“For other nations of the region where populism has created a weakened state of institutional democratic governance, Panama serves as an example of success as a result of its continuing efforts to strengthen the separation of powers, improve the rule of law, and offer expanded opportunities to traditionally marginalized communities.” -Ambassador John Feeley
On January 15, John Feeley (SFS ’83) was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Panama at the Department of State. A graduate of the SFS and a Marine Corps veteran, Ambassador Feeley has since had a successful career in the foreign service. Focusing on Latin American and Western Hemispheric affairs, Ambassador Feeley previously served in the Department of State as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico, Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, He has also undertaken numerous assignments in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. His wife, Cherie Feeley (COL ’83) also works as a diplomat for the State Department.
Ambassador Thomas Shannon, Counselor of the Department, led the swearing in ceremony. He explained the importance of “dusty ways” diplomats, who work behind the scenes, and how their contributions are just as crucial to U.S. foreign relations as those of the diplomats working on headline issues.
Ambassador Shannon swore in Ambassador Feeley, who discussed Panama’s progress and outlined future relations between the United States and Panama. The new ambassador is determined to deepen what he considers “an already excellent bilateral relationship.” Since Panama and the United States are both popular immigration destinations, Ambassador Feeley hopes to facilitate a united effort against human trafficking in the Western hemisphere.
Furthermore, with the completion of Panama Canal expansion projects due in 2016, Ambassador Feeley looks forward to strengthened trade relations and increased imports on the United States’ East and Gulf coasts. According to Ambassador Feeley, Panama is a necessary bridge that furthers commercial and democratic integration in the Western Hemisphere. In a discussion with the The Caravel, he noted that the canal “serves as an essential cog in the machinery of globalized commerce, with 2 of every 3 ships in transit destined for a U.S. port. Panama’s evolved, services-based economy means that the country is not and will not be in the future subject to the vagaries of commodity boom-bust cycles.”
Additionally, he claims that his diversification augurs well for sustained growth and development in Panama, where the current government’s focus on education and poverty reduction align well with U.S. policy objectives in the region. He says, “the sui generis nature of Panama’s political history, first as an American protectorate, then as a ‘divided’ country under various national but autocratic governments with a U.S.-controlled Canal Zone, then finally as a fully sovereign nation after the 1999 turnover of the Canal, means that Panama’s strong democracy has been hard fought and is much cherished by the Panamanian people.”
Ambassador Feeley also gave a special thanks to his Jesuit education, quoting the prayer of St. Ignatius. As a graduate of the Jesuit-founded Regis High School in New York City, as well as Georgetown University, Jesuit education has played a crucial role in Feeley’s personal and career development. In fact, the first people to receive a “thank you” from the new Ambassador were his high school classmates who attended the ceremony. Ambassador Feeley credited the Jesuit concept of Magis for teaching him the importance of being a man for others, which continues to inspire him in his current career.
When The Caravel asked what advice he would give to students at Georgetown who hope to pursue a similar career path, Ambassador Feeley said:
“As far as joining the Foreign Service, the only advice I ever give is that you should do it because you possess 3 core qualities and beliefs: 1) The United States, while not perfect, is a self-correcting democracy that remains an undeniable beacon of hope and opportunity that other countries and societies seek to emulate; 2) The motivation to join is not “informed tourism,” but a sense of public service and a dedication to ensuring the above statement remains true; 3) The ‘psychic pay’ of exploration and learning is more important to you than the paycheck of a public servant.”
For Ambassador Feeley’s entire speech: http://panama.usembassy.gov/sp_120215.html