Distinguished Alumnus Francisco Palmieri '79 brings Worldly Diplomacy to Hopkins

Hopkins was honored to welcome Francisco Palmieri '79 back to campus on Friday, January 4, 2019. Palmieri has been named the 2018-2019 Distinguished Alumnus for his 30-year career in public service working for the United States Foreign Service. Palmieri is currently the Acting Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and has also been nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Honduras. Palmieri has spent most of his professional career in the Foreign Service, doing diplomatic work abroad since the Reagan administration.

Addressing students, staff and faculty at morning assembly, Palmieri expressed delight at having come full circle. “It is sweet to be back here where it all began,” said Palmieri, which for him was 46 years ago, when he entered Hopkins as a 7th grader. “It was 40 years ago, as student council President [in my senior year], that it was my honor to lead assembly.” Palmieri’s father had been a member of the Hopkins groundskeeping staff and sports equipment manager for 25 years. “He worked here so I could attend Hopkins,” Palmieri said. In his address he impressed upon the students to take advantage of all the opportunities that Hopkins provides, including access to the city of New Haven, a city rich in diversity and culture, as well as the mentors they can find in their teachers and advisers. For Palmieri, some of those mentors included former Head of School John Wilkinson, his adviser and former English teacher Susan Feinberg, and coach Bill Ewen, who were all in attendance for the special assembly. Palmieri also gave the students a homework assignment to look up another of his mentors: Barbara Jordan, former congresswoman from Texas, and his professor at the University of Texas. Palmieri credited Jordan’s mentorship as having made the most lasting impact on his career, deepening his understanding of service and creating policy. At the close of his talk, Palmieri stressed the importance of "servant leadership,” putting the needs of others first, and encouraged students to pursue careers that contribute to the wider world.

Following assembly, Palmieri and invited guests, including his mother, Genoveva, brother, Michelangelo '95 and former classmate, Jeff Arons ’79, enjoyed a breakfast reception before participating in breakout sessions with students and faculty in the Weissman Room. Heeding Palmieri's earlier advice, students took full advantage of the opportunity, asking Mr. Palmieri about South American politics, as well as his diplomatic efforts in nations around the globe. In his remarks, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy over, or in concert with, military efforts in foreign relations, explaining that diplomacy is essential in developing relationships with other nations, and can do more to affect positive results than military operations. Several students posed questions in Spanish, while others were curious about the government shutdown, which had started December 22nd, and was in its 13th day at the time of his visit. Around midday, Palmieri joined invited guests for a lunch reception, before heading to Susan Bennitt's Spanish V class.

The Hopkins Distinguished Alumni/ae Award is given annually to honor alumni/ae who have demonstrated extraordinary accomplishment in their chosen fields, and in service to the community.

Francisco Palmieri's Biography:
Palmieri holds a A.B. in Politics from Princeton University, and a M.S. in International Strategic Studies from the National War College. In July of 2018, he was nominated by the Trump administration to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Honduras. He will assume the role once he is confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his current role as Acting Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mr. Palmieri develops and coordinates U.S. foreign policy for 35 nations in the Western Hemisphere. Previously, from January 2014 to January 2016, Mr. Palmieri served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean. From 2012 to 2014, he served as the Director of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs’ Office of Policy, Planning, and Coordination. He also served in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Spain and Honduras, and led the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement’s (INL) Latin American and Caribbean Programs Office. He was the Director of Embassy in Baghdad’s INL Office from 2010-2011. He also served as Director of the Near East and South and Central Asia Office in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). In addition, Palmieri served in Iraq and El Salvador during war/civil conflicts in 2010-2011 and 1988-1990. He has directed travel advance for four former Secretaries of State: Albright, Powell, Clinton and Kerry. He has monitored elections in four different continents, and has been honored in recognition of his efforts as a human rights officer in El Salvador and in Middle East, in 1990 and 2006.