25 Quick By-The-Numbers Facts about U.S. Ambassadors

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American diplomacy is as old as the country itself. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin traveled to Paris to serve as a commissioner on behalf of his newly declared country and solicit the support of the French for the American Revolution. Today, a primary function of a United States Ambassador is to act as a representative for the President of the United States and maintain good relations with the country in which they are posted. Typically ambassadors are either appointed as political favors or they are career diplomats from the Foreign Service. Here are 25 facts about the ambassadorial world, broken down by numbers.

1. The rank of “Ambassador” was first awarded by the United States in 1893. Before this, the highest title was “Minister.”

2. About 7 million visas are granted by U.S. embassies around the world each year.

3. The United States has diplomatic relations with 180 countries.

4. Current United States diplomatic missions: 265.

5. The State Department created the Foreign Service in 1924.

6. Six U.S. Presidents have served as Foreign Minister:

John Adams (UK, Netherlands), William Henry Harrison (Colombia), James Monroe (France, UK), John Quincy Adams (UK, Netherlands, Russia, Germany), Thomas Jefferson (France), and Martin van Buren (United Kingdom). (Pictures Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

7. U.S. Presidents who served as Ambassador to another country: 0

8. Five nations don't have U.S. ambassadorial exchanges: Bhutan, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

9. In 1966, Hungary and Bulgaria became the two most recent nations to get full-fledged American embassies.

10. There are currently 27 vacant ambassador posts.

11. There are 10 possible diplomatic ranks at each post as dictated by bilateral diplomacy: Ambassador, Chargé d’affaires, Minister, Minister-Counselor, Counselor, First Secretary, Second Secretary, Third Secretary, Attaché, Assistant Attaché

12. Only one person—the President—can nominate ambassadors ...

13. ... but he can't do it by himself: one body of government—the Senate—is needed to approve an ambassadorial appointment. (A President can make a recess appointment, but the Senate will still vote when they return to session and can revoke the appointment.)

14. One 2012 Republican primary candidate held the position of Ambassador:

Wikimedia Commons
Jon Huntsman, Jr., who served as ambassador to Singapore and China.

15. Years of college required to become a U.S. Ambassador: 0

16. Publicly listed State Department salary for senior positions: $130,000 – $160,000

17. Approximate percentage of “political” appointees vs. career diplomats: 25% / 75%

18. The youngest American to lead a diplomatic mission was 24 year old Edward Rumsey Wing, who became Minister to Ecuador in 1869.

19. The shortest term served by an American ambassador was approximately 16 days. In 1976, Ambassador Francis E. Meloy Jr. was assassinated en route to presenting his credentials to the President of Lebanon.

20. Former child actress Shirley Temple served as a U.S. Ambassador to two countries: Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

Villa Petschek, in Prague, Czech Republic, where Shirley Temple Black lived as Ambassador. Photo Courtesy of State.gov.

21. Diplomatic immunity laws were created in 1961 by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

22. Traffic fines Egyptian diplomats owed New York City as of 2007: $1.9 million.

23. Five U.S. Ambassadors were slain on the job by acts of terrorism.

24. Two American embassy employees have used diplomatic immunity to escape possible murder charges. In 1977, a U.S. diplomat was involved in a traffic accident in Canberra that resulted in the death of an Australian construction worker. He was allowed to return home without a trial or any prosecution.


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In January 2011, Raymond Allen Davis was an employee of the CIA working in Lahore, Pakistan. Allegedly as self-defense, he shot and killed 2 young Pakistani men. To the outrage of Pakistan, the U.S. State Department invoked diplomatic immunity as he was technically an employee of the embassy. Davis returned to the U.S. in February that year, absolved of charges.

25. Number of times American diplomats have claimed immunity: Unknown—the State Department refuses to release that information.

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October 16, 2012 - 10:00am
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