Ambassador Julianne Smith, a public service advocate from metro Detroit, assumed her current position as the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO in November. Before that, she served as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Blinken at the Department of State.
Spending time as an exchange student in France while in high school enlightened her. “One summer really changed my perspective and helped me understand these countries that are so close to us and so valuable,” she said.
Smith has also served as the Director of the Asia and Geopolitics Programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the Acting National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President of the United States.
Before her post at the White House, she served as the Principal Director for European and NATO Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. In 2012, she was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service.
In December, Smith arrived in Brussels, Belgium, with her husband and their two sons. The residence of the Ambassador, Truman Hall, will soon feature the work of Michigan artists through Art in Embassies, a U.S. Department of State program that creates cross-cultural dialogue and fosters mutual understanding through the visual arts.
“I wanted to show what Michigan has to offer, both in terms of talent and what the state really is all about, like the beautiful landscape up north. Europeans know a lot about the eastern part of the country, but so much beauty exists in the Midwest.”
Birmingham photographer and artist Laurie Tennent will provide two botanical works. “I watched her transform from portrait photography to beautiful photographs of Michigan flowers,” said Ambassador Smith. “I absolutely love her work.”
Another featured artist will be Ann Loveless from Frankfort, an award-winning quilter known for her nature-inspired creations. “We asked her if she was interested in loaning us one of her quilts and she suggested beginning work on a new one,” said Smith. Her triptych textile depicting the Michigan lakeshore will grace the dining room of the residence.
Landscape paintings by David Westerfield and Philip Joseph will be among the other works that will all be installed later this year.
So far, the most rewarding part of her position has been working with NATO members in a united response to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. “All 30 allies came together and stand united in an unprecedented moment. It is the only land war in Europe since World War II,” she noted.
The most challenging aspect has been simply finding enough time in the day. In June, NATO will hold a summit in Spain to lay out new policies and initiatives to be fit for the future. The organization must be prepared to deal with critical issues like cyber-attacks and disinformation.
She admires the strength of the alliance and their ability to come together and address challenges. Though the Ambassador could not have predicted her impressive career path, she said it all came together after earning a master’s degree in international relations.
As a young girl, Smith explored Birmingham and Bloomfield with family and friends. She then relished her study abroad opportunity in France.
“I firmly believe in young people seeking out opportunities to live abroad, even if it’s for a few weeks to get out in the world and learn from countries with different cultures and perspectives,” she said.
She also encourages students to consider public service or foreign policy. “There are many roads to get there and those opportunities are available to everyone. It can be incredibly rewarding and a great way to give back to your country.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow