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U.N. Ambassador says fundamental freedoms must be respected in Afghanistan

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a La. native, works to encourage young people in her home state to dream big
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 5:20 PM CDT
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U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks about being a diplomat  She is a native of...
U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks about being a diplomat She is a native of Louisiana.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the United Nations reacts to the chaos in Afghanistan, a Louisiana native has a seat at the table and is speaking up.

Linda Greenfield-Thomas is the United States’ U.N. Ambassador for the United States.

This week she addressed what is happening in Afghanistan now that the Taliban had regained control after two decades now that U.S. troops are being withdrawn.

“Attacks against civilians or civilian objects must stop and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghan citizens especially women, girls, and members of minority groups must be respected. We also call on all parties to prevent terrorism,” said Greenfield.

FOX 8 spoke to her before the turmoil began in Afghanistan and she was asked how being UN Ambassador differs from her previous positions in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“Well, the difference is you’re kind of responsible for the entire world. As a permanent member of the Security Council, we deal with issues in every place around the globe. We dealt with Burma, we’ve dealt with Syria, we’re dealing with Ethiopia,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield is a long way from her beginnings near Baton Rouge. She grew up in Baker, Louisiana. As a child, she never thought she would be a career U.S. diplomat.

“I have to be honest, no, I never imagined it because I didn’t know it was a possibility. I didn’t know it existed,” she said.

But as fate would have it as an 8th grader, she crossed paths with Peace Corps volunteers who were heading to Africa and that expanded her view.

“You know, I studied political science at LSU and then I went on to study political science at the University of Wisconsin and I got the opportunity to travel to Africa in the 1970s and I was introduced to the world outside of the United States and from that moment on I was just enticed by the idea of living and working overseas,” said Thomas-Greenfield.

And now after being tapped by President Joe Biden she is back serving her country after retiring in 2017 following 35 years with the U.S. Foreign Service.

She said she employs Louisiana culture in diplomacy.

“I called that gumbo diplomacy, wherever I was posted around the world. I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux and chop onions for the Holy Trinity and make homemade gumbo. It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level. A bit of lagniappe is what we say in Louisiana,” said Thomas-Greenfield.

She was asked what she is trying to achieve as U.N. Ambassador.

“Well, the simple response to that is reassert U.S. leadership and reassert our values around the world. Our values are respected; our values for human rights, our values for democracy, press freedoms, for the access of women and girls to education, health care, climate change, so that sounds like a lot but it’s just about U.S. leadership and ensuring that our leadership is asserted to promote our national interest and also to promote the interest of others around the world who share our values,” she said.

And she is determined to make sure young people know they can dream bigger than their current surroundings.

“And part of my goal now is to make sure that no child experiences the situation where they don’t know where the opportunities are. So, you can choose what you do but you need to know what you’re choosing from and I want to make sure that I spread the word in Louisiana that you can be a diplomat and work around the world,” stated Greenfield-Thomas.

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