Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fun History: A Tale of Two Secretaries

I've been looking forward to writing this post for a long time. For a bit of fun (and a break from the recent slew of travel posts), I'll share a few tidbits about two Secretaries of State from our past.

Pop quiz: who was our first Secretary of State? If you answered "Thomas Jefferson," you're right! Your history teacher would be proud.

Pop quiz on hard mode: who was our second Secretary of State? If you answered, "I have no idea" or mumbled the names of the first few other Founding Fathers who popped into your mind, then congratulations! Your guess was about as good as that of everyone else in my A-100 when this question came up in diplomat school.

Well, our second Secretary of State was this guy: Edmund Randolph.

Why don't we know who he is? Well, one reason might be that his term faced an ignominious end: think political intrigue, corruption accusations, and some classic Britain-France commercial competition. You can read more about that saga here.

I would also like to highlight a much more recent Secretary of State: Lawrence Eagleburger. First of all, he has the most amazing name. It doesn't get more American than "Eagleburger".

In all seriousness, though, Eagleburger is interesting as the only Secretary of State the United States has ever had who was a career Foreign Service Officer. Although he only served as Secretary of State for about a month, he spent a distinguished 27 years at the Department.

For more about Secretary Eagleburger, check out his historical profile here.

I'll put in a plug here for the State Department's Office of the Historian as a whole, too. There are some top-notch historians working hard not only to preserve our foreign policy record but also to lend their historical analysis to questions with present-day policy implications. I'm grateful (as a State Department employee and as a member of the public) for their work and their availability as a resource.

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