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Ambassador, Nation Share Birthday

Ambassador, Nation Share BirthdayCongress honors Malcolm Toon for three decades of work as ambassador and diplomat. Washington.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.05.01] Malcolm Toon shares two things in common with the country he served for over three decades -- a dedication to international diplomacy and his birthday. And, as the country celebrates it's independence, the U.S. Congress is paying tribute to both -- honoring the Tufts graduate's accomplished career in the Foreign Service while marking the birthday he shares with the nation.

"Mr. President, I rise today to pay special tribute to Ambassador Malcolm Toon, an outstanding diplomat with a long and impressive record of service to our nation," said U.S. Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), during a legislative session. "For Ambassador Toon, this year's July Fourth celebration has particular meaning since it also marks his eighty-fifth birthday."

An ambassador to four countries and a diplomat during seven presidencies, Toon handled everything from suicide bombers, to the global tensions at the height of the Cold War, to the search for American POWs.

"I ask my colleagues to join with me today in recognizing a distinguished diplomat who has contributed greatly to our nation's commitment to the fullest possible accounting for our missing service personnel," Smith said in his tribute speech for Toon.

Widely regarded as an outstanding statesman and accomplished ambassador, Toon set his sights on foreign service early.

According to the St. Petersburg Times: "Toon had his eye on a career as a diplomat when he was still in college, and after earning a bachelor's degree at Tufts University in 1937, he enrolled in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on that campus."

After graduate school, he worked in the State Department, before securing posts as ambassador to Yugoslavia, then Czechoslavakia, before becoming ambassador to Russia -- a job he wanted almost from the start of his career.

A student of international relations, Toon believed that diplomats have some of the toughest jobs in government.

"Despite shuttle diplomacy and summitry and instant communications, the ambassador's role remains an important one, and any country with important interests abroad ... requires high quality in its foreign representation," he wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

But many people underestimated the demands of the job. Toon told the Los Angeles Times that he once met an admiral who wanted to spend his retirement as an ambassador.

"I replied that when I retired from the Foreign Service, I'd like to command an aircraft carrier," Toon told the Times. "The admiral said that was ridiculous because a naval command requires years of training an experience. I said, 'That's how it is with an embassy.'"

Toon often criticized the government for using the diplomatic posts as political favors instead of important tools of international policy. He even suggesting the creation of a review board to oversee international diplomatic appointments.

"The ambassador, if the institution he represents is to survive as a useful adjunct of national policy, must be good, and he must be used," Toon wrote in the Times.

Led by Senator Smith, Congress honored Toon as an outstanding representation of both.

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