My adventures in China, learning Mandarin and in Chinese Culture!


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Meeting The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley

Friday, July 13, 2018
State Department Building/UN, New York City

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This was without a doubt one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had! I still can’t believe it really happened.

I read Ambassador Haley’s autobiography, “Can’t Is Not An Option,” and was very impressed with her accomplishments and how she overcame so many obstacles to become one of the most powerful women in the world!  (The book only goes up to the point where she was Governor of South Carolina.)

And I reached out to her office, I wanted to ask some questions, learn more about diplomacy and since I would be in New York City for the China Institute job, maybe I could meet her.  I didn’t think anything would really happen.

But, the next day, Ambassador Haley’s Chief of Staff, Katherine Veldran, said that the Ambassador had not only read my letter, but also saw my speech at The National Press Club… and would like to arrange a meeting!

WOW!  I was totally surprised and never expected that to really happen!

On the day of the meeting, we went to the US State Department building across the street from the UN.  It is a strange looking building and there are no windows on the lower half of the building. I met a really nice security guard outside (photo above) and told him that I had an appointment with the Ambassador. (First time I ever got to say that! LOL!)

We walked past some photos of the Ambassador and the President and Vice President:
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And then it was through the security checkpoint, where ALL PHONES ARE TAKEN AWAY! There are little storage boxes for everyone entering the building.  We had to wait for one of Ambassador Haley’s team to escort us upstairs. On all the floors there were lockboxes for cellphones.

After talking to a really nice team member and learning more about internships (You have to be at least 18 and submit a standard application), we went upstairs. I have to admit, I was kind of nervous!

When we walked through the doors to the Ambassador’s office, she was standing in front, waiting for me! She gave me a big hug, and asked if I liked to be called Isabelle or Izzy. She asked me about the trip from Midlothian and how I was enjoying NYC.

We took this photo:

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And then we went into her office! The photo was taken by the official State Department photographer, since all of our cellphones were gone.

I didn’t get any photos from Ambassador Haley’s office, but here are some photos of other people in the office with her:

 

On the left is Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, and on the right is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.  I sat in the same seat as he did!

One thing I noticed right away was that there was an inscribed piece of wood in the coffee table. It was about 3 feet long and it said, “Can’t Is Not An Option” – which is the title of her biography as I mentioned and her motto.  She signed my copy of the book:

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We talked all about diplomacy, how to become a diplomat, what to study in school, etc. Ambassador Haley just got a resolution passed at the UN to hold an arms embargo against South Sudan and she explained how complicated that was. That China had to abstain, and African nations had to be persuaded to vote for the resolution.  It sounded like it should be obvious that a resolution like that would be unanimous, who wants to support government soldiers that kill tens of thousands of their citizens?  But it was tried before and it didn’t pass.  Through lots of hard work behind the scenes, the resolution passed and hopefully the killing will stop or at least slow down!

(Ambassador Haley has a desk to the left of where I was sitting. The blinds were down on a sunny day and it was because there is so much spying in the area. There are other embassies and missions right next door with all kinds of electronic devices on the roofs.)

There was a knock on the door at one point and the Ambassdor’s assistant said, “5 minutes until your next appointment!”  And Ambassador Haley said, “Give me 10 minutes, please!”.  How cool was that??

Ambassador Haley knew all about me and we had a real talk. It lasted for about a half hour and I wasn’t nervous after a few minutes. She talked about finding common ground between parties, like she did with the Confederate flag issue in South Carolina. How that was key in negotiating. Finding things in common that you can agree on.

We also talked about languages and how important it is to have great translators at the UN. It was funny to hear how fast the translators work but that because they’re focusing so hard on getting the words right, they sometimes leave out the emphasis on strong statements, which makes for weird translations. Like something meant to be really powerful just comes out as an ordinary statement.

It was like talking to a friend. She was one of the sweetest and smartest people I’ve ever met.

When it was time to go, I got another big hug and said goodbye. I invited Ambassador Haley to have lunch at Little Poland, but she had her next meeting about to start.  Next time!