Shirley Temple Black, the child star whom we know and love has died at the age of 85. Shirley Temple, as she is widely known, was a former child star who danced and sang her way across the silver screen during the Great Depression, bringing smiles and laughter to audiences across the country during a time when smiles and laughter didn’t come so easily.
What few people know, however, is that Black went on to become a public servant. She spent time with the United Nations and two ambassadorial stints in Ghana and Czechoslovakia. According to an article in the NY post (http://nypost.com/2014/02/11/shirley-temple-earned-respect-as-us-diplomat-after-film-stardom/) she was also a charter member and active participant of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Her passion for public service started at an early age. Although she was a former child star and has a hairstyle named after her, she gained the respect of her colleagues and later was appointed ambassador to two countries–both experiencing turbulent times during her appointments. She served both countries well during her tenure.
The purpose of this post is not to recount the laurels of a famous little girl who grew up to become an ambassador. Political appointed ambassadors face a lot more criticism than their career Foreign Service Officer counterparts. The argument is that political appointees are selected because of the amount of money they contributed to the President’s campaign or because of old favors owed, stealing the coveted ambassadorships from career Foreign Service Officers with years of experience. While I do believe that career foreign service officers sometimes get the short end of the stick, I am not against politically appointed ambassadors like Former Ambassador Temple-Black. American icons like Shirley Temple are perfect public diplomacy tools. Because she lit up the screen during a less than prosperous time in American history, people associate her with a kind of nostalgia and happiness. I am a proud member of Generation Y and I grew up on her movies and still appreciate Shirley Temple curls every once in a while. Likewise, other countries knew and recognized her and associated her with American ideals and values. That, coupled with the fact that she was genuinely interested in public service and took her job incredibly seriously made her the effective ambassador that she was.
Thank you, passenger of the Good Ship Lollipop, for your years of dedicated public service.