Former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Eric S. Rubin kicked off the USF Sarasota-Manatee Diversity Lecture Series on Thursday evening by advocating for diplomacy and emphasizing the value of international scholarship and educational experiences.
Rubin, speaking to more than 70 guests at USFSM’s Selby Auditorium in the inaugural edition of the new lecture series, underscored the role of multicultural programs offered by organizations such as the Fulbright Association, which promotes research and intellectual interaction at a time when many areas of the world continue to struggle to achieve peace and stability.
Two USFSM faculty members and one administrator have served Fulbright assignments over the past 13 months, and the university offers an array of study abroad opportunities through its Global Engagement Office.
“When I served in Bulgaria we often had around 35 American students each year teaching English to children in the schools through the Fulbright program,” Rubin said. “It’s unbelievable how powerful the effect of that is in a country like Bulgaria.”
Such experiences, Rubin said, create cultural bonds that can help strengthen even the most strained relationships between nations.
Throughout the evening, Rubin’s remarks returned to a common theme — the vital role U.S. diplomats play in consulates and embassies across the globe.
“Diplomacy is always the preferred method of solving disputes,” said Rubin, who has spent 35 years working in foreign affairs and currently serves as president of the American Foreign Service Association. “It’s always much better than the alternative, which is military conflict.”
Since joining the U.S. Foreign Service in 1985, Rubin has lived and worked in Honduras, Ukraine, Thailand and Moscow, and most recently he served as ambassador to Bulgaria from January 2016 to July 2019.
While in Ukraine with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Soviet Union Affairs, Rubin monitored and reported on the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and later served as security affairs officer for Central and Eastern Europe.
Rubin was joined by Rebecca Kimbrell, the diplomat-in-residence in South Florida.
USFSM Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD, welcomed Rubin and Kimbrell.
“We are absolutely honored and delighted to have both of them with us tonight,” Holbrook said in her opening remarks. “Ambassador Rubin has such a decorated career. His range of accomplishments is so very important to what’s happening around the world.”