Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to U.S. Reflects on Muskie Experience
Azerbaijan recently appointed Elin Suleymanov as its Ambassador to the United States. A Muskie alumnus who received a Masters degree at the University of Toledo in 1994, Suleymanov has dedicated his career to public service and diplomacy. Below he reflects on his experience as a Muskie fellow and how that has shaped his perspective and how it still affects his work today.
What effect has your participation in the Muskie Program had on your career, or life, more generally?
Since I was among the first year of the Muskie Fellow in 1992 -incidentally, the program was then named after Ben Franklin - participation in the fellowship was certainly a major change for me. In addition to introducing me to America at the time when such exchanges were still a rarity, the Muskie Program enabled me to improve my professional skills and to acquire a unique international experience. Two decades and years of traveling later, I understand that attending a graduate program in Ohio was a blessing, because it allowed me to learn about everyday life in America first hand and to develop a special appreciation for the kindness and values of the people in the Midwest.
What did you learn about public service in the U.S.?
I am grateful to my professors at the University of Toledo, who never got tired of explaining the intricacies of public administration to their students. This is especially true of Dean Lynn Bachelor and the late Professor Hugh Hinton, an outstanding educator and a dear friend. Studying different levels of government in the United States shows that public service is not just politics and rhetoric, but rather a constant hard work to make sure public services are delivered adequately. This requires professionals, who know details of what they are doing and have the experience to get the job done. For a citizen of a nation that had restored its independence in 1991, i.e. less than a year before I joined the Muskie Program, this was a valuable lesson, which was later reinforced by working with American colleagues. In fact, both throughout my education and working in the United States, I have been and continue to be impressed by the quality of American public servants. In my view, this reflects strong personal dedication and an enduring tradition.
Why did you choose a career in public service, specifically diplomacy, and why is it important to you?
For someone, who witnessed the re-emergence of my country's statehood, it is a great honor to be a public servant. After all, what can be more exciting than being a part of this process? Perhaps, education abroad and some international experience made diplomacy a natural choice for me. Still, an opportunity to serve as Azerbaijan's ambassador in any country is a very distinct privilege and an even greater responsibility. Today, Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev conducts a dynamic and proactive foreign policy and plays a visible role in international affairs. Azerbaijan's membership in the UN Security Council as a result of the vote of confidence by an overwhelming majority of the world's nations is a recognition of the progress achieved over the last 20 years. Therefore, I feel honored to be a member of the Azerbaijani diplomatic service and I am grateful to the Muskie program for helping me to achieve this honor.
The Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program is administered by IREX and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. In 2012, the Muskie Program celebrates 20 years of productive partnerships with leaders of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Find more stories here.