Former U.S. Ambassador to Sweden: Upholding American Values Is My Job for Life

Azita Raji
The former U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji addresses troops. Though her tenure is over, she has promised not to give up pushing and promoting core U.S. values. Courtesy of Azita Raji

I have just served my final day as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden.

But although my official tenure has ended, I remain committed to the most critical part of my work—representing fundamental American values to a world newly, and quite understandably, confused about who we are as a nation.

I was appointed to my post by a president whose very rise to power testified to the remarkable moral evolution of the U.S. It is easy to forget that just 45 years before Barack Obama’s inauguration, racial segregation was a way of life and violence against non-whites was endemic in some regions.

I took pride in representing a country that overcame bigotry and threw off its legacy of repression and discrimination to elect a man who embodied tolerance, compassion, and dignity, a man who credited us with effecting this colossal cultural change, and who invited us to continue to work with him to, in the words of   Dr. Martin Luther King, bend that great moral arc toward justice.

While I no longer represent my country in an official capacity, I intend to be a vocal proponent of the values that impelled President Obama to appoint me, a woman who arrived in the U.S. as an immigrant from Iran, to serve as ambassador; they are the fundamental American values that have guided me every day on the job. I do this not in denial or defiance of the outcome of the election, but in defense of precious principles and policies that so many at home and abroad perceive as under threat.

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I do this because I want everyone who saw the U.S. as a country where justice, accountability, and respect for human dignity were honored at every level of government and society to continue to see us that way, despite a troubling surge in hate speech and disregard for decency and decorum.

I do this because I want everyone who trusted me when I spoke of my country’s commitment to resolving global problems diplomatically rather than militarily, to combating climate change, to meeting the needs of refugees while protecting the rights of their host countries, to continue to believe that Americans intend to keep those commitments, regardless of the chilling rhetoric that for now has all but displaced constructive political discourse.

Finally, I do this because while I’ll no longer be doing the day-to-day work of a serving ambassador, convention has it that I hold the title for life. From the day I assumed that role, it has been my animating purpose to protect and promote the values, objectives and commitments I shared with the president who conferred it on me. My ongoing remit is to ensure that his departure from office will not signal the demise of the enlightened and ennobling attributes he brought to his post and asked me to share with the world.

Azita Raji is the former U.S. ambassador to Sweden.