Volume II, Issue 5           Monday, November 22nd, 2004           Florida State University - Panama Student E-Zine


Ambassador Watts’ Words of Wisdom

by Darrel A. Holnes


     When people think of the United States, many words come to mind. War, power, and name-brand products are just a few. Other words such as generous, courteous and charming, which also describe this nation, are embodied in the Honorable Ambassador Linda Watts. Recently, I had the chance to explore the many sides of Ambassador Watts, going a little beyond who she has to be to see who she really is.

     This U.S. Ambassador has served a variety of positions as a civil servant in countries ranging from Russia to Nicaragua. She feels that it was the greatest honor to be appointed Ambassador and is especially glad to be in Panama. She says, “We [Americans] have such an interesting historical relationship with Panama and its moment in history that I think is very important. We are starting a new century; it’s a milestone for the U.S. in Panama. We had one hundred years of the Canal Zone with the canal belonging to the U.S. and now we are creating a new relationship.” She tells me that it is especially sweet when she goes back home and her mother introduces her as the Ambassador to Panama. Americans do not always connect with other nations, but they immediately respond to Panama.

     I ask her why she makes a point to embody positive American ideals and values. She replies that it’s important for all of us, whether we are residents or tourist, to remember that as members of the international community we are always under observation and scrutiny. “I don’t think people realize how often and how carefully you are watched and I think it’s a lesson for young people too.”

     What is her greatest regret? Though it’s not a real regret, she always has to consider the effect that her job and its requirements have on her family. She tells me a melancholy tale of two kids traveling between households. She tells me of some of the questions that her family has had to ask over and over again. “Are we going to go to Peru next? Are we going to Cyprus? Where am I going to graduate from high school?” It’s hard to make a career decision in her family because it affects them all. Yet they persevered with a positive attitude and made the best of the situation. “We have a Persian [cat] that we bought in the [Russian] pet market, we had to give him a Russian name too, so he’s Nicoli.”

     “I had my two children go to Moscow with me, they were in 5th and 8th grade at the time, I was divorced from my first husband and they came with me for one year, and then went back to the States and lived in Virginia with their dad for the second year.”

     Beyond the job, which includes tea with the President and lunch with a “legislador” Ambassador Watts values one man who has made the journey easier and worthwhile. “It’s very nice to have a spouse who’s a good listener, … no matter what line of work you’re in [smile].”

     She also expressed her concern for the families and individuals in Florida and Georgia, areas recently affected by climatic disasters, and a special concern for New Orleans which was in grave danger at the time. “Sometimes disasters express in a tangible way some of the affection and fraternity among countries.” She was reminded of an event that occurred when she was in the Dominican Republic. “The Americans rallied to the aid of the Dominicans and it was quite heart-warming, similar to those done here in Central America after hurricane Mitch.”

     She ultimately tells me that the qualities that she tries to take with her from the office to home and everywhere that she goes is “tolerance, patience, and appreciation of other people’s points of view.” Her position and political career has taught her a great deal about the value of listening and understanding of others’ perspectives on situations, events, and life. She has had to adjust her language to speak to a variety of individuals, an ability which has become second nature to her, being a true diplomat. “[These qualities] make you a better friend, a better family member, a better daughter, mother, wife, and sister, because you get into the habit of saying ‘I want to understand your point of view’.”

     These words, from a sophisticate of the political world are guidelines for us as delegates representing a plethora of nations, and also as members of the international community. This extraordinary woman bids us adieu, or rather adios, at the end of this year. Farewell, Ambassador Watts, farewell.


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