Blog: BYU grads in American politics (Hint: There’s more than Mitt)


Several BYU graduates who have held significant roles in international politics and diplomacy in recent years show that the world really is “our campus.”

The U.S. ambassador to Libya is a woman who takes pride in her BYU heritage and joked about asking the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing at her swearing-in. Deborah Jones grew up in New Mexico and received her bachelor’s degree in history from BYU in 1978, according to AllGov. She is married and has two daughters.

Deborah Jones is sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Libya by Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo from
Deborah Jones is sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Libya by Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo from

Jones has filled the vacancy left by Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed while on duty in Benghazi.

“It’s no secret that she is going to one of the toughest jobs in the foreign service,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at her swearing-in ceremony.

He added that her friends among the Middle Eastern countries where she has served — which include Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait — greet her with the respectful title “Shakeadeborah.”

“I think we really couldn’t find anybody better to represent us in that tough part of the world at this critical moment in history,” Kerry said.

Her most recent activity, as reported by the Great Falls Tribune Feb. 4, was at the press conference where the Libyan Foreign Ministry announced that Libya is now “totally empty” of the chemical weapons stockpiled during Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

A more recent newsmaker is Matthew Tueller, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen appointed in January who was in Egypt during the Egyptian uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Robert F. Worth of The New York Times wrote that diplomacy, especially in the Middle East, is a definitely risky affair. However, the Salt Lake Tribune, in describing Tueller’s diplomatic career, wrote:

“Tueller is one of dozens of Mormons in the Foreign Service now, and he said he has experienced no criticism for his faith. In fact, Middle East dignitaries almost always respect that he abstains from coffee, tea and alcohol for religious reasons.”

According to the article, Tueller is not only a BYU graduate, he actually assembled the first group of BYU students to study Arabic at BYU under Professor Dilworth Parkinson, who has now built a program of national renown.

In another Salt Lake Tribune article, Peggy Fletcher Stack writes that, “Apparently, returned Mormon missionaries make good U.S. ambassadors — even in dangerous places.”

The ambassador to Iraq, Robert Stephen Beecroft, is a BYU graduate who served his mission to Venzuela.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email