Debate Watchers Include British and French Ambassadors


The two chief diplomats will be on campus Monday for various events and are expected to attend the GOP presidential debate.


                                                                                                                                                                                           Video: Danielle Barta | USF News

By Kevin Burke

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 20, 2012) – Joining participants and NBC’s Brian Williams for Monday’s Republican presidential primary debate will be a scattering of notable figures and friends of the university, including Sir Peter Westmacott, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States, and his French counterpart, Ambassador Francois Delattre.


Although the two high-ranking diplomats will keep separate itineraries for most of their time on the campus of the University of South Florida that day, both are expected to attend the evening’s GOP debate in Theatre I.


Sir Peter’s trip to Tampa marks his first official visit to an American university, occurring only days after his arrival in Washington, D.C., to assume his official duties. He previously served as Britain’s chief diplomatic representative to France, and before that as the U.K.’s ambassador to Turkey.


Here primarily to discuss ongoing cooperation with USF on an array of academic initiatives and exchange programs – in October, the university hosted a European Expo in London, and in December, Britain’s Consul General in Miami, Kevin McGurgan, traveled to USF to personally salute Jean Weatherwax, ’12, the university’s first winner of a prestigious Marshall Scholarship for postgraduate study in the U.K. – Sir Peter will attend the debate following meetings with President Judy Genshaft, Provost Ralph Wilcox and Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Global Affairs Karen Holbrook.


His schedule also includes an informal exchange with a group of Honors College and international students during the afternoon. Of the university’s nearly 2,000 students from abroad, about 40 hail from the U.K. The meeting with students will take place in the university’s new Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, where interdisciplinary research scientists and students collaborate on a variety of pressing issues, such as finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, developing new cancer treatments through nanomedicine, looking for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and advancing the next generation of sensor technologies.

Ambassador Delattre visits USF at the invitation of the Florida Council of 100, a cosponsor of the debate along with NBC News, the Tampa Bay Times and National Journal. He has served as France’s ranking representative to the United States since February 2011, and regularly visits many cities across the U.S. to meet with policy makers and foster French-American relations in all areas, from culture and science to trade and investment.


His international bona fides include terms as Ambassador of France to Canada, French Consul General in New York, and press and communications director at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Also a former deputy director of the French Foreign Minister’s Office, he began his diplomatic career as an economic liaison with the French Embassy in Bonn, Germany.


“As a global research university focused on contributing solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems, it is vitally important that USF maintain positive and productive relationships with our many international friends, hosts and partners,” said Wilcox. “And so we’re delighted to welcome the British and French ambassadors to campus for first-hand views of both higher education in the U.S. and American presidential politics. I’m sure that their interactions with our talented students and the broader campus community will inform and enliven our ongoing discussions about global engagement at USF.”


Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.