Former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, a 1971 graduate of Whitman and an overseer of the college, spoke to a group of Whitman students on Tuesday (Nov. 10) on the topic of how  personal conviction and public service go hand in hand. To read about the discussion in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, click here.

Crocker, who served as ambassador to five countries in the Middle East during a storied diplomatic career that included Iraq as his final post, discussed “From Iraq to Afghanistan: Engagement and Confrontation in the Broader Middle East” on Monday (Nov. 9) at 7:30 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium.

When he retired from the United States Foreign Service in early 2009, Crocker had served for 38 years, many as ambassador to Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. In fact, he and his wife, Christine, intended to retire in 2007, but when then-president Bush asked him to take on the assignment in Iraq the Crockers delayed their plans, and he took the post.

Fluent in Arabic and knowledgeable about the history of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, Crocker was lauded as “America’s Lawrence of Arabia” by President Bush, when he presented the ambassador with the nation’s highest civil honor, The Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama has referred to Crocker as “an example of the very best this nation has to offer.” Since retiring to Spokane earlier this year, Crocker has made involvement with Whitman a high priority among his activities, including visits to campus and increased service as an overseer. Crocker's visit is sponsored by the Ashton J. and Virginia Graham O'Donnell Endowment for Global Studies.

Crocker credits Whitman for developing critical and creative thinkers, noting that the college “did so much to shape my life and career.” An English major, Crocker maintains that studying the literature of foreign countries was an effective tool in gaining insight and relating to the people and culture of those lands.

“Literature is the window into how people feel. No nation or people or culture can be understood simply by the pure facts of their history.” In addition, he maintains, literature is a “tremendous mental discipline.”

CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156