Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of Public Liaison
Political Officer, Ankara, Turkey
By Mike Russo, Baldwin Hearld Staff Writer
[Reprinted with permission of Baldwin Herald granted on August 27, 2008]
Not many people can say that they’ve traveled the world, but Anthony Renzulli, a Baldwin native and now a political officer in the American Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, has helped develop policies and relationships in foreign nations for the past five years.
Renzulli, 36, began his Foreign Service career in 2003 in the State Department’s Office of Environmental Policy, where he was responsible for coordinating United States government international environmental policy at the United Nations Environment Program and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (O.E.C.D). The mission of the organizations is to support environmentally sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain economic stability, assist other countries’ economic and environmental development, and contribute to growth in world trade.
From 2004-2006, Renzulli served as vice consul in Mumbai, India, at the U.S. Consulate General. There, he was responsible for processing both non-immigrant and immigrant visas and assisting American citizens in th event of emergencies. He remembers that following the Asian tsunami in 2004, he was sent to the Indian city of Chennai to help the State Department effort to provide services to and process passports for those Americans affected by the tragedy in India and Sri Lanka.
Renzulli has been serving as a political officer in Ankara since April 2007. He has a traditional diplomatic role, reporting back to Washington on political events in Turkey and Turkish relations with neighboring countries, including Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He works closely with Turkish officials to promote stability and economic development in the region, as well as addressing issues such as human trafficking.
“We work very well with the Turks,” said Renzulli, “because we strive for the same objective and have the same desire for security and prosperity in the region; we exchange information, ideas and we talk.”
Renzulli said that human trafficking is a significant problem in Turkey. According to Renzulli, mainly women from the former Soviet Union are sexually exploited – sold into slavery – after thinking that they are applying for jobs. Other times they are kidnapped. The problem, says Renzulli, is that many people around the world don’t realize how serious of an issue it really is.
“The problem with trafficking is that, because of the stigma of prostitution, it becomes a ‘secret issue’,” said Renzulli. Currently, he is working with the Turks to train local officials, promote awareness programs and support shelters for trafficked women.
Renzulli stressed that the United States Foreign Service is not as large as one may think. There are currently between 18,000 and 19,000 State Department employees. Of those, about 6,000 or 7,000 are career diplomats, working in 236 embassies and consulates worldwide. “It is said that there are more musicians in the Defense Department than State Department diplomats.” Nevertheless, Renzulli does not doubt its influence.
“We use the offices of the United States to affect positive change in the world,” said Renzulli.
Renzulli, speaks Spanish, Italian and Turkish. Indeed, he and a waitress in a Rockville Centre diner had a brief conversation about the country in Turkish during the interview with the Herald for this story.
He received a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 1994 and a master’s degree in international economic policy in 1998 from American University in Washington, D.C.
Renzulli describes Turkey as beautiful and safe, with hard-working, patriotic, family-oriented people. Americans would feel very relaxed there, he said.
Though his wife and son are allowed to travel and live with him, there are still times when he must be away from them, often for several months at a time. He keeps in touch with his family through Skype, an Internet-to-phone communication system.
Renzulli says that teachers at Baldwin High School, from which he graduated in 1990, had a huge impact on him that stands to this day and helped prepare him for the career ahead.
“A lot of people in my field come from foreign service or military families and have moved around a lot,” said Renzulli. “For me, it’s important to be from some place. I’ve lived in Baldwin most of my life. Baldwin is still home."
Comments about this story? MRusso@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext 283
“Copyright 2008, Richner Communications”
Released on June 5, 2008