For more than half of his career, Thomas Miller had to live overseas and move around as often as every other year, from one country to another, from one continent to another. There were years when he and his wife, Bonnie, had to live separately from their children because his boss wouldn”t let him take them to his new job location, and he can”t even start to count how many soccer games and parent-teacher meetings he has missed. Nonetheless, Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, is content and very proud of his career as he told more than 90 University students on Friday.
Miller, who was appointed and approved in August 2001 by the Senate to be the ambassador to Greece, came to his alma mater to speak about careers in foreign-service.
“It”s been a fascinating career,” said Miller, who attended the University during the time of turmoil for the United States with the Vietnam War and Watergate. He admitted that he wasn”t always a proponent of the U.S. government as a college student. But much of that has changed during the past 26 years as foreign-service officer in the Middle East, North Africa, South East Asia and East Europe.
“A policy is not just an abstract idea. They can affect the lives of many people and there are human consequences,” he said.
“Let”s remember this: We in the U.S. all come from elsewhere and we are what I call hyphenated Americans,” he said. “We have the obligation to help those not as fortunate as we are.”
While emphasizing that one of the key aspects to success in working for the State Department is teamwork and the ability to think, he encouraged more non-social science students to consider working in the State Department.
“There is a desperate need for people from fields other than political science because the world is changing,” he said. “People with science backgrounds are highly welcomed.”
As a genuine Wolverine who received both his undergraduate and three graduate degrees from the University, Miller said his education at the University was “very relevant.”
“All of my good upbringing of Michigan prepared me for this. Michigan was a great training ground to learn how the world works and to learn to solve problems,” he added.
Miller left the Student Activities Building with these final words: “Number one, be open to take advantage of all Michigan has to offer. Number two, be open to the things you can do with your life, and number three, when you are considering number two, know yourself and know what is important to you.”
“(The presentation) gave students a chance to know what careers in foreign service are like,” said Sally Schueneman, the career events manager at the University”s Career Planning and Placement, which co-sponsored the event with the International Center.
Before going back to Greece, Miller will be traveling to Illinois and California to speak to the Greek-American communities. As the ambassador to Greece, he said a part of his job is to stay in touch with the Greek-American communities and to make sure “they have the opportunities to be heard.”