Whenever Ambassador Mark Storella is posted in a new country, he tells his staffers to take a page out of Aretha Franklin's book: "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." That mantra, he explained to Hotchkiss students and faculty when he came to campus on March 1 and 2, is vital to diplomacy. "All people want respect and, if you show people respect, no matter who they are, you can get a lot more done together," he said. During his visit to the School, the former U.S. ambassador to Zambia shared insights from his decades-long career in the foreign service and offered his perspective on the global refugee situation.
Storella, who was introduced by Ambassador Robert Beecroft '58, was invited to Hotchkiss as part of the School's ambassador speaker series. He currently serves in the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, where he helps oversee the admission of refugees into the U.S. and programming in the near East and Asia. That assignment has put him on the front lines of the growing refugee crisis; at the end of 2015, there were more than 65.3 million displaced persons worldwide, a 5.8 million increase from the year before.
From 2009 to 2010, Ambassador Storella was the senior coordinator for Iraqi refugees and displaced persons in Baghdad. Previously, he served as counselor for refugee and migration affairs and, subsequently, as deputy permanent representative at the U.S. Mission in Geneva. Prior to his current appointment in the Department of State, Storella served as deputy chief of mission at Embassy Brussels, where he was deeply involved in counterterrorism efforts.
In a discussion with students, faculty, and staff on March 1, Storella posed the central question in the ongoing national debate about admitting refugees: "Am I my brother's keeper?" The following day, Storella and Beecroft met with several classes, including prep and lower-mid humanities history, microeconomics, African history, and an elective called "National Security," to talk about their experience in the foreign service. Citing a wide range of examples, Storella urged students to think about the U.S.'s role in protecting human rights around the world. Following his presentation, he fielded questions from students about the potential security risks of allowing refugees into the U.S., the challenges of dealing with unaccompanied minors, and Russia's involvement in the Syrian conflict. Quoting George Van Santvoord '08, Hotchkiss head of school from 1926 to 1955, Storella proposed that recognizing one another's humanity is the only path forward: "'Isn't it better to prize the admirable qualities of those unlike yourself?'"
"The refugee crisis is a global crisis, and it requires a global solution," he said. "Everyone has to pitch in."