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Archive for December, 2009

Mari Carmen Aponte: Lifelong Service to Country, Lifelong Good-Will Ambassador

Why Mari Aponte would be an ideal ambassador to El Salvador  

I am writing about one of my dearest friends, Mari Carmen Aponte, because I have learned that President Barack Obama has nominated her to be Ambassador to El Salvador. I am thrilled. As Team Leader for the Barack Obama Presidential campaign here in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where we brought in a Republican county for Barack Obama in his Presidential race, I can only say how happy I am to have helped elect a President who would nominate my friend, Mari. He is truly the wise man I knew him to be.  

 Mari Aponte has had a long career of service to her country, and she has been a good-will ambassador her entire life. No person would represent our country any more perfectly than Mari.  

 Mari has been my friend for over 30 years – since the 1970s when we were both young adults, fresh out of law school (Mari from Temple University School of Law, me from Northeastern in Boston). I had to hire two lawyers in the corporate legal department of the Philadelphia Blue Cross plan where I had just been promoted to manager, and one of the first people I interviewed was Mari. She had an amazing power to connect with people – with all kinds of people – now that she has been nominated for this ambassadorship, it seems so right at this point in her stellar career of public service. Hiring Mari then was a no-brainer – she was not only the most qualified applicant, but she also was the most engaging applicant I interviewed.

 Working with Mari was delightful. She was very positive, while at the same time undertaking her responsibilities seriously. She reminded everyone in the office of the positive aspects of life every day. That’s Mari. Connecting with and understanding people is Mari’s greatest qualification for any position involving dealing with people. Not everyone can be an ambassador, but Mari has been an ambassador on a daily basis all her life.

 However, a sunny personality does not always get the job done. Doing great work requires a high level of intelligence and a strong sense of good judgment,which Mari always has exhibited in every situation.  

 Over the years, Mari has worked in so many positions for nonprofits (such as the organization where she and I worked), as well as government-related positions. Whether working for Blue Cross or representing a religious institution, whether working as a White House Fellow or for Puerto Rican interests in our capital, Mari has worked tirelessly for nonprofit organizations and for government.  

 An ambassador’s main function is to advance the interests of the United States, such as promoting trade and security, facilitating cultural ties, and protecting the lives of American citizens. To perform this main function, an ambassador must have the United States’ interest as one’s greatest concern. Throughout Mari’s career, she has always had her country’s interest at heart as her greatest concern. She has broad business acumen and knowledge of “how the world works” that is necessary to promote trade and security. Additionally, she can facilitate cultural ties in El Salvador.  A native Spanish speaker and a longtime world traveler, Mari also has lived and enjoyed a multicultural life in every way. Characteristically, I have photos of Mari on my refrigerator riding a camel in Egypt in 1965, then again in 2007! She has trekked the far reaches of the globe, studied and befriended people all over this planet – she is the ideal ambassador.  

 An ambassador must convey a President’s goals to representatives of the host nation’s government. No one can perform this function better than Mari Aponte. She has the gift of communication – honed not only in her native Spanish in Puerto Rico, but also in English in college, law school, and a lifetime of work in the United States. She understands President Obama’s goals, will communicate them clearly, and will foster the kind of interchange that few people can facilitate.  

 An ambassador sometimes negotiates agreements on the President’s behalf. Mari’s long legal career and direct experience as a professional negotiator will make her a good agreement negotiator for the country.   Ambassadors assess the political climate in their host country and analyze important events, exercising judgment and discretion every day. Mari’s language and cultural skills and understanding will make her a good person to perform this ambassadorial function. She is perceptive about human beliefs and feelings and can “read” others with amazing accuracy. I have never known a person with greater “people” skills than Mari.

 Ambassadors are frequently in the public eye and represent their countries in a very public way. Mari has the graciousness, the kindness, the wisdom to be a great public representative in El Salvador for our country. Mari, it must be mentioned, has socialized and worked with the “movers and shakers” of the world at all levels. Few of us have had the kind of experiences that give them ambassadorial social graces – Mari is perfect for this post.

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