"Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald: Serving the United Kingdom and the Greater Good"
Sir Nigel Sheinwald
Indiana Memorial Union
April 15, 2010
Good afternoon and welcome.
In 1915, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Theodore Roosevelt described great public servants as a “limited class . . . whose honorable ambition [it] is to render all the service in their power to the cause which they espouse, and who care to achieve distinction and reward for themselves only by the success with which they render this service to the cause.”1
Today, as we welcome Sir Nigel Sheinwald, British Ambassador to the United States, we also welcome one who epitomizes that limited class of great public servants.
For Ambassador Sheinwald, the cause has always been the United Kingdom. Educated at Harrow County Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford, the ambassador joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1976. Over the course of the past thirty-four years, he has served with distinction in a wide range of positions around the world, often at the heart of British diplomacy.
Along with a number of policy appointments in London, Sir Nigel has served in Moscow and was Head of the British Foreign Office’s Anglo-Soviet Section from 1981 to 1983. (It helps that the ambassador speaks fluent Russian.)
From 1983 to 1987, he served in the Political Section of the British Embassy in his first posting to Washington. From there, he became Deputy Head of the British Foreign Office’s Policy Planning Staff, then Deputy Head of the Foreign Office’s European Union Department. In 1993, he took up his first posting to Brussels as Head of the UK Representation’s Political and Institutional Section there.
He was named the Foreign Office’s Press Secretary and Head of the News Department in 1995, and in 1998 became the office’s Europe Director. In 2000, he returned to Brussels, serving as the UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the EU. In 2003, Ambassador Sheinwald was appointed Foreign Policy and Defense Advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, and took up his current post as the British Ambassador to the United States in 2007.
This impressive range of experience only begins to suggest the skill that Ambassador Sheinwald brings to diplomatic matters. In the last decade alone, Sir Nigel has negotiated with Iran for the release of fifteen British sailors and Marines held hostage; has been involved in talks related to North Korean nuclear disarmament; was sent as a special envoy to Damascus in talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; and oversaw meetings that led to Libya’s leader General Muammar al-Gaddafi giving up Libya’s weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism.
Borrowing from the great British statesman Sir Winston Churchill, we might say that all along and in so many different contexts, Ambassador Sheinwald has “braced himself to his duty,”2 his service a testimony to his dedication to his country and to the world as a whole. In addition to these high profile assignments, I could also mention Ambassador Sheinwald’s dedication to international education, his work on environmental causes, and his deep engagement in the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
In honor of his service to his nation, Sir Nigel was knighted (KCMG) in 2001. The inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Diplomatic Service Award from the World Affairs Council—Washington, D.C., he also served as a panelist at the 2010 Human Rights Summit, and recently delivered the keynote address at the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the Winston Churchill Foundation.
We should remember, too, that it was Churchill who first and famously spoke of the “special relationship” that exists between the United States and Britain, a special relationship that endures to this day, and which I think it is fair to say, is one of the closest relationships that exists between any two countries in the world. Would you then help me welcome our distinguished guest and dedicated public servant, the Honorable Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald?
2. Churchill, Winston. “Their Finest Hour.” House of Commons, London. 18 June 1940. www.winstonchurchill.org.