Serving the nation and the world
May 30, 2013
By Rachel Zolfo ’14
For many students, travelling the world after college would be a dream come true. For Gerald Anderson ’76, however, world travel was simply a part of his job description.
As an International Studies major at Bradley, Anderson became interested in a career with the Foreign Service. His eventual career path had him working for American embassies around the world, helping to manage America’s diplomatic relationships. In the ‘70s, the need for International Studies majors was growing as global relationships became increasingly vital to the nation’s economic success.
In addition to his major, Anderson also took a foreign language and studied abroad. Immediately after college, he joined the Peace Corps and spent some time in West Africa, learning what it was like to be immersed in a new culture.
Upon joining the Foreign Service, Anderson’s first assignment was in Jerusalem. There, he was responsible for dealing with political issues, primarily Israel’s tumultuous relationship with Palestine. Throughout his career, Anderson worked in Israel, South Korea and Poland.
With the State Department, Anderson reached the highest rank for a career foreign service officer, serving as the deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of International Organization Affairs before completing his career as a diplomat in December 2010. He now works for the Organization of American States, an international organization that counts all 35 independent countries of the Americas as members, as the group’s Secretary for Administration and Finance.
While in Poland, Anderson and others at the American embassy helped the newly formed government deal with the end of communism. To ease the transition, his team developed a program to help promote a free market economy.
In the last year, Anderson returned to Poland for a visit. He said the nation is almost unrecognizable and the people have clearly benefitted from the implementation of a market economy. He said seeing this difference has been one of the most rewarding parts of his career.
“It is satisfying to go back to Poland and to see how prosperous the nation has become since we were here last,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to know that I helped to make that happen.”
In South Korea, his job had a similar objective to assist the Asian nation’s recovery after the fall of a military dictatorship. He said though some tasks may seem mundane, a career with the Foreign Service is extremely rewarding because you can see the changes that you make in the world. Even policies that do not achieve their intended goal still have their rewards.
“I worked in Israel during the Clinton Administration, in the three years leading up to the peace treaty that was close to being signed at Camp David,” Anderson said. “Though it failed, this same plan is still used today to help resolve conflicts among the two nations. Our work was not in vain.”
Today, Anderson is still involved in international affairs as the Secretary of Administration and Finance for the Organization of American States. He also continues to return to campus, to encourage other students to consider careers in the State Department.
In the future, Anderson hopes that more Bradley students will follow a similar path.
“The Midwest and its values should be well-represented in Washington,” he said. “I’m happy to help to promote that.”