The Diplomat and the Doctor

POSTED November 4, 2019

Najlaa Abdus-Samad is a foreign diplomat for the United States; on October 10th, 2019 some of Roosevelt’s students got to hear her speak and ask questions. The Nationalist, Roosevelt’s newspaper, also briefly interviewed her. After her presentation she spoke about her past, her job, and her experiences in her job; however, the most interesting thing about Abdus-Samad is her strong love for her family, faith, and country. 


Abdus-Samad was born in Texas but raised in Brooklyn, New York where she attended City University of New York for Science and Public Health research. A big part of her observations include the horrors and the humanity of 9/11. As she had witnessed the Twin Towers collapsing she had said, “all of us had to decide who we were that day.” 

Abdus-Samad became interested in government when she met a diplomat in residence. A diplomat in residence is sent to colleges with the intention of recruiting students for government work. This experience opened her world, as she was able to learn about her government and came to appreciate the new cultures that she hadn’t seen before. 


The State Department gave a brief description of Abdus-Samad’s job; “everything.” Abdus-Samad goes where her government needs her; she has been stationed in Egypt, Jordan, the Philippines, and South Africa. She spent about 2-3 years in each place and her main job was to protect the rights of the United States citizens living overseas. Through her jobs she has also gotten to visit many places around the world. Overall she has been to over 50 countries. Abdus-Samad has also had assignments in D.C. involving areas of interest such as Afghanistan and East Asia through the U.S. Speaker Program. In all her assignments she supports the president in every decision that he makes. When asked about her favorite part of the job she said “being of service.”   


It is “equally safe or not safe anywhere” (Abdus-Samad).


Abdus-Samad spoke in great detail about her experience and outlook towards life. There are dangers and challenges anywhere you go in the world. Abdus-Samad spoke very highly of her privilege to be in places that needed her help; this created value in her work which is her favorite part of her job.

Abdus-Samad had quite the experience in Cairo, Egypt during her tour there. There she had to get her Visa card, which gives her the right to live in Egypt for a few years. A couple of hours later six to seven bombs were dropped during her tour. Some of her team was deployed to bomb sites and others were working 24/7 to help those in need. On the third bombing, Abdus-Samad was deployed to a bomb site where she had met two Americans who were there for educational purposes. One had lost a leg and another had lost an arm due to the explosions. Although Abdus-Samad witnessed these injuries and bombings she said it was her “privilege to be there” helping people.

Abdus-Samad witnessed the effect of 30 murdered journalists who had been killed for trying to cover political topics. They were burned as a sign  that there’s no freedom of speech in Afghanistan. This underlined the fact that the Constitution doesn’t come with her to places she travels to. 


“Faith, family and flag” (Abdus-Samad).


Abdus-Samad lives with these three mantras as her anchor. 

As she was repositioned around the globe her family traveled with her. Abdus-Samad’s son went through high school outside of the country, because his mom’s job moved around a lot he got to experience three different high schools in a four year period. Abdus-Samad’s son now has the title of doctor after going through medical school and has set the goal of curing cancer. His accomplishments make his mom proud because he became the doctor that she was going to become herself. This is Abdus-Samad’s family: a diplomat and a doctor. She also is anchored by her faith and flag. Abdus-Samad’s faith goes with her to every country; this helps to keep her grounded in her work as she represents the United States. America’s flag is worn on her back as she works overseas. She stated “it is easy to represent my country.” These anchors make Abdus-Samad who she is and help her continue working for her government. 


Juniors and seniors interested in pursuing work for the government can become junior diplomats, engage in foreign affairs or participate in an internship. 

Junior diplomats are high school students that go to countries around the world to either focus on learning a new language or take a year of high school abroad. While in different countries students must follow the law in that specific country. Abdus-Samad and other foreign diplomats follow foreign laws but they have also sworn an oath to protect the Constitution. They uphold their oath while living across seas. 

There are many opportunities in foreign affairs for high schoolers to get involved in government. The Council of American Ambassador’s Program is a fellowship program that is available. This program includes “mentoring by former U.S. ambassadors, practical training through internships” and $7,995 award to each student to pay for the summer program. For more available openings in foreign affairs use the first link below. 

Abdus-Samad also recommended applying for the Pickering Fellowship. Their goal is to “attract and prepare outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State.” At the end of the fellowship students are given the opportunity to work as Foreign Service Officers. There are also internship opportunities that help students explore Federal careers while remaining in school. Follow the second link below for more information. 

There are many ways to be involved with the government before graduating high school. Abdus-Samad stated that “life only gets faster” and that we should take our opportunities now. She also gave out three recommendations: do what interests you, seek opportunities, and be willing to be uncomfortable.

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