Courtesy of Bismarck Myrick

Bismarck Myrick has represented the United States in some of Africa’s most troubled areas, and witnessed firsthand one of the continent’s most significant events—the end of apartheid in South Africa. Appointed U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Liberia in 1999—after the post had been vacant during a decade of civil crisis there—Myrick has worked to strengthen U.S. relations with the country as well as improve the lives of the Liberian people. “Each environment is different,” he says of his U.S. Foreign Service assignments. “The degree of attention the society’s leaders give to the development and management of their political process, the delivery of good governance, the level of education and educational programs, the management of disputes and crises—all these factors weigh on how the society functions. Our role as Americans in these environments causes us to be positive change agents, while protecting our values of democracy, fair play, and openness.”
      The Portsmouth, Virginia, native was a U.S. Army foreign area officer for Ethiopia when he arrived at the Maxwell School to work on an interdisciplinary graduate degree in African studies and a Ph.D. in history. Highly decorated for heroism in Vietnam, he’d also served in South Korea, Japan, and Germany. “I was traveling around the world and was fascinated with different cultures,” he says. “I was particularly interested in Africa because I found so much misunderstanding and distortion regarding all aspects of the continent.”
      Myrick found a good academic grounding at SU for his work in international relations and went on to direct African studies in the School of International Studies at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for several years before returning as a Syracuse University Fellow to work on his dissertation. His fascination with different cultures ultimately led him to enter the foreign service in 1980, completing assignments in Somalia, Liberia, and South Africa.
      In 1995 President Bill Clinton appointed him ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho, where he traveled extensively throughout the country and talked to people from all walks of life. The government named him Officer of the Most Meritorious Order of Mohlomi, the kingdom’s highest honor for a noncitizen. Myrick’s people-oriented approach to diplomacy continues in Liberia, where he welcomes more than 400 youths to his residence each Thanksgiving Day. Liberia’s major newspapers named him Diplomat of the Year and Man of the Year in both 1999 and 2000.
      Aside from his personal triumphs, Myrick says the United States has had differing degrees of success bringing positive change to Africa. “I was in South Africa when it experienced the most challenging and profound change that has taken place on this continent, evolving from apartheid to multiparty, nonracial democracy,” he says. “After about a half-century of those wrongheaded policies, to be present for that change was significant and rewarding from an American citizen’s perspective.”

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