Taking a Privilege

Posted on March 19, 2020


I am taking a privilege today to tell you about a forthcoming visit to the University by Ambassador Lino Gutiérrez, former U. S ambassador to both Nicaragua and Argentina. He served as U. S. ambassador to Nicaragua from 1996-1999 and as ambassador to Argentina from 2003-2006. Ambassadors hold the highest foreign service assignment to the nations of the world. It is an honor to have Ambassador Gutiérrez with us for the next few days.

I write “taking a privilege” because the Ambassador is a UA graduate, doing his undergraduate degree in Political Science and his master’s in Latin American Studies. He took a course or two with me in History or Latin American Studies while here at UA so I proudly claim him as “one of my students,” and take credit, like most of us professors, for having something to do with the Ambassador’s successes.

I have discovered, of course, that most successful people would have been successful no matter who taught them in college. But I look back on my own college experiences and remember some professors with a great deal of gratitude for what they taught me about the world they knew so well, from history to botany to religion to some of the great literature of our world.

He will be here at the University from today, March1 to March 4, speaking to students and faculty in the general areas of diplomacy, international relations, and foreign policy, ranging over the engagement of the United States with other nations and peoples of the world from the perspective of one who served his country as a Foreign Service officer in the Department of State for 29 years.

On Tuesday afternoon, March 2, from 4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. in the Summersell Room (room 252) of Ten Hoor Hall/Building, he will give a public, open talk and lead a discussion on job opportunities in the Washington, D. C. area, both in the public and private sectors. This is a great opportunity for students, at all levels of study and in all fields from politics to computer programming, to speak with an expert in the area of foreign policy and foreign affairs and how your interests may coincide with the needs of institutions, agencies, and corporations located largely in the capital, but with  a worldwide perspective.

That Gutiérrez went into the foreign service, like so many of us curious about life outside the U. S., was perhaps a natural for him. His parents fled Cuba after the communist revolution of Fidel Castro in the early 1960s and so he became an immigrant, and a foreigner, in this land which nonetheless welcomed him, and hundreds of thousands of other Cubans, as they fled a socialist dictatorship.

BTW, ask any of those Cubans who fled, and their children, and their grandchildren who have had to navigate a new life in a new country what they thought of a socialist/communist regime, especially as today leading Democrats tout the virtues of such a government. Perhaps I could persuade the Ambassador to tell of some of his own life, to testify or recount or witness as Christians tend to frame the issue, how communism destroyed liberty and freedom in his old homeland.

His father brought their family to Tuscaloosa in the 1960s and his dad taught in the Department of Mathematics for many years. It was a natural for Gutiérrez to enroll at the University and he has repaid UA in his own way by sharing his experiences with faculty and staff over the years. His credentials are impressive.

He is CEO of Gutiérrez Global LLC, a consulting firm specializing on strategic advice for corporations interested in investing in Latin America and Europe.  He lectures at George Washington University, and is on the Board of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.

In his 29-year Foreign Service career, Mr. Gutiérrez served six U.S. Presidents and 11 Secretaries of State.  During his tenure as Ambassador to Argentina, the United States and Argentina signed agreements on topics that have immense influence on our world like counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation.

Gutiérrez also led the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Department of State on September 11, 2001 and beyond.  From 2002-2003, Gutiérrez occupied the George Kennan chair as International Affairs Advisor at the National War College. 

While serving as U. S. Ambassador in Nicaragua, Gutiérrez coordinated the relief efforts after Hurricane Mitch.  He has also in the Dominican Republic, Portugal, Haiti, France and the Bahamas. Tough duty, the latter, but someone has to do it.

Lino Gutiérrez has been the recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, Superior Honor Award (twice) and Meritorious Honor Award (three times).  He has also earned the U.S. Army’s Civilian Award.

As we deal with “breaking news” and the international politics of our nation this election year when political talk is marked more by insults and shrieking than informed opinion, facts, and truth, join us in the next few days as we listen to a foreign service and diplomatic officer who has, and continues, to represent the American spirit of liberty and democracy that has brought so much to the world over the centuries.

Published as “Diplomat represents the spirit of America,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday March 1, 2020.