Black, Dorothy - Oral History Interview

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Title: Black, Dorothy - Oral History Interview
Author: Black, Dorothy
Abstract: Dorothy went to Stanford for her undergraduate degree and was an International Relations major there (International Relations was in the Political Science Department at that time). When she came to college, she had an interest in going overseas (traveling and working there). During her sophomore year, she went to the Stanford in France program. She spent six months in tour and absolutely loved Europe. She studied French and traveled around. When she graduated from Stanford, she wanted to do a post-graduation degree and applied to SAIS, Fletcher and American. SAIS accepted her to go to Bologna for her first year and she was delighted with this option (and did attend both Bologna and DC campuses). She mentioned never really traveling much when she was a child and she grew up in California, but she was mentored by one of her 8th grade teachers who had shared some of her international experiences with her….and wonders if this is part of how she got interested in International Relations to begin with. Dorothy continued with her Italian only informally after leaving Bologna and studied more French while she was at SAIS DC. She did this as she had more of a background in French and wanted to be sure to pass her Orals. She also mentioned that just last year, she went back to visit the Bologna Center and had a wonderful time. While studying at the Bologna Center, she recalls being able to travel around Italy quite a bit (Florence, La Scala, Milan, Ravena, Venice and Rome). She also remembers going on to field trips (one to the European Communities – several European Countries – and the other she cannot recall). At Bologna, she has memories of Villa di Liorti, where they had one whole side of an apartment house – three apartments were for women and others were for men. In her case, she had one American roommate and one Austrian roommate – most other apartments had four people. In the apartments, people had fun dinner parties and also studied together. It was a 45 minute walk to the Bologna Center itself, so they typically traveled by car. She also remembers some of her professors. Specifically, she recalls Professor Wilson Schmidt who was the Economics professor – he taught International Trade and International Finance. She also remembers Professor Lapergola who taught United Nations and International Organizations. There was also Professor Grosser who traveled down from Paris to be there. She also remembers Ivano who ran the snack bar – which they frequented often. It was in that period that Ivano grew the snack bar a lot. When she came to SAIS DC, this was the first time that Dorothy had ever lived in DC. She lived with two of her friends from Bologna on P Street, just across from SAIS (where Brookings is now). There were other SAIS students upstairs, too. One of her favorite professors was Isaiah Frank who was a wonderful economist who taught courses on International Trade and He helped her find her first job. Dorothy’s first job was in the Commerce Department. In those days, the Dept. of Commerce produced several publications on foreign trade, foreign investment, tariffs and trade regulations. She was hired in the Far Eastern division. Part of her job was to produce pamphlets (on Malaysia, barriers in Asian countries, etc.) She would receive tariff books and others would ask her for information to be looked up in those tariff books. She wanted to move on and work for the Foreign Service, so she did take the exam and passed both the written and oral parts. She was then assigned to a job in October of 1967. When Dorothy first went into the Foreign Service, there was no need to specialize (although later, that became necessary and they were split up into ‘cones’). Since she had an interest in Economics anyway, she went into the Economics section. Her first posting was Germany (Bonn). It was right at the time when the world was experiencing balance of payment problems. Prior to going, she went through a three-month orientation course, which was typical at that time. She also had to take a consulate course. So she started in Bonn in October, 1967, but because of the balance of payment problems, President Johnson put a hold on all positions overseas, etc. So, she had to wait for a while before proceeding with her job. They were also in the middle of the Vietnam War in those days as well….and there were a lot of protests. She recalls being in DC during the big anti-Vietnam march. Most of the bachelors in her class were assigned a role in Vietnam. So when she found out that Bonn could take her and she could proceed with work there, she took the position of Central Compliment (a training position). She started out in the Economic section of work (compared with others like Transportation, Financial or Political). Her fourth assignment was supposed to be at the consulate in Bonn, but because it was such a small office, they re-assigned her to Hamburg. She agreed to be transferred there and spent two years there. She very much enjoyed it. She was there in an Economics position. After Hamburg, Dorothy was assigned to Lagos, Nigeria. So, she had nine weeks of home leave (came back to the U.S.) and then went to Lagos (in 1971). She was there for two years (a typical length of stay for a junior officer). She describes Lagos as a rough country with crime (less then than there is now). She enjoyed riding horses there and playing tennis at tennis clubs. There were the leftovers of a Colonial society. It was two years after the Bideford War and there were still a lot of guns around – things were a bit tense and there were a lot of armed robberies. On the first day she arrived, they were publicly executing three armed robbers. It was difficult to travel there and it was particularly hard to get out of Lagos since it was so populous. She did a few trips into the country-side and enjoyed those. After Nigeria, Dorothy came back to the U.S. and took an Economics course at the Foreign Service Institute and it was very good. After that, Dorothy was assigned to the State Department (in the Latin American Regional Office) and she stayed in Washington, D.C. for two years. Then, she went to Princeton for a year to do some more course training and then went to Athens for four years on her next assignment. Dorothy says that she loved Greece. It was interesting at the time because it was about two years after the Xunta had fallen – she came there in1976. Greece was applying, at the time, to be part of the EC and she followed those negotiations. Even though the U.S. was not a participant, it was still interesting to her to be a part of the expansion beyond the core members (and then Greece became a member is 1980). In 1980, she came back to the U.S. and spent a year on Capitol Hill on an exchange they had (with Congressman Jonathan Bingham). He had her follow the authorization of the Foreign Aid bill. She also got involved in other legislation (related to El Salvador). Next, she came back to the State Department and worked in Management Operations (different from Economics which is what she had been doing). She was there for two years. After that, she was assigned as Economic Counselor to Colombo, Sri Lanka. She loved Sri Lanka – that was in 1983. Before going, she stopped by Hong Kong for a few days. The day she was supposed to fly into Colombo, they closed the airport there (due to Sinhalese and Tamil fighting) and she couldn’t get there. So, she stayed with a friend from the consulate in Hong Kong for another week before coming to Colombo. She was in Sri Lanka for three years, until 1986, and the insurgency got steadily worse. She did get a chance to visit Kandy, Jaffna and other places while she was there. Next, Dorothy went to Jamaica, her last post, and she was there for four years (her last year she spent there, retired). She then applied to law school and wanted to start a second career. So, she worked for US AID for one year to earn money, to pay for her law degree. After coming back from Jamaica, she went to Georgetown Law School from 1990 to 1993. She loved law school and has been in DC, more or less, ever since. She sometimes wonders if going to law school before the Foreign Service might have helped her (with things like treaties and other foreign policy law). After graduating, she worked full time for Morgan Lewis & Bockius for a few years, until her husband died and mother had a stroke. She still sometimes works there on a contract basis. To current students, Dorothy says, “Well, the world has really changed since I went to SAIS, starting in 1964…the technology, the communications….So, it’s kind of hard to base a career today on my career 40 years ago. But, I guess what I would tell them is…do what you enjoy doing. The reason I worked in the Foreign Service is that I wanted to travel and work overseas…if you really want to affect policy, you need to work in Washington, D.C. (in the Foreign Service, it’s more about implementing it).”
Date: 2011-01-01
Subject: SAIS
Stanford University
International Relations
DC Campus
Schmidt, Wilson
Lapergola, Professor
Grosser, Professor
Frank, Isaiah
Commerce Department
Foreign Service
Bonn, Germany
Hamburg, Germany
Lagos, Nigeria
Sri Lanka
Hong Kong
Bideford Ward
Princeton University
Athens, Greece
Capitol Hill
El Salvador
Georgetown Law School
Morgan Lewis & Bockius

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