Ralph Bunche was raised by his grandmother after his mother died and his father disappeared from his life.  He was an excellent athlete and was the valedictorian in his high school.  He continued to play sports in college at UCLA and was first in his class.  He achieved this success while also serving as a janitor.  He then earned a master’s and a PhD at Harvard.  He was the first African American to earn a PhD in Political Science in America.

After an academic career, Bunche became involved in the formation of the United Nations.  He was chosen to be the Under-Secretary of the UN.  This was the highest UN position ever held by an American.  He was successful in bringing the Suez Canal crisis under control.  This crisis could have evolved into a major conflict among super powers.  He was also successful in resolving conflicts in Zaire, Cyprus, and Bahrain.  Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating peace between Israel and four Arab states.

Bunche was offered the position of U.S. Secretary of State but turned it down.  He did not want his children to be subject to the racist atmosphere in our nation’s capital.  Bunche finished his career by bringing his diplomatic experience to the civil rights conflicts in America.  Many of his diplomatic beliefs became the basis of the work of Martin Luther King.

For all of his worldwide achievements, Ralph Bunche was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Kennedy.  In spite of his international acclaim, he continued to experience racism in his own neighborhood.

We often think of diplomacy as a skill that has a governmental emphasis.  In reality, diplomacy is a skill that is relevant to any organization.  In addition, diplomatic skills are important in all aspects of our lives:  our family, educational institutions, religious organizations, civic groups, etc.

The lack of diplomatic skills and an appreciation of diplomacy is evident in the growing toxicity in our society.  In fact, we often seem to associate diplomacy as a sign of weakness.

It’s interesting to think of the key traits of someone with strong diplomatic skills:  listening, valuing diverse perspectives, facilitating the resolution of differences, being trusted by all, creating workable compromises, and unshakeable patience.  Where does one acquire these skills?  Who are our role models?  What are the career paths for those who have diplomatic skills?  With the growing need and urgency of diplomacy, one would think there would be a greater focus on developing these skills.

* * *

“Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals.” – Ralph Bunche

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.