Remembering Tony Quainton

Anthony C. E. Quainton, known to his friends as Tony, was an outstanding career diplomat. He served with distinction as US ambassador to the Central African Republic, Nicaragua, Kuwait, and Peru, as director of the State Department’s Office for Combatting Terrorism, and Director General of the Foreign Service. Less well known are his contributions to public diplomacy.
In the late 1990s, Tony was elected vice president of the Public Diplomacy Foundation, which soon would be chartered as the Public Diplomacy Council. He served in this capacity for nearly a decade. In 2000, Tony and Council president Barry Zorthian co-signed the agreement with George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs that led to the Council’s co-sponsorship of the Public Diplomacy Institute—known today as the Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication.
Together with retired US Information Agency foreign service officers Zorthian, Barry Fulton, and McKinney Russell, and GWU professor Steve Livingston, Tony provided wisdom and guidance that helped steer the activities of this first multidisciplinary academic institute in the United States devoted to the study, practice, and advocacy of public diplomacy.  As the Council’s executive director and later the Institute’s director, I came to have deep respect for this State Department officer who with a smile often self-identified as the “token traditional diplomat” on the Public Diplomacy Council.
In later years Tony taught courses at American University’s School of International Service where on occasion I had the pleasure of meeting with his students. In preparation for these classes and my courses at GWU and Georgetown University, I found his speeches and essays enormously helpful. Early on, he pointed to the declining role of diplomatic reporting and the ascending role of public diplomacy.  In his 1997 farewell speech as Foreign Service Director General, he stated his conviction that “that the existing cone system has outlived its usefulness. It is too rigid and creates a caste consciousness which is not only hurtful but counterproductive.” He was a pioneer in understanding 21st century city diplomacy, and he was ahead of his time in imagining embassies of the future in whole of government diplomacy. Tony Quainton was an exceptional diplomat who skillfully navigated the folkways of the State Department, understood the importance of public diplomacy, gave back to students and colleagues, and imagined diplomacy’s future with unusual insight.  He will be missed.
Bruce Gregory
August 2023