Thank you. It’s an honor to be here, and a privilege to present the OSS Society’s inaugural Ralph Bunche Award to one of the great diplomats of our time – and no, this is not another award for Director Burns. We’re here to honor Ambassador Anne Patterson. But first, I want to recognize Anne’s husband, David – also a career diplomat – who’s here and who’s always been Anne’s strongest supporter, friend, and companion. David, thank you.
Tonight, we’re gathered at a transformational moment in history, a hinge point between the end of the post-Cold War era and the beginning of a new, uncertain world. The forces of autocracy, authoritarianism, and oppression are testing the foundations of democracy, freedom, and justice. Meanwhile, global challenges—from disease and climate change to cyber, disinformation, and terrorism—are intensifying and interacting with the currents of geopolitical competition. Against this uncertainty, one thing is clear: intelligence and diplomacy will be vital in securing America’s future. And in that connection, we would be wise to draw strength and wisdom from leaders like Ralph Bunche and Anne Patterson.
In September 1941, a young, Black professor at Howard University named Dr. Ralph Bunche was recruited to join a new Office of the Coordinator of Information, which in 1942 became the OSS. Dr. Bunche was sought out for his knowledge of African affairs given the rising importance of Africa to the war.
During his time with the OSS Research and Analysis Branch – the predecessor of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or INR – he produced field manuals to educate OSS officers on the countries to which they would deploy. He authored assessments on vulnerabilities facing the Axis powers, and he provided operational support to officers on the ground. In recruiting Ralph Bunche, General Bill Donovan knew then what we all know now: when intelligence operators and analysts work together, you get better results.
In honoring the legacy of Ralph Bunche, it’s only fitting that the inaugural award in his name is presented to a fellow diplomat who also worked closely with the intelligence and special operations communities to advance US interests: Ambassador Anne Patterson.
Over the course of her remarkable 43-year career, Anne held some of the most challenging and consequential positions. After her first tour as an economic officer in Ecuador in 1974, she was one of the first female diplomats in Saudi Arabia in 1984, at a time when the Kingdom did not welcome women. As Ambassador to El Salvador from 1997 to 2000, she led US efforts to combat drug cartels and criminal organizations. As Ambassador to Colombia from 2000 to 2003, she implemented Plan Colombia, a historic effort – in which the Intelligence Community played a key role – to counter drug trafficking and insurgent groups. As Ambassador to Pakistan from 2007 to 2010, she enabled efforts to degrade al-Qa’ida. And as Ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, she helped the United States navigate uncharted terrain in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
When she wasn’t abroad, Anne held senior roles in Washington and New York, including twice as an Assistant Secretary and as the acting U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a cabinet-level position. However, according to sensitive reporting, her favorite position was as an analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. I should note that we have a high degree of confidence in that reporting.
Anne’s former colleagues describe her as one of the best leaders to work with and for. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what a few of them had to say.
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this: “Secretaries of State rely on ambassadors to represent the best of America abroad, provide candid advice, lead with purpose, and strengthen our alliances and partnerships to anchor a more peaceful and prosperous world. During my time as Secretary, Ambassador Anne Patterson represented the best of America’s diplomatic corps, and served with honor and distinction in two challenging and critically important countries: Pakistan and Egypt. In Pakistan, Anne was vital to advancing our counterterrorism, economic stability, and regional cooperation goals. And in Egypt, she deftly managed a complicated and delicate set of challenges unleashed by the upheaval from the Arab Spring. Through it all, Anne was unflappable and unwavering in her commitment to advancing U.S. interests. Anne, thank you for your many years of service, your wise counsel, and your leadership. Congratulations on receiving the Ralph Bunche Award!”
- Former Secretary of State John Kerry had this to say about Anne: “From Colombia to Pakistan and Egypt, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, Anne Patterson carved out a career truly defined by being the “woman in the arena”: unflappable; unstoppable; and undeterred by long odds or tough assignments. She inspired a generation of women to be diplomats and taught some male diplomats a thing or two about statecraft along the way as well! When I think of Anne, I think of the quintessential foreign service officer who set the standard for excelling in the field, respected by host governments, and revered by her embassy team. She mentored many and moved many hard to convince minds on behalf of her country, and I will always be grateful that she relented when we asked her to come home and lead the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau — trading in her flak jacket for the confines of the Mothership. A diplomats’ diplomat — Anne we salute you for your service and we would all do well to follow your example.”
- Finally, Secretary Blinken, who served with Anne when he was Deputy Secretary of State, asked that I share the following: “I had the privilege of working closely with Anne Patterson as she tackled some of our country’s most vexing challenges – from guiding our Mission in Egypt through the Arab Spring to building a coalition to counter ISIS. Through it all, Anne was the model diplomat – principled, humble, and mission-focused. She was a tremendous leader and mentor for generations of diplomats, many of whom I benefit from each and every day. Anne, on behalf of the Department of State, congratulations on the award, and thank you for your many years of service!”
I hope those statements allow you to appreciate how much Anne has contributed to our Nation and how much she has meant to American diplomacy.
As the United States leads once again at this pivotal moment, we will need more diplomats, intelligence officers, and leaders who reflect the qualities of people like Ralph Bunche and Anne Patterson. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Ambassador Patterson as the first recipient of the Ralph Bunche Award.