Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Gutierrez recognized during campus visit

When Lino Gutierrez, former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua and Argentina, first took the Foreign Service Exam, he failed. He instead accepted an IRS job in which he would repossess cars, but the IRS asked him to shave his mustache. Gutierrez decided that wasn’t for him.

Instead, Gutierrez got his teaching certificate and taught for a few years in Miami, Fla., before returning to The University of Alabama, where he had graduated in 1972 with a degree in political science, to get his master’s in Latin American studies.

After receiving his master’s, Gutierrez retook the Foreign Service Exam, passed and joined the Foreign Service in 1977, where he worked until he retired in 2006.

During a campus visit Monday, UA president Judy Bonner named Gutierrez the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Strategic International Studies.

“I was born in Cuba, and I had to leave Cuba when I was ten years old, so I was already affected by international events, so I was very interested in international relations,” Gutierrez said. “I studied political science here at the University and then Latin American studies, so I always thought that the best way to practice international relations was with the Foreign Service of the United States.”

The history department hosted an informal workshop for graduate and undergraduate students interested in careers in the federal government or in foreign affairs. Gutierrez spoke to students and answered questions about his experiences in Washington, D.C. and abroad.

“Foreign Service officers represent the United States overseas and our job is to deal with foreign countries, explain the United States to them and explain what they’re doing to Washington, and negotiate agreements, find areas of common interest and cooperation,” Gutierrez said.

Working for six presidents and 13 secretaries of state in his 29 year career, Gutierrez represented U.S. interests abroad under diverse administrations.

“When President Reagan was president, I was the Nicaragua desk officer at a time when there was a lot of division in Congress about our Central America policy, so that was a different approach,” Gutierrez said. “That was one area where there were significant differences between the two parties, but that was one of the few times. For the most part, it’s just a difference of style, rather than substance between the two parties. Both parties believe in support for democracy, for human rights, to support American business overseas, to counter terrorism—very few differences between the parties on the major issues.”

Gutierrez served tours in developing nations like Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, where he said American presence was important.

“It could be a shock to see poor people and the conditions they live in. I always told myself that we were helping these countries, that we were doing some good, that we were making things better. We didn’t create the conditions there, but I felt that our presence was a positive one,” Gutierrez said.

Emily Griswold, a junior majoring in international studies, and Will Elkins, a junior majoring in geography and international relations, said they are considering careers in Foreign Service and went to the forum to hear from Gutierrez about his experience.

“I want to pursue a career for the State Department, so it was more obvious to me. He’s been there, he’s done that, so get advice from him and see where it goes,” Griswold said.

Elkins said he was struck by the diversity of what the Foreign Service is looking for.

“You know it’s not just the cookie cutter of what you might imagine for a Foreign Service position,” Elkins said.

Gutierrez is now executive director of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation in Washington, D.C., which supports the Department of State and the Foreign Service, as well as teaching at George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University and the Foreign Service Institute.

Gutierrez said he suggests students “look in a mirror and know themselves, find out what their passion is and try to pursue their passion.”


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