- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

Picture of hope

A photograph of a boy in a school in a Nigerian slum stood on an easel in the elegant State Department diplomatic reception room.

The boy held a hand-scrawled sign thanking the World Food Program (WFP) for providing meals that kept him and his classmates from starving. He had asked a visiting American official to show the photo to the new director of the U.N. agency that feeds 97 million men, women and children around the globe.

“It is often said that hunger has no name. Today it has, and its name is Robert,” said Dina Powell, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. “Now hope has a name, and that is Josette Sheeran.”

Ms. Sheeran, most recently undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs, is one of the 100 most powerful women in Washington, a distinction conferred on her by Washingtonian magazine. However, to friends and colleagues, she is a compassionate, carrying women dedicated to public service and to conservative economic policies that promote growth and jobs.

She is also a former deputy U.S. trade representative, a past president and chief executive officer of Empower America and one of the founding editors of The Washington Times, where she learned certain skills not taught in the diplomatic handbook.

“Her origins are in newspapers, which are not noted for diplomacy,” Wesley Pruden, editor in chief of The Times and a longtime colleague, told the gathering of about 100 guests last week. “Josette knows the newspaper business like Brooks Robinson knows third base.”

Mrs. Powell called Ms. Sheeran a “powerful voice” in the State Department and an “inspiration to us all.”

“President Bush has so much personal faith in you,” Mrs. Powell, a former White House personnel director, added.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined the reception briefly to declare the day a “bittersweet moment” because she was losing an aide with “integrity and smarts,” while the United Nations is gaining a woman with a “strong commitment to democratic values.”

“The WFP is a calling,” Miss Rice said. “Wherever there are people suffering and hungry, Americans cannot rest.”

Ambassador Tony Hall, a former chief of the U.S. mission to the Rome-based U.N. agencies where the WFP is headquartered, told Ms. Sheeran that her new job is one of the best in the world.

“All you do all day long is think about how to make people’s lives better,” he said. “Bless you and may God be with you.”

Ms. Sheeran, at times teary-eyed and moved by the praise from her colleagues, said, “What moves me most about Americans is that they believe in core values that every nation should have independence, prosperity and freedom.”

She talked of her pride in her new job, which she takes up on Thursday. She described the agency as the best-run U.N. program and noted that WFP relief workers are especially dedicated, fearless and determined.

“Nothing gets between the WFP and a hungry child,” she said.

Afghan grateful

Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad has been busy writing letters to the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, thanking President Bush and other senior officials for their commitment to the reconstruction of his country.

He told Mr. Bush that the “comprehensive strategy” announced in a recent speech will enable Afghanistan to “build a pluralistic, prosperous and civil society.” Mr. Jawad wrote to Vice President Dick Cheney to thank him for his March visit to Afghanistan.

“The people of Afghanistan value your personal commitment,” he said.

Mr. Jawad also wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after they announced an additional $11.6 billion aide package.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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