Harriet L. Elam-Thomas

Harriet L. Elam-Thomas was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal on November 23, 1999, and was approved as Chief of Mission to Guinea-Bissau on June 19, 2001. Ambassador Elam-Thomas is a Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Career Minister.
Following a four-year assignment as Cultural Attache at the American Embassy in Athens, she returned to Washington as Country Affairs Officer for Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. Earlier U.S. assignments have included the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the President’s Appointments Office at the White House, and Career Counselor for Foreign Service Personnel. Other posts abroad have included France, Senegal, Mali, and the Ivory Coast.
In July 1994, she completed a four-year tour as Director of the American Press and Cultural Center at the American Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. She participated in the Department of State’s 37th Senior Seminar, the premier global affairs leadership program in the U.S. Government. In September 1995, Ms. Elam-Thomas began a four-year tour as Counselor for Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Brussels, Belgium. In September 1997, she was called back to Washington to become the Counselor of USIA, the most senior career Foreign Service position in the U.S. Information Agency, and on February 1, 1999, she gained the additional duties of Acting Deputy Director of USIA. (USIA became part of the Department of State on October 1, 1999.)
At the end of her Athens tour, she received the U.S. Government’s Superior Honor Award for improving U.S.-Greek cultural relations and a similar award from the Piraeus Cultural Association in Greece. In June 1988, Simmons College presented her the Alumnae Achievement Award. On June 5, 1991, she received USIA’s Lois Roth Award for Excellence in Informational and Cultural Diplomacy. She has been a recipient of a Group Superior and Meritorious Honor Award for her work in connection with the Persian Gulf War; a special Achievement Award for President Bush’s 1991 visit to Turkey; and Secretary Christopher’s 1993 and June 1994 visits to Turkey. In February 1993, the Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel presented her an award from the Turkish Educational and Cultural Foundation for improving U.S.-Turkish cultural relations. On May 21, 2000, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Richmond -The American International University in London on May 10, 2001.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Ms. Elam-Thomas holds a B.S. in International Business from Simmons College and an M.A. in Public Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University. She speaks Turkish, Greek, and French. In 2015, she published Diversifying Diplomacy: My Journey from Roxbury to Dakar. Ambassador Elam-Thomas is married.