U.S. ambassadors visit to discuss relations

Among them, Marilyn Ware discussed her life as an ambassador to Finland.

by Kathryn Nelson

Many Minnesotans trace their heritage to the Nordic region. On Monday, four U.S. ambassadors to Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland visited Minneapolis to discuss future relations between those countries and the United States.

Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale introduced the ambassadors to a group of businesspeople early yesterday morning at the IDS Center in Minneapolis.

Titled “Doing Business with the Nordic Countries,” the seminar focused on economic opportunities abroad.

As a former ambassador to Japan, Mondale said it is important to turn adversity between countries into a mutual collaboration. He also praised the Nordic area for its impressive education system, open economy and overall sophistication.

The panel of ambassadors spoke briefly about current endeavors in the sciences, economy and foreign policy in the countries where they work.

Ambassador to Sweden Michael Wood said President George W. Bush is interested in Sweden’s high accessibility of ethanol products and might be looking at the country as a model for alternative energy.

During the drive from downtown Minneapolis to St. Paul, Marilyn Ware took time to answer a few questions about her post as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Finland.

As a college student in the ’60s, Ware had an interest in international relations, but said she was deterred in pursuing the field because she is female.

“Sometimes the path you pick doesn’t always get you where you want to go,” she said.

Although she received a degree in English, her passion for politics continued as she served as chair to the board of the American Water Works Company, which is now known as American Water. Ware was also the honorary president of WaterAid America, an organization that helps with sanitation and water issues in 17 impoverished countries.

The White House contacted Ware after she retired from the Water Works Company with an offer to become the ambassador to Finland.

She was appointed in October 2005 and now lives in Helsinki, Finland.

Ware said she knows the Bush family quite well and was honored to be asked to take the position.

Ware now works for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who she calls a “very, very strong leader,” and has continued to keep in touch with President George W. Bush.

Her main objective as an ambassador is to present the U.S. point of view to Finland while reaffirming the mutual similarities between the two countries.

Although Ware said the war in Iraq is “a very complicated situation,” she said the Finns are generally supportive of the U.S. endeavors in the Middle East and have even participated in humanitarian outreach in Afghanistan.

Creating initiatives in anti-trafficking laws are also important to Finns, who have historically supported human rights, she said.

To become an ambassador, Ware suggests participating in knowledge-expanding experiences such as living abroad and speaking with the State Department about future career options.

Although Ware has hosted about 3,200 people in her Finnish home this year, she said her job is not always glamorous.

Even so, Ware said she enjoys her job because she feels she is making a difference.