Michael Murphy ’87
As the current U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michael Murphy ’87 reflects on his second tour there, his 31 years in foreign service, and how Hamilton prepared him.
What do you do on a daily basis?

I live and work in Sarajevo. My day typically starts with a press briefing followed by a meeting with senior staff. Both can drive the embassy’s work, but our work is always tied to the United States’ strategic foreign policy objective here: support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and multiethnic character, as well as its integration into the European Union and NATO. In addition to managing approximately 600 employees, I meet with political, business, and civil society members to advocate on behalf of the United States and American businesses. I engage in public diplomacy activities from press statements and interviews to policy speeches. I also travel throughout the country. You cannot be an effective ambassador if you spend all your time in the capital. 

What’s different now from your previous work in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

I served in Sarajevo from 2006 to 2009 as the embassy’s political counselor. In some ways the country has changed a lot and in others less than I would have hoped. Sarajevo is more prosperous, and the country’s tourist infrastructure is much improved. In 2006, you could still see a lot of damage from the 1992-95 war, and there is much less now. On the other hand, the problems of nationalism and corruption are worse than they were in 2006. That is disappointing to me personally, but it also poses a challenge to U.S. foreign policy.

How did Hamilton prepare you for your career?

I made the decision to major in international affairs after taking a course with Professor Deborah Gerner. She was an electric lecturer and inspired me to pursue a junior year abroad at the London School of Economics. After that, I was hooked on the idea of combining my interests in current affairs, history, and travel in a career with the Department of State. Hamilton provided me with exactly what it promised: a classical liberal arts education that left me with a lifelong desire to learn. Both have served me well in a profession that requires you to learn new politics, histories, cultures, and societies every few years. I also cannot stress enough Hamilton’s emphasis on writing.

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What did you do after graduation?

I had planned to attend Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, but the Department of State offered me a job. I worked on Capitol Hill for three years before joining the Foreign Service, serving as a foreign affairs and defense legislative assistant for Tennessee Congresswoman Marilyn Lloyd.

What positions did you hold leading up to your postings in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

I spent 18 years serving at embassies in Nigeria, Cameroon, the United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Botswana. My tour lengths varied from two to four years. Every foreign service officer has a designated specialty, and I am a political officer. Most of my work overseas involved contact work, diplomatic and public advocacy of U.S. policy, reporting, and analysis. I spent 13 years in Washington in different assignments, most recently as a deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. These duties encompassed managing European and Arctic security policy, including relations with NATO, as well as managing bilateral relations with 10 northern European and Baltic countries.

What is next for you professionally?

I have not given a lot of thought to what I might do after my time as ambassador concludes. I am in the fortunate position where I can continue working with the Department of State or retire if I decide it is time to move on to the next phase of my life.

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