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Interview with Margaret Bennett, January 30, 2006

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:10 - Introduction 00:03:04 - Early life and education / Role as ambassador's wife

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Partial Transcript: Is there a way, if there is such a way, which I don't think there is, but maybe you are going to tell me there is, to prepare you to be a diplomat's spouse abroad?

Segment Synopsis: Bennett discusses growing up in a foreign service family and living in various countries while growing up. Wiarda comments on the importance of the bicultural centers in Brazil that were funded by the U.S, while Bennett shares an anecdote about the foreign appreciation of U.S. culture and history. Bennett reflects on the the role of an ambassador's wife and offers advice about how to behave diplomatically.

Keywords: U.S. cultural appreciation; advice; bicultural centers; diplomacy; foreign service

00:12:39 - Cultural and language preparation for relocation

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Partial Transcript: Also. what I have been impressed, talking to you and so on, obviously you had a very keen appreciation for the culture.

Segment Synopsis: Bennet compares the different places she has relocated to as part of her husband's ambassadorship. She notes differences in geography as well as social custom between countries. She discusses the adjustments she had to make in living arrangements and learning the local language, and also mentions the political revolution that she and her husband experienced while stationed in the Dominican Republic.

Keywords: American interventionism; Athens, Greece; Dominican Republic; Rome, Italy; Vienna, Austria; ambassador; relocation

00:20:58 - Living in Portugal and its African Territories / Personal and diplomatic relationships

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Partial Transcript: There is a question and you try to put yourself in that person's position, and to what extent can you come to some sort of agreement or at least not come to blows?

Segment Synopsis: Bennett reflects on the difficulties of being accepted within certain societies she has lived in. She discusses the norms of Portuguese society, as well as her encounter with members of one of Portugal's well-known political families. Bennet also recalls her visits to Portugal's African territories during the wars of independence and her experience of talking to people from different backgrounds.

Keywords: African territory; African wars of independence; Pinto Basto family; Portugal; civil war; colonization; political family

00:30:40 - Changing role of diplomats' wives / Charity work

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Partial Transcript: Now to what extent, once you came back to the United States, and your husband had pretty much retired...

Segment Synopsis: Bennett comments on the training protocols she wrote for diplomats' wives. She discusses women's changing perception of their duty of social and political participation as diplomats' wives during the 1970s. Bennett also comments on the charity work she began in the Dominican Republic and offers her perspective on the degree to which wives should be involved in the country in which they are stationed.

Keywords: Dominican Republic; child malnutrition; feminism; infant mortality; women's club; women's image

00:42:02 - The Dominican Revolution and civil war

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Partial Transcript: And speaking of tradition, I know you and your husband have been extremely generous and involved in the University of Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Bennett discusses her husband's ties to Georgia and the University of Georgia. She recounts her experience of the 1965 Dominican Revolution during the time that her husband was stationed there. She reflects on the limited radio communication she had with her husband and describes her return to the Dominican Republic post-coup as well as the increased security placed upon foreign service members.

Keywords: Dominican Civil War; University of Georgia; foreign service security; revolution

00:54:18 - Conflict of interest and nepotism in diplomatic affairs

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Partial Transcript: One of the things I tell my students, that in this country and for very good reason, nepotism is a bad word, but in the Latin country, if you are not good for your family or your friends, what kind of person are you?

Segment Synopsis: Bennett discusses the nature of family ties in countries outside the U.S. She mentions the conflict of interest that can result from the placement of a U.S. representative in his or her country of origin. She also reflects on how her children have not followed the foreign service career path.

Keywords: family connection; obligation; social reciprocity

01:00:21 - Child-raising and family travels

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Partial Transcript: Ms. Bennett, I know you have five children as far as I know.

Segment Synopsis: Bennett discusses the benefits and drawbacks of her children's schooling abroad. She also comments on the shift from the ship to the plane in international travel and recounts stories of her children playing on board ships. Bennett also describes various adventures she and her family had while traveling.

Keywords: American Export Line; Lassie; air travel; changing transportation modes; passenger ship travel

01:07:08 - Diplomatic postings within the U.S. / Retirement

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Partial Transcript: I understand and I know that your husband had several postings in this country--the U.N., Maxwell, and so on.

Segment Synopsis: Bennet discusses her husband's domestic service positions, which included time spent at the Maxwell Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama. She describes her and her husband's relationship with the different chiefs for the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, including George H.W. Bush and Andy Young. Bennett also recounts stories about the contrasting personalities between two Turkish colleagues. Bennett also discusses returning from abroad and her retirement.

Keywords: Alabama; Andy Young; Daniel Moynihan; George H.W. Bush; Maxwell Air Force Base; Montgomery; United Nations Embassy

01:23:39 - Anecdotes about meeting political figures

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Partial Transcript: I think you'd also said something about, or at least Sheryl had, about some of the people we'd met that were interesting.

Segment Synopsis: Bennett recounts stories about interesting political figures she and her husband have met. She comments on her husband's friendship with Dean Rusk. Bennett also recounts memorable party moments that included a surprising show of diplomacy from her son at a young age.

Keywords: Bruno Kreisky; Jackie Kennedy; Onassis family; diplomatic training; feigned ignorance

01:31:03 - Language learning / Schooling in Nazi Germany

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Partial Transcript: In my day you tended to have a governess, and I did, and she was Swiss-French, so she and I always spoke French together.

Segment Synopsis: Bennett discusses how her early language learning included speaking French with her governess and family at home and learning the local language while in school. She comments on the difference between the extent of her language learning and her children's. She discusses her schooling in Germany and comments on the effect of the changing political climate on racial tensions within the schools.

Subjects: Hitler Youth; Hitler madel; Nazi Germany; Nazi teachers; language learning; school bullying

01:35:39 - Meeting her husband / Mother's influence / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: How did you and your good husband meet?

Segment Synopsis: Bennett describes how she and her husband, Tapley, met through a mutual family member as well as where she was working at the time. She discusses their repeated attempts to meet, their decision to prolong becoming engaged, and the success of their marriage. Bennett also mentions her mother's example of actively adapting and learning in a new context.

Keywords: international air travel; marriage; mother relationship