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.

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Hiram Bingham, IV (1903-1988)

Hiram “Harry” Bingham joined the Foreign Service in 1929 and served tours in China, Poland and England before being posted as a vice consul in Marseilles, France. It was in that assignment as a representative of the technically neutral United States to a nation ruled by the puppet Vichy regime that he defied his government’s stringent visa policy. Bingham personally saved the lives of more than 2,000 Jews and others attempting to escape Hitler’s murderous tyranny. He did so by issuing fake visas and passports, sheltering some in his own home and helping others flee. Among those he is credited with saving are artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst, the family of writer Thomas Mann, philosopher and historian Hannah Arendt, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Otto Meyerhoff and novelist Lion Feuchtwanger. The State Department, upon discovering Bingham’s actions and considering him an insubordinate and dangerous maverick, transferred him to Portugal and soon thereafter to Argentina. He left the Foreign Service a short time later. Little was known of his extraordinary initiative until many years later, when following Bingham’s death, his son discovered the details in old letters found among his belongings. He has since received many posthumous awards, notably from Jewish groups and the State of Israel. In 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell honored him with a special award for "constructive dissent," and in May 2006 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.

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