pickering speaks French, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic and Hebrew. He serves on the board of directors for the American Iranian Council, an organization devoted to the normalization of relations between Iran and America, and the International Crisis Group, a transnational group of leaders working to prevent and resolve deadly conflicts around the world. Pickering is also chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Pickering’s lecture at FAU is part of the Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency, which was made possible by a generous endowment to the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters history department by the family of Alan Larkin, a magazine publisher who died in 2002. Larkin had a true passion for American history, particularly the presidency, and his family hopes the annual series will promote a broader understanding of important issues related to the history of the executive branch of government. Additional support for the symposium comes from the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. For more information, visit www.fau.edu/larkin or call 561-297-3840.
About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts 10 colleges: College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.