My life in many ways is a simple but beautiful story about the American Dream.
When I was 15, my family immigrated from Egypt to the United States – a country that offers opportunities to everyone regardless of background or national origin. My parents were hoping for a better future for their children. They were always big on education and the freedom that America offers. These values have inspired me most in my career in public service.
I was a junior in high school when we moved to Orange County, California. The first year was challenging. My senior year proved much brighter, however, and my counselor nominated me for the “Outstanding Youth Citizenship Award.” There were seven finalists from across the district. To my surprise and delight, I won. It meant a lot to me; that day I experienced myself how the United States is indeed a very special country.
I went on to do my undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine with a double major in Biology and French Literature. I was pre-med and then attended medical school at Northwestern in Chicago. I decided to take the Foreign Service exam out of curiosity. I thought the idea of becoming an American diplomat was so inspiring, but at the same time, it felt so out of reach that I never thought that it would become a reality.
When I passed the Foreign Service exam, I was in my early 20s and had to make the tough decision to either continue medical school, which I worked hard to get into, or embark on a major career switch. I asked the Dean of Students if he would grant me a two-year leave of absence so I could try the Foreign Service. He was very open-minded and encouraged me to try it, noting that not many people have a choice between two careers as diverse as medicine or diplomacy. My first overseas assignment was in Port of Prince, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where I conducted 25,000 visa interviews. I loved it and knew that the Foreign Service was the career for me.
Other than Washington, D.C., I served in Haiti, Italy, Russia, Libya, Algeria, Iraq, France, and Armenia. Singapore is my ninth embassy. It has been a tremendous honor to serve as the Chargé d’Affaires for most of my three years here. A highlight has been overseeing 25 U.S. government agencies, ensuring we are all speaking with one voice as the U.S. government and that we are united in advancing both the bilateral relationship and the national security interests of the United States in this consequential part of the world. I am so very proud of the U.S. Embassy Singapore team.
It is fascinating to serve the United States in a country as important as Singapore. While small in size, it’s a very impactful country. You sense its regional impact; you witness its global impact. We have thousands of American companies operating in Singapore and it warms my heart to see how many U.S. companies rank as top employers in Singapore. The U.S. private sector does a magnificent job here, not only in recruiting, hiring, and promoting but also in treating people right and illustrating American values in Singapore and beyond.
My 23 years in the Foreign Service included assignments in consular, political, economic, and public diplomacy. My career has advanced into management and leadership, where I have learned that people are the most important asset. Above all, it is the incredible people I have met in the Foreign Service, Americans and foreigners, that have made it most worthwhile for me. It’s an honor to represent the country that I deem the greatest on Earth. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
- Rafik Mansour, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Singapore