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.


Ralph Johnson Bunche (1904-1971)

Ralph Bunche, an African American who became one of the most prominent diplomats in U.S. history, served first in the Department of State as an advisor on Africa and colonial areas of strategic military importance. After World War II, he worked for the United Nations, becoming Under Secretary General in 1968. Renowned for his wise judgment and negotiating skills, he served as a United Nations mediator in the Congo, Yemen, Kashmir, Cyprus and other areas, but is particularly remembered for his work in the Middle East. As the U.N.'s chief negotiator, Bunche’s mediation efforts led to the signing in 1949 of an armistice between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, an accomplishment for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Replying to an interviewer on the U.N.'s intervention in international crises, Bunche, a man of great integrity, bravery and optimism, remarked that the "United Nations has had the courage that the League of Nations lacked to step in and tackle the buzz saw." During the course of his life, Bunche received honorary degrees from some 85 American universities.


  • Bunche, Ralph. A World View of Race. Washington, DC: Associates in Negro Folk Education, Bronze Booklet Series. 1936. Reprint: New York: William Greaves Productions, 2001.
  • Henry, Charles P., ed. Ralph J. Bunche: Selected Speeches and Writings. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1995.
  • Henry, Charles P. Ralph Bunche: Model Negro or American Other? New York: New York University Press, 1999.
  • Rivlin, Benjamin, ed. Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times. New York: Holmes & Meyer, 1990.
  • Urquhart, Brian. Ralph Bunche: An American Life. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993. [Paperback edition titled Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey , 1998]