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The Honorable James Gadsden

United States Ambassador (retired) James I. Gadsden was born on March 12, 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, James David Gadsden, was a janitor; his mother; Hazel Gaines Gadsden, a maid and housewife. After receiving his B.A. degree cum laude in economics from Harvard University in 1970, Gadsden enrolled in Stanford University and graduated from there in 1972 with his M.A. degree in East Asian Studies. Following graduation, he was awarded a mid-career fellowship from 1984 to 1985 at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to study economics.

Gadsden’s career with the U.S. Department of State began in 1972 as a political officer. He was then assigned to the U.S. Trade Center in Taipei in 1974 as a market research officer supporting U.S. export promotion programs. He continued promoting U.S. exports as a commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary until 1979. In 1980, he became a staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs. From 1981 to 1997, Gadsden served as the European Communities desk officer at the State Department, economic and political officer at the U.S. Mission to the European Communities in Brussels, Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. Returning to the United States in 1997, Gadsden was named Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and then served as Special Negotiator for Agricultural Biotechnology in 2001.

After being nominated by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gadsden was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Iceland on October 24, 2002. In that position, he directed the implementation of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. government operations in Iceland. Returning to the United States in 2005, Gadsden was appointed as Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor at the National War College in Washington, D.C. until he retired in 2007. After retirement, he was recalled to serve as Senior Advisor for European Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. In 2008, he became Diplomat-In-Residence and Lecturer in Public and International Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is currently Senior Counselor for International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey.

Gadsden is married to Sally Freeman Gadsden. They have two adult sons.

James I. Gadsden was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 11, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.070

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/11/2013

Last Name

Gadsden

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

I.

Occupation
Schools

Princeton University

Stanford University

Harvard University

Elisabeth Irwin High School

Charles A. Brown High School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Charleston

HM ID

GAD01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Around The United States

Favorite Quote

We Can Do That.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

3/12/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Foreign ambassador The Honorable James Gadsden (1948 - ) former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, served as Diplomat-In-Residence and Lecturer in Public and International Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and Senior Counselor for International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

Employment

Princeton University

United States Department of State

Favorite Color

Fall Colors

Timing Pairs
0,0:1076,12:1436,69:4244,124:4532,129:5468,138:5756,143:6332,152:7412,177:11804,274:16910,351:30441,551:40354,673:46488,752:46776,757:47856,773:73413,1113:88209,1338:100024,1486:100376,1491:100816,1497:101432,1506:109950,1564$0,0:9530,130:14940,161:17724,197:45313,506:58740,645:101519,1104:119370,1347:130177,1462:136008,1519:146080,1603:177374,1990:178529,2006:178837,2011:186491,2084:250200,2958
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Gadsden's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Gadsden lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Gadsden describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Gadsden describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Gadsden talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Gadsden describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Gadsden reflects upon the lack of information about his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Gadsden talks about his father's experience in World War II and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Gadsden describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Gadsden describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Gadsden talks about the role Denmark Vesey and the free black middle class played in the history of Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Gadsden describes growing up in 1950s Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Gadsden describes race relations in 1950s Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Gadsden talks about the Civil Rights Movement in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Gadsden lists the public schools he attended in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Gadsden recalls his favorite teachers at Charles A. Brown High School in Charleston, South Carolina, including HistoryMaker James Clyburn

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Gadsden talks about his childhood reading habits in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Gadsden describes the Civil Rights Movement in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Gadsden talks about the Corsairs, HistoryMaker James Clyburn's student organization at Charles A. Brown High School in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Gadsden describes his decision to transfer away from Charles A. Brown High School in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Gadsden talks about his decision to transfer to Elisabeth Irwin High School (LRSI) in New York, New York in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Gadsden describes the intensive high school program he attended during the summer of 1963 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Gadsden talks about entering Elisabeth Irwin High School (LRSI) in New York, New York in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Gadsden describes the academic programs at Elisabeth Irwin High School (LRSI) in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Gadsden describes the students at Elisabeth Irwin High School (LRSI) in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Gadsden talks about his classmates at Elisabeth Irwin High School (LRSI) in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Gadsden recalls his decision to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Gadsden describes the people he met at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, including HistoryMaker Archie C. Epps, III

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Gadsden talks about studying economics at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Gadsden describes the most interesting professors and guest lecturers he had Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Gadsden talks about switching his program of study from economics to Chinese studies

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Gadsden talks about enrolling in graduate school for Chinese Studies at Stanford University in Stanford, California

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Gadsden talks about being recruited into the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of East Asian Affairs

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Gadsden recalls how he met his wife, Sally Freeman Gadsden, in 1970 in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Gadsden talks about his and his wife's decision to get married in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Gadsden describes working at the U.S. Trade Center in Taipei, Taiwan from 1974 to 1978

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Gadsden recounts transferring from Taipei, Taiwan to Budapest, Hungary

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Gadsden describes his wife's role at the U.S. Embassy in Hungary

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Gadsden recalls working in Communist Hungary in the late 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Gadsden describes working for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Economics and Business Affairs

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Gadsden reflects upon treatment while working at the U.S. Department of State

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Gadsden describes his experience working as the European Communities Desk Officer for the U.S. Department of State

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Gadsden recalls becoming the State Department's European Communities Desk Officer

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Gadsden describes his experience as the Economic and Political Officer for the U.S. Department of State in Brussels, Belgium from 1985 to 1989

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Gadsden recounts his work as Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. embassy in Paris, France from 1989 to 1993

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Gadsden reflects upon his diplomatic role during Operation Desert Storm and the international campaign against South African apartheid

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James Gadsden talks about returning to post-Communist Hungary in 1994 to aid their political transition

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Gadsden talks about working in the U.S. embassy to Hungary during the transition to a market economy

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Gadsden describes his position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Gadsden talks about serving as the State Department's Special Negotiator for Agricultural Biotechnology

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Gadsden describes serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland from 2002 to 2005

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Gadsden recounts negotiating the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iceland

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James Gadsden reflects upon serving as U.S. Ambassador to Iceland

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James Gadsden reflects upon the honor and status afforded to a former U. S. Ambassador

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Gadsden describes his experience as Deputy Commandant of the National War College in Washington, D.C. from 2005 to 2007

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Gadsden recalls the people he met while teaching at the National War College in Washington, D.C., including HistoryMaker Colin Powell

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James Gadsden talks about briefly working at the United Nations in New York City, in 2007

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James Gadsden explains the United States' decision not to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - James Gadsden describes working at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - James Gadsden reflects upon his role as a mentor to younger Foreign Service Officers

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - James Gadsden talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - James Gadsden talks about his children and about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - James Gadsden narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$8

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
James Gadsden recalls becoming the State Department's European Communities Desk Officer
James Gadsden recalls the people he met while teaching at the National War College in Washington, D.C., including HistoryMaker Colin Powell
Transcript
So you were there [U.S. Department of State European Community desk] from 1981 to '84 [1984], was there anything we need to talk about in that position before we move on to the next?$$Oh, I don't think so. Just maybe one lesson learned.$$Okay.$$It was through lunch with a China buddy, complaining about wanting to get out of his job in that office, that the idea came up of whether or not I might wanna take his job. First he asked me, and I told him, "Well, I got a commitment right now." Then when I went back to my office after lunch, his boss called me and invited me down for a conversation. We talked for two hours, didn't talk about the job once but everything else. And he was an elderly gentleman, and he asked me, "So young man, do you want this job on the European Communities desk?" And the lesson I learned was how to answer a question, you know. Instead of saying, "Yes, sir," what I said was, "Well, you know, I'm not really not a Europe expert, I studied China. And I had one assignment in Europe in Budapest [Hungary] and," and on and on and on about what I didn't have. This gentleman took his glasses off, leaned across the desk and said, "Young man, I don't give a good"--expletive deleted-"what you know about Europe, whether you studied Europe, whether you've been to Europe, I don't even care whether you like Europe. My question to you was, do you want this job because I want you in it."$$Hmm.$$And, of course, my response was yes. My lesson, don't talk about what you can't do because, you can do it, you know. You can do it.$So, all right. So any stories from your position as Deputy Commandant [of the National War College, Washington, D.C.]?$$It was a fascinating position to hold. First because my boss at that time, General [Teresa] Marne Peterson, was one of the first ladies to graduate from the [U.S.] Air Force Academy's pilot training. And she commanded a tanker, I'm, sorry, a transport squadron in Saudi [Arabia] during the first Gulf War. And I think a transport, a transport squadron at, at other times in, in her career. Just a fascinating leader. Very decisive. I learned a lot from her and I worked very well with her. And until today we're both retired now, and we're still very, very good friends, you know. Secondly, because of the people who came through as guest lecturers, you know, colonel, well, General [HM Colin] Powell, Secretary of State Powell, [general and news commentator] Barry McCaffrey, and certainly [Congressman] Newt Gingrich [R-Georgia], (laughter) Tom freeden-[journalist Thomas] Friedman. Just a, a bunch of really stellar thinkers. Controversial authors, if you will, to give lectures that were not necessarily in line with whatever administration was in at the time. They gave their own thoughts. And the whole idea was to present these thoughts in the open forum to be debated, tested, contested, if you will, as a part of the learning experience. When General Powell was there, he made a comment that was very instructive to the students. He said, "You know, when I was a student here sitting in that top row up there, fast asleep most of the time, if anybody had ever told me at that time that I was going to be, you know, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor to the president, and the Secretary of State, I would have laughed in their face. The likelihood of that was so remote. I wouldn't even think about it. It was not on my horizon." And he said, "Because you were chosen to be here, you know, is, is a comment on the expectations in your career. You have no idea what you're going to be doing in ten or twenty years, so prepare yourselves now to lead." I thought that was one of the most fascinating commentaries I ever heard from someone who's held in such high esteem. And I could literally see him as a colonel, kind of bored and sleeping, (laughter) and not knowing how his future was going to unfold. And when he said that I kind of looked around the room and just kind of wondering to myself where these really talented people are going to be in five or ten or twenty years. I had a whole bunch of folks who came through whose names are household words, you know. [National Security Advisor to Barack Obama] General Jim [L.] Jones, you know, and a whole string of military leaders, not to mention State Department [U.S. Department of State] people who have been students at the National War College, yeah.$$Okay. So you were there two years?$$Two years.$$Two years.$$Yeah.