Growing up in segregated Louisiana, Linda Thomas-Greenfield says she learned to face adversity. Now, the career diplomat has been tapped to represent the Biden administration at the United Nations in a moment of renewed racial tensions at home.
"My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place," Thomas-Greenfield wrote on Twitter following Monday's announcement that she will be nominated to the Cabinet-level job, which requires Senate approval. "I've carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service — and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations."
My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) November 23, 2020
Thomas-Greenfield is a 35-year veteran of the foreign service who oversaw the Bureau of African Affairs during the Obama administration. She has served director general of the foreign service as well as ambassador to Liberia. She has written about the need to rebuild the State Department, which has been hollowed out by the Trump administration.
In a TEDx talk last year, Thomas-Greenfield described her upbringing in the "Deep South ... in a segregated town in which the KKK regularly would come on weekends and burn a cross in somebody's yard."
Her parents never made it past third and eighth grade, but she went on to study at the Louisiana State University.
"I was entering a hostile environment when I started at LSU. David Duke, the famous former grand wizard of the Klan, was a student on campus and he was preaching the same hatred, anti-Semitism, white supremacy that he preached in Charlottesville, Va., [in 2018]," she said.
Thomas-Greenfield went on to graduate school before entering the foreign service.