Day Nine: The Seventh Floor

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Group (Photo by Margaret Ann Thomas)

I woke up this morning, noted the breaking clouds through the window above my head and then remembered where I was. I was in Washington DC, and today was the day when we were going to interview the DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE! I bolted upright and immediately began to prepare myself for the interview to come.

It was all very surreal leading up to the interview. We walked up to the massive building that houses the Department of State. Flags above us were waving gloriously in the wind. We all had to clear through security and then met with Public and Intergovernmental liaison Bureau of Public Affairs, Eileen McCormack , who took us up to the legendary Seventh Floor.

Leaving the State Department

None of us were sure of what to expect when we walked through the elevator doors. One thing we saw immediately was that the décor was hands down ten times more beautiful than that of the ground level. I found myself face to face with the portrait of none other than George Shultz, a brilliant man we interviewed not even a month ago. I felt a bit more at home knowing he was there at least in spirit. As we were waiting, we talked with Eileen who gave us a brief history of her years spent in the building. Then the doors of the Deputy Secretary’s conference room opened and out stepped many Indonesian statesmen and a tall sharply dressed American, John Negroponte the number two person at the State Department, second only to the Secretary, Condoleezza Rice. Mr. Negroponte exudes a physical sense of control and power. I was star-struck and watching him with the delegation it was clear that he was a confident and experienced diplomat.

Emotions were running high as we prepared to face what we expected to be one of the most challenging interviews of the whole trip. Both elated and nervous, we entered his paneled conference room, not sure what we were about to face. What we discovered was an intellectual, thoughtful, humorous and articulate man that is not only dedicated to his job in public service, but someone that is proud to represent his country. He told us “Be proud of the American example,” and that “you represent a great country.” It is impossible to not feel patriotic when you are sitting and taking to the Deputy Secretary of State. It is like one of those moments when you suddenly stop, look up, and there, with the blue sky and rolling white clouds in the background, waves the American flag in the afternoon breeze. It’s priceless.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte

Born to Greek parents in London, Negroponte studied abroad and is a man of many languages. In the interview he told us that there is “no better way to learn about a culture than to learn its language.” This is advice that we have now received from multiple people and makes me think that there might be something to this whole language business. It also makes me wish I still knew my German. He reminded us that we are only 4% of the world’s population and that China and India are rising powers that will be a reality for us now and in the future. Knowing foreign languages opens us up to other cultures and will enable us to operate in the future society.

View from the Lincoln Memorial

Another moment in the interview that was interesting was when Hannah asked the Deputy Secretary if he had been influenced in his thinking and decision making by living in other countries. He paused and said, “I have not really thought about it.” He then proceeded to tell us in eloquent terms, about the “Pacific Way,” which was a way that in the northwest they talked out issues until an agreement was reached. He said it was better than a close vote where so many would be waiting for a policy to fail. I love watching his brilliant mind do a quick search and then come up with a new answer that was so complete as if he knew it all along.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte

As we were winding down from one of the best interviews we had yet done, we came to the last question for the day. After all the advice he had already given us, was there one thing that he wanted us to take away that could help us in our own futures? With a smile, he told us “Hard Work.” There is no effortless way to achieve greatness, and “as long as you work hard,” he told, “people will recognize you for that.” And so, as we continue our journey in DC, I think we’ll do great things as long as we work hard!

-Ashley England, Hannah Meade and Chris Fust