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Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering

Building Mutual Understanding Through Diplomatic Service

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
U.S. Diplomat and seven-time U.S. Ambassador
1954 Fulbright U.S. Student to Australia

Thomas R. Pickering, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Thomas R. Pickering, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, behind nameplate. Credit: UN Photo/Saw Lwin

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, a retired U.S. diplomat whose career has spanned four decades, has advanced diplomacy and mutual understanding around the world. He holds the title of Career Ambassador, the highest title in the U.S. Foreign Service; speaks five languages; holds the 2002 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award from the American Foreign Service Association; and is the recipient of 13 honorary degrees.

Ambassador Pickering showed an early interest in diplomacy, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from Bowdoin College and completing a master’s degree at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1954. Upon graduation, he undertook a second master’s degree at the University of Melbourne as a 1954 Fulbright U.S. Student to Australia.

Following his Fulbright, Ambassador Pickering served in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1959 and later joined the U.S. Department of State, where he held numerous positions, including Ambassador to El Salvador, India, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia, and the United Nations. In recognition of his distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Pickering was promoted to the position of Under Secretary for Political Affairs in 1997, the third-highest post in the U.S. Department of State.

Following Ambassador Pickering’s retirement, the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program was renamed The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program in his honor. The program continues Ambassador Pickering’s work, preparing outstanding young people for careers in the U.S. Foreign Service, including members of historically underrepresented groups. After his retirement, he joined the private sector as the Senior Vice President for International Relations and Executive Council Member for The Boeing Company, and continues working toward a more peaceful world through various organizations including the International Crisis Group, Council on Foreign Relations, and The Project on National Security Reform.

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. Credit: Miller Center

Reflecting on his illustrious career, Ambassador Pickering is grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by the Fulbright Program. He refers to his Fulbright in Australia as his “first diplomatic assignment” and “salute[s] the Fulbright Program for its continuing work, especially in newly emerging democracies.” Highlighting the ongoing importance that Fulbright plays in international diplomacy, he notes that “those who have crossed thresholds thanks to the Fulbright Program have gone on to build bridges between countries, across academic disciplines and generations, and most importantly, among people.”  

Ambassador Pickering continues to build and support the United States’ relationship with Australia. In The Alliance, a SkyNews network documentary series, he highlights the Fulbright Program’s important contributions to 70 years of bilateral cultural and academic exchange. Ambassador Pickering remarks that he has encountered many distinguished Fulbright alumni throughout his diplomatic career: “In each of my assignments, I have worked with ministers, businessmen, teachers and diplomats who got to know America as Fulbrighters.” Like Ambassador Pickering, Fulbright is often their first opportunity to think beyond their borders and establish lasting connections.