A Conversation with Vera and Donald Blinken

Donald, what were the pros and cons of being a non-career diplomat after building a successful career as an investment banker in New York City?

Unfamiliarity with State Department personnel and procedures sometimes makes it difficult to navigate State Department practices.
    The pros are considerable.
    First, the political appointees bring a range of valuable experiences from the private sector. Second, he or she can make difficult decisions based purely on the merits, and take actions rather than avoid doing so for fear of hindering a career advancement. Third, non-career ambassadors have relationships with the White House, giving them the opportunity to explore new ideas and directions outside the constraints of State Department bureaucracy.
    In my experience, I have found that a mix of career and political appointees benefits our diplomacy.

Read the complete conversation with Vera and Donald Blinken


Op-Ed: “A Diplomatic Affair,” The Washington Times

In the wake of the turbulence caused by September 11 and the invasion of Iraq, the role of the American ambassador has never been more critical. Our ambassadors represent America’s human face, and, as the personal representatives of the president, establish meaningful personal contacts with leaders, opinion makers and the public of their host countries.
    We can also take comfort that past criticism of our tradition of appointing non-career ambassadors to about one-third of our posts has largely been muted. Career Foreign Service officers, legislators and the media now acknowledge that political appointees add value. They can be highly effective through their access to the president, the skills they have acquired in the private sector and their willingness to rock the boat without fear of career consequences.
    However, some political appointees fall short in meeting their responsibilities as personal representatives of the president of the United States by their failure to serve a full term. A recent survey conducted by the Council of American Ambassadors, a nonpartisan organization of present and former non-career diplomats, reveals that too many non-career appointees resign in 24 months or less – not because of health, other emergency contingencies or a change in administration, but for less praiseworthy reasons. (December 30, 2003)

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The Primavera Mobile Mammography Program

In 1999, Vera Blinken founded the Primavera Mobil Mammography Program. Traveling throughout Hungary to small towns and villages, the mobil screening unit provides the possibility of early detection to those women who previously had no access to this lifesaving procedure. On December 9, 2005, Mrs. Blinken was publicly presented the Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary by Ambassador András Simonyi and Consul General Dr. Gábor Horváth at the Hungarian Consulate in New York.

Read Remarks by Vera Blinken Upon Receiving the Middle Cross of the Republic of Hungary