Thomas Pickering, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and also to six nations, will discuss current foreign policy challenges and how art helps Americans relate to the world. Most recently he was asked to co-chair an independent inquiry into the tragic attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The President’s Associates dinner at the University of Oklahoma is scheduled for Friday, March 1. His talk will be followed by the opening of the U.S. State Department exhibition, “Advancing American Art,” at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
“It is a great honor to have Ambassador Pickering speak at the opening of the historically important exhibition of paintings which were once part of the State Department’s collection of art,” said OU President David L. Boren. “Pickering served as a diplomat for 40 years and is widely recognized as the senior statesman of the American Foreign Service.”
Pickering’s four decade-long career in the U.S. Foreign Service included ambassadorships to Russia, India, the United Nations, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan. Additionally, he served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1997 to 2000. He holds the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service.
President George H.W. Bush appointed Pickering as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1989. Pickering played a critical role as ambassador during the first Gulf War when he helped lead the U.N. Security Council’s response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
Following his retirement from the Foreign Service in 2001, Pickering served as senior vice president for international relations at Boeing until 2006. He also is affiliated with the International Crisis Group and oversees their international actions as a co-chair. In addition, he is chairman of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, chairman of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy and a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Global Panel Foundation based in Berlin, Prague and Sydney.
The “Advancing American Art” exhibit is a collection of modernist paintings created by contemporary American artists. Assembled in 1946 by the U.S. State Department, the exhibition’s intent was to show the world America’s artistic coming of age, highlighting the freedom of expression enjoyed by artists in the United States. It became politically controversial and the collection was sold to leading institutions, including the University of Oklahoma.
“Advancing American Art” is organized by the Jule Collins Smith Museum at Auburn University, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma. It was made possible by grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts as part of “American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.”
The exhibition will be displayed in the Nancy Johnston Records Gallery and the Ellen and Richard L. Sandor Gallery at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. It will open to the public March 2, and will be displayed until June 9.
Limited seating at the dinner is available by reservation for OU students, faculty and staff, with overflow seating available to the public. For reservations, more information and accommodations on the basis of disability, please call OU Public Affairs at (405) 325-3784.