by Rodger Ernst
Mr. Ernst enjoyed a long and diverse Foreign Service career. Here he recounts how and why he got started 46 years ago. —Assoc Ed.
In 1959 I was working as an assistant to William H. Draper who was commissioned by President Eisenhower to head a committee of 10 “wise men” to chart for the President the course to follow in the future in the planning and administration of US Military Assistance. (I was on loan from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where I was for 10 years, first as Assistant Director for NATO and later as Assistant Chief of Planning -an office set up to link DOD planning to the realities of foreign relations as enunciated by the State Department).
As we finished our assignment in August, one of the senior men, C. Tyler Wood, was asked by Ambassador Bunker to come to India to serve as both the Minister for Economic Affairs and the Director of the Aid Mission – later USAID. I congratulated him, and he forthwith asked me to join him as his assistant in New Delhi. A couple of months later, he called to ask if we were coming. When I got home that evening from the Pentagon, where I was helping to put together the DOD budget, my wife confronted me with the question. We had a drink, called Ty and said “YES” then packed up our home, and our two kids, ages five and three and off we went to India!.
I/we were really ready. Before my years in the Pentagon, which included a year at the National War College, I had been the Desk Officer for Austria in the Marshall Plan. I started college in 1942, and joined the Army in 1943. My service included 18 months in Berlin, as Assistant US Secretary for the Allied Control Council. This is where I met then General Draper who was serving as the US Representative to the Economic Committee for the ACC. I went back to Williams College in the fall of 1947, fully convinced that a life in foreign affairs was for me – not going to law school and not joining my father in his NY law office.
Even earlier, as a youngster, I had a stamp collection and on Wednesday afternoons, my Mother and I worked on it. We would concentrate on a given country. Then the following week go to a museum and see/learn about that nation’s history, art, and ways. This was completed by dinner at a restaurant serving the food of the given country – Spanish, Chinese, whatever.
This was a super introduction to the world we live in, its complexities, wonders, and increasingly its “intermestic” qualities. (inter from international and mestic from domestic – really reflecting the world we live in today, without the controversial implications of “globalization’). Working together, finding the common ground in resolving both differences and in charting the best course to follow, also grew out of my Quaker schooling where peace and comity were the order, along with social/civic duty. From these I have as my personal motto: Do one’s Duty to earn one’s Rights. All of these made me very ripe for the great life I had in the Foreign Service – later doing research on U.S. – Asian economic relations and then teaching international relations and Asian/Pacific dynamics.
Roger Ernst commenced his service in foreign relations in 1943 and has not retired yet – only changing the foci of his work and locations. He has gone from practitioner to researcher and now teacher. He served in England, Germany, India, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, plus Ethiopia and covered the independent island states in the South Pacific. His focus is development, and he set up the Peace Corps in India. He is enriched by a marriage of almost 54 years.