By Chris Schultz/Gazette Staff
[Reprinted with permission of Janesville Gazette]
WALWORTH -- It wasn't a career he planned, but Scott Rauland now finds himself giving a human voice to the policies and culture of the United States, usually in a language other than English. Rauland, a 1976 graduate of Big Foot High School in Walworth, is press attache for the U.S. embassy in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. It's Rauland's job to explain America's world role to the foreign press.
Ecuador is usually quiet, and the people there generally like Americans, Rauland said. That wasn't true at all his posts, especially in Islamabad, Pakistan, where the Taliban consulate was a neighbor.
Rauland joined the U.S. Information Agency in 1993, which was consolidated into the U.S. State Department in 1999 as the Bureau of Public Affairs.
After Sept. 11, Rauland often was called upon by the media in Ecuador to explain the impact of the World Trade Center attack on American society and American foreign policy. "Sept. 11 has really awakened Americans to the need to explain American foreign policy to the rest of the world," Rauland said in a recent telephone interview while he was attending a seminar in Washington, D.C.
With U.S. troops in Afghanistan, South American countries are rather low on the American public's radar. But Rauland describes Quito as "a real gem." At 9,300 feet, it's the highest capital in the world. He can see three snowcapped volcanoes from his apartment.
Scott Rauland is the son of Robert and Cynthia Rauland of Fontana. Scott's father owns Rauland Realty in Walworth.
The Raulands are proud of their son. "He's one of those people who takes his job very seriously," his father said.
Scott is the oldest of four. Brother John lives in Germany and is an engineer with the Opel car company. Jeff is an appraiser and lives in Walworth. His sister, Shari, is a real estate agent with her father's company and lives in Fontana.
Cynthia Rauland said she was surprised by her son's career choice. "Quite frankly, a career in the diplomatic service was the very last thing I expected him to choose," she said, adding that she expected her son to become a teacher or lawyer.
A career in the State Department is not the result of a childhood dream, Scott Rauland said.
After graduating from Big Foot in Walworth, he attended Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. "I didn't end up doing what I thought I was going to do," Rauland said. "I left high school thinking I was going to be a physics major."
One semester of calculus convinced him otherwise. He didn't graduate from Earlham. Instead, he earned a bachelor's degree in European history from the University of Chicago.
While at Earlham, he began to learn Russian. He took more Russian at Chicago. Then he went to Ohio State University, where he earned a master's degree in Russian. He since has picked up German and Spanish, as well.
Teachers who had Rauland in their classes at Big Foot said he was a quiet but intelligent student. Dennis Esch, a biology teacher, said he hadn't kept in touch with Rauland but wasn't surprised to hear he was working for the State Department.
"He certainly had ability, and he's done well," Esch said.
Dick Baker, Rauland's math teacher, laughed when he heard about Rauland's run in with calculus. He has kept track of Rauland's career and is impressed. "I'm not sure that Russian is easier than calculus," he said.
With a command of Russian and a desire to do something with it, Rauland applied for a job in the early 1990s as exhibit guide in the former Soviet Union.
"The Russians were cut off from information on the U.S. for many years," Rauland said.
The exhibits, arranged by the U.S. Information Agency, were an attempt to introduce the American people and the American way of life to the Russians.
The guides answered visitors' questions about America as honestly as possible, Rauland said. He spent six months with the exhibit, following it to three cities.
Answering the same questions over six months isn't all that interesting, but the job gave him experience. When an opportunity arose to take a job in the information service, he jumped at it.
Rauland's job with the State Department has taken him from Azerbaijan in the former Soviet Union to Berlin and then to Islamabad, Pakistan.
Embassy personnel never stay in one place very long. In May 2000, he was transferred to Quito. Rauland's wife, Frances, is a British subject and U.S. citizen. He jokes that, despite her best efforts, their children, Patrick, 15, and Alexandra, 12, are American through and through. In fact, the youngsters have globe-trotting backgrounds but are firmly committed Wisconsinites, he added.
Patrick will live with his grandparents starting in his junior year so he can finish his high school education at Big Foot, Rauland said.
Rauland said his next job, starting summer 2003, will be as consulate general, where he will run the U.S. consulate in the historic city of Ekaterinburg, Russia--formerly Sverdlovsk--about 1,000 miles east of Moscow. The city was founded in 1724 and is "filled with beautiful, historic buildings," Rauland said. Consulate staff will consist of five other Americans and 20 to 30 locals, Rauland said. It will serve an area the size of Europe.
"A lot of it is administrative, and there are ceremonial duties," Rauland said of his future consulate post. "In general, I'll be the human face on U.S. policy."
Scott Rauland's postings with the U.S. State Department have taken him to:
Baku, Azerbaijan, former Soviet Union, 1994-1995. In a country racked with civil wars, Rauland spent 14 months organizing U.S. cultural centers.
Berlin, Germany, 1995-1998. Rauland ran a program that countered nearly 50 years of anti-American Soviet propaganda in the former East Germany.
Islamabad, Pakistan, 1998-2000. Posted as assistant information officer, Rauland said he was responsible for a small information program that disseminated written materials about the United States in the languages common to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Rauland said Islamabad is a beautiful city perched on the edge of the Himalayas. He would bicycle from his apartment to the embassy every morning, right past the consulate used by the Taliban, the former government of Afghanistan.
Several of the turbaned guards were always on duty, lounging around outside, toting automatic rifles. Rauland said he often feared one of them would accidentally discharge his rifle while he was riding past.
"That would have been a bad end," he joked.
Islamabad was dangerous enough. In November 1999, someone launched several rocket grenades at the U.S. embassy--and missed. Two of the rockets blew up just outside the U.S. Cultural Center and shrapnel came through the windows, Rauland said. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Quito, Ecuador, 2000-present. Press attache to embassy.
Ekaterinburg, Russia, summer 2003. Rauland will be promoted to consulate general in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Released on May 13, 2002