Black History Month 2011: Pamela Bridgewater

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Date: 12/10/2010 Description: Pamela E. Bridgewater - State Dept Image

Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater has enjoyed a celebrated career as a United States Foreign Service officer who has led diplomatic efforts that helped change the course of world events. A native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ambassador Bridgewater is a graduate of Walker-Grant High School. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Virginia State University, received a master of arts degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati, and completed course work and advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree from the American University School of International Service.

A Foreign Service Career Minister, Ambassador Bridgewater’s overseas tours include Belgium, The Bahamas, and Jamaica. She has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and was the first African-American woman to serve as principal officer (consul general) in Durban, South Africa. She has the distinction of being the longest-serving U.S. diplomat in South Africa during the historic transition from Apartheid to a nonracial government. As the political officer assigned to cover Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, a former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa said, “Bridgewater established a degree of trust and confidence with Mr. Mandela and the ANC leadership that the U.S. had not previously enjoyed.”

At the height of the most recent civil war in Liberia, Ambassador Bridgewater was named Special Coordinator for Peace in Liberia and spearheaded the efforts that led to a comprehensive peace agreement and democratic elections. Her extraordinary accomplishments and leadership abilities led President Bill Clinton to name her U.S. Ambassador to Benin; President George W. Bush to name her U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, and now, President Obama has asked her to serve as his representative as Chief of the United States Mission in Jamaica.

Before joining the diplomatic corps, Ambassador Bridgewater was a university professor at Morgan State University and Bowie State University in Maryland, and Voorhees College in South Carolina. She received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Virginia State University and the University of Cincinnati, and Morgan State University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Public Service.

There is a consistent theme that appears throughout Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater’s professional life, and that is her role as both mediator and mentor. As a professor, she intellectually challenged and encouraged her students who later distinguished themselves as states’ attorney generals, judges, academicians and authors. Among Ambassador Bridgewater’s mentees is former Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade and Ambassador, Anthony Hylton, who was her political science student at Morgan State University.

A tireless public servant, Ambassador Bridgewater has won numerous commendations for her contributions to international affairs and public policy including the Girl Scouts of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the Dominion Power Strong Leaders Award, and the 100 Black Women’s Candace Award. She is the recipient of the U.S. Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the Charles Cobb Award for Trade Promotion, and three Department of State Superior Honor Awards.