A CONSUL TALKING CONSULS
In case you wonder about the title of the page, it’s about one consul (or, actually, at this point a retired consul) talking and writing about consuls. You may already be asking why? Why the interest in the subject and how did I develop my knowledge of these foreign officials who work all around us in all the fifty states of the US?
Academically speaking, I am a European and U.S.-educated lawyer, with a PhD in Educational Leadership, with certificates from the University of Geneva (International Organizations) and the Hague Academy of International Law (Diplomatic Law). My first law school thesis was on the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Privileges and Immunities.
Throughout my career I was committed to international education and was active in many organizations that shared the goal of preparing coming generations for the new global community. Among them: AALS (Association of American Law Schools) Section on Graduate Programs for Foreign Lawyers (founding president; newsletter editor); Florida State Commission on International Education (Law School Representative); NAFSA: Association of International Educators (also national Parliamentarian); and more.
I was also a member of the Consular Corps College, Washington, D.C. http://www.consular-corps-college.org/
You’ll find a piece by me in its Forum Magazine 2015, No 4.
As I mentioned on my page http://chofstadter.com/consuls-consuls-everywhere/ the State of Florida, through its then-Secretary of State, George Firestone, had a real awakening to the importance of having foreign consuls function throughout the State.
Mr. Firestone’s efforts coincided with a major shift in the official handbook on protocol, where I was asked to write the first-ever chapter on consuls.
Long before this chapter was added to the state book, I had already been fielding queries from cities and organizations around the country about some situation involving consuls. Therefore, I already knew that there was a historical need for an easy-to-understand guide not only for private citizens – such as business and civic leaders – but also officials, such as the representatives of municipalities with an already-existing consular presence. Suddenly, there was a surge in requests for copies of the state handbook, if only just for the consular chapter. In an official letter, Mr. Allen Morris, official state Historian (and Clerk of the FL House), credited me for filling an existing void in practical and accurate advice on consuls. Today, the need for updated and relevant information continues.
At the time of the first revision of the state handbook, I was the secretary of the third largest consular corps in the U.S. As the keeper of the records, and in that sense somewhat of a “public face” of the corps, I was frequently asked to explain how and why foreign consuls should be treated with the respect and dignity that their position calls for. There was, after all, some sort of “rules” (not to be confused with the historical protocol used with ambassadors throughout the capitals of all nations), but nobody knew exactly what it was with consuls. Was it a matter of purely social etiquette or some form of protocol specific to people while serving as foreign consuls?
When some lawyers – some of whom were honorary consuls themselves – told me about their lack of understanding of their consular status I wrote a law review article with a very practical slant (1 U.M. International Yearbook 143 (1991): Counsel, Consul, or Diplomat: Any Practical Significance for Practitioners?)
Above all, I never stopped keeping notes on the many business, civic, or official situations where the position of a foreign consul is misunderstood or ignored. These scenarios, all using fictitious names for the nations and people involved, provide exciting fodder for writing about consuls.
I continue as a contributing writer in a variety of venues. Check out my piece in Business Monday of the Miami Herald, Nov. 22, 2015, on how business and trade interests can benefit from the informational resources provided by local consulates (Local Consuls are Bridges to Foreign Economies). Here’s the link: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article45700416.html
As an active member of the Consular Corps of Miami (since my retirement I have remained an Associate Member), I served ten years as Secretary of the Corps and, as part of an informal trio with the long-time Dean and Treasurer at that time, made sure the community knew of our presence.
With the roots of the Consular Corps running much deeper than was thought at the time, later I conducted extensive research on its history. Because of the use of incorrect terminology and common misunderstandings of the consular role, this was quite a challenging task that eventually produced my piece in Tequesta (Nr. LXXVII, Dec. 2017), the journal of HistoryMiami Museum: A Corps of Foreign Consuls: Looking at its Miami Roots. Check it out to learn about how deeply these roots really run. The only way to get a copy of the journal is by purchasing it on Amazon, but any profits go to the Museum so you support a good cause.
Returning to “A consul talking” about the old days of the Corps (before Google made it a bit easier to learn about the countries represented by their consuls), I think of how we organized special programs that featured individual countries, and our Annual Consular Ball or Valentine’s Party became quite sought-after for both their prestigious guests and the fun everyone seemed to have.
My cavalcade of pictures (below), will give you a glimpse into some activities of the Miami Consular Corps “back then.”