The U.S. Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the new ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday with the both Democrats and Republicans supporting her with a strong 78-20 vote, the Associated Press reported. She becomes the second African American woman behind Susan Rice to hold the position, and fifth African American overall.
Thomas-Greenfield, who spent 35 years with the U.S. Foreign Service and served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Obama administration, was among several diplomats pushed out of their positions by the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson under former president Donald Trump.
But the Biden administration, seeking a reversal of Trump foreign policy and mistreatment of State Department personnel, nominated her to replace Kelly Craft, the last U.N. ambassador under the last administration. Richard Mills held the position in the interim immediately after Biden was inaugurated.
“Like my mentors, role models and predecessors, I strongly believe diplomacy is an irreplacable tool in the work of advancing America’s interests in building a better world,” she said at her hearing. “Throughout my career, from Jamaica to Nigeria to Pakistan to Switzerland and as ambassador to Liberia, I’ve learned that effective diplomacy means more than shaking hands and staging photo ops.
“It means developing real robust relationships,” she continued. “It means finding common ground and managing points of differentiation. It means doing genuine, old-fashioned people-to-people diplomacy.”
She assumes the new job at a time when U.S. foreign relations, which suffered globally over the past four years. The Trump administration has been roundly criticized for damaging relationships and starting a trade war with China, which the Biden administration is now left to deal with..
She faced some opposition in the hearings from Republicans who feared she would be soft on foreign policy when it comes to China, due to a speech she gave in 2019, which praised China’s investment dealings in Africa. She told the Senate that speech was a mistake and that China’s actions “threaten our security, they threaten our values and they threaten our way of life, and they are a threat to their neighbors and they are a threat across the globe.”
Thomas-Greenfield did win the confidence of Senators who prized her experience on the world stage and noted the conditions under which she assumes the role.
“She’ll assume the role of the UN ambassador at a time when the nations of the world must deepen their cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 and the fight against climate change, among other critical priorities,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer during the hearings, according to USA Today.