Examples of Excellence

From among the legions of outstanding diplomats who have served the United States since the middle of the 20th century, the following 25 individuals were chosen to exemplify the highest standards of the profession. The list is by no means intended to be exhaustive, or to suggest that others are not equally, if not more, deserving of such attention.


Diego C. Asencio (1931- )

Diego Asencio, one of the first Hispanics to join the Foreign Service, entered the State Department in 1957. A tough but open-minded diplomat with great energy verve and a commanding presence, Asencio spent most of his 30-year career in Latin America, with tours in Mexico, Panama, Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia, as well as a tour in Portugal. He served as ambassador to both Colombia and Brazil, and later was Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs before retiring in 1986 as a career ambassador, the highest Foreign Service rank. While ambassador in Bogotá in February 1980, he and scores of others, including 15 ambassadors, were taken hostage at a reception at the Dominican Republic Embassy by the M-19 guerrilla group and held for 61 days. Drawing on his formidable negotiating skills, cultural sensitivity, and colloquial Spanish fluency, he represented his fellow hostages in working with the guerrillas and the Colombian officials to fashion a compromise that would lead to their release, unharmed. For this remarkable feat he earned the State Department's Award for Valor. Asencio retired from the Foreign Service in 1986.

  • Asencio, Diego, and Nancy Asencio. Our Man Is Inside. Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1983.