A Conversation on Global Diplomacy with United States Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. ’65

Posted: November 19, 2020

A Service to Our Nation, A Service to the World
A United States Ambassador

“I don’t think there is anything more important than education and preparing this generation for the future. You are the future of our country and the world. There is nothing more important than who is the next ambassador or president that is sitting in this class. My hope and prayer are with you that you use this gift of education that is unique in the world. This is a very special responsibility each one of you have. Take advantage of this opportunity, don’t let it go to waste, don’t squander it. You too can be an Ambassador if you choose to do so.”
— Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. ‘65

Dating to the founding of our nation, citizen diplomacy has been the hallmark of foreign relations, a distinguished service to our nation, and to the world. Following in the footsteps of such luminary figures as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, American diplomats have advanced the interests of our country and furthered world peace on a global stage.

Such is the role of a United States Ambassador. It is a position of prominence, honor, and trust. Yet, above all else, it is an important and impactful position of public service.

Brother Rice High School has the notable distinction of four United States Ambassadors, two current and two former, affiliated with the school. Three of these four Ambassadors are alumni – Richard Fredericks ’64, Gerry McGowan ’64, and John Rakolta Jr. ’65, and one is a parent of an alumnus & grandparent David Fischer P’91, GP’23.

Each of these men embody the spirit and ideals of Brother Rice High School and through their distinctive careers and in diplomatic service to our nation stand as vivid reminders to our students as to what is possible, meaningful, and impactful. We are enriched by their affiliation with Brother Rice and grateful for their service to America.

Distinguished citizenship transcends politics and is the highest form of public service.

Most recently, we were honored to host on campus via zoom video conference with the Ambassador’s Residence in Abu Dhabi a special educational program with The Honorable John Rakolta Jr. ’65, United States Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, for an interactive and informative “Conversation on Global Diplomacy” with particular attention to the historic Abraham Accord between The United Arab Emirates and Israel. Ambassador Rakolta was an active witness on the global stage in recent months to this historic accord furthering peace, security, and prosperity in the Middle East.

The video above reflects inspirational words & wisdom offered by Ambassador Rakolta as part of his hour-long exchange with Brother Rice students:

Special guest Jeff Denha ’89 and President Reidy before the start of the program.
Special guest Peter Schwartz ’93 introduces Ambassador Rakolta.
Ambassador Rakolta engages with students via international zoom conference.
Special guest Greg Fisher ’77 joins the conversation.
President Reidy expressing our gratitude for an exceptional student experience.

Inspiring Words from Ambassador Rakolta:

The Impact of Diplomacy:
“Diplomacy is a conducting of negotiations to influence the decision and conduct of foreign governments via dialogue and discussions through non-violent means. Diplomacy is far less expensive than war. It produces far better results. It makes friends, prosperity, and peace for lifetimes and generations to come. It plays a very important role in the world.”

The Importance of Service:
“I think there is no higher honor a citizen can have than in serving government in one way or another. I’ve always had a desire to serve. Elections matter, policy matters, ideas matter, forward-leaning matters, knowledge matters, experience matters, skills matter.”

The Influence of the Brother Rice Experience:
Was there anything in particular in your Brother Rice career that set you on the road toward business and diplomacy? “Absolutely, I think the most important thing a man can have is a set of values that are immutable – nothing that can change them. Those values that you hold dear to your heart are values that not only represent yourself or represent your country or your business that other people admire and are values that will help you achieve goals in life. Debate and intellectual tension, organizing your thoughts and arguments in a non-violent way is needed everywhere in diplomacy. That is what diplomacy really is. Soft power is so much more powerful than hard power. Brother Rice gave me something, and that was this foundation. I knew the Brothers not only cared for me but actually, I knew they loved me. It was a great foundation for my life.”

Skills, Character, and The Power of Prayer:
“Before skills, it starts with character. The most important character aspects you bring to any job are honesty, integrity, hard work, and continuous learning. Team is very important. You can do nothing alone in the world today. As for skills, being able to put a thought on paper is a skill, being able to write well, write a good email with a purpose, objective, and conclusion. Being able to articulate your thoughts to others clearly, succinctly, and efficiently are skills you begin learning in high school. Typing, spelling, grammar, speech, able to speak publicly are learned skills that take a lot of practice. One of the best ways to overcome the fear of public speaking is through prayer. Prayer comes from the heart. You don’t have to write it out in advance, you just have to feel the spirit, and you can begin to do that in class and at family dinners. Prayer brings a lot of side benefits that become foundational to your life.”

The Power of Networking:
“Networking is an incredibly important tool that everybody has to learn to use. No matter what you do in life, you need a complete team – loyal, dedicated, and passionate.”

The Power of Technology:
“How small the world really is, how close somebody can really be to you. Ten months ago, before COVID, we wouldn’t have had the fortitude, the expertise, and the willingness to use technology readily in this way. Hats off to Brother Rice High School as your use of technology is at good as it gets. The world has changed forever as a result of COVID, and the use of these technology platforms will only become more prevalent, and everyone should learn to use them as effectively as we have today.”

The Influence of Passion:
“I can tell you exactly when my passion in my life started. It was my first retreat in my Junior year at Brother Rice when we were asked if we had a calling to serve God, and, as I reflected, I knew I had a calling to serve mankind. There were many other moments along the way, but that was my first awareness. You’ve got to know why you’re on the face of this earth. You have to know what your values are. You have to go and work on that. It’s hard. It’s not something that comes easily. There are a lot of evil forces in the world that are trying to take you off of your game. But that was when my passion started, junior year at Brother Rice High School in the Spring of 1964. That was the foundational aspect of my life’s passion. Some people see it, and they take it and run with it. Other people, for whatever reason or another, just struggle with how to take their passion and seize it.”

Warrior Mentality in Life:
“You might not know what you want to do in your life at this stage of your life, but you need to know how to prepare yourself. What are the fundamentals that you need to be a Warrior in Life? The world has become a very competitive place. This Warrior Mentatility, as I call it, is made up of three things: 1) your physical wellbeing – physically fit, good night sleep, 2) your mental wellbeing – education, development of your skills, your values, and the final aspect is 3) your spiritual wellbeing – your soul, your purpose, your relationship with God. All of these things added up to my passion. Life is very, very long, and hard if you’re not chasing your passion. So you all should be developing something you are passionate about in life.”

Overarching quality of Leadership:
“Leadership in its best form is love for your fellow man that can drive you to do things you wouldn’t normally think of. It is instinctive. It is where people become heroes. It’s where people don’t consider themselves and do what is good for mankind. What I’ve found in life is if that is your philosophy, good things will come to you also.”

Parting Advice:
“The one thing I would leave to you is to love your fellow man. Today there is a lot said about bullying and aspects in life. I would encourage you to stick up for the disadvantaged, protect the weak, and serve our Lord and Savior that you can be proud of. I have always told my kids – never do anything you Mother wouldn’t be proud of, and anytime you first start stepping over that line, just ask yourself, “What would my mother say?” if you have any doubt. Final advice – Figure out a way to be grateful, to be happy. Be strategic, never impulsive. And lastly, There is no substitute for hard work. Work ethic is the number one characteristic that propels you forward.”

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