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.


Terence A. Todman (1926- )

Terence Todman joined the State Department in 1952, and became a Foreign Service Officer in 1957. Though his career was marked by an unprecedented record of linguistic accomplishment, appointment as ambassador to six widely varied countries (Chad, Guinea, Costa Rica, Spain, Denmark and Argentina) and service as Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, the early years were often frustrating. As one of the first African Americans of that rank in the postwar years, he faced serious discrimination both within and outside the institution. Even in those early days, however, Todman demonstrated tenaciousness in sticking to principles, often to the consternation of his superiors. In the 1950s, by resolutely refusing to accept the segregated luncheon options at restaurants near the Foreign Service Institute in Rosslyn, Virginia, he forced Department management to insist that integrated dining facilities be made available to all State Department personnel. Known later in his career for defining diplomacy as “the art of letting someone else have your way,” he possessed negotiating skills that were legendary. For example, after he successfully negotiated a military bases agreement with a conservative Spanish government, the agreement was ratified by its successor Socialist government. Todman retired in 1993 as a career ambassador.