Greenville native demonstrates U.S. diversity on world stage
By Ginger Livingston
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Logan Council’s love of travel first bloomed in high school when he participated in a two-week study program in Spain.
His love of public service was inspired by his parents, Walter and Mildred Council. His mother, Mildred, was a longtime Greenville City councilwoman and former member of the Pitt County Board of Education.
“I was seeking a way to tie those two things together,” he said.
It was at Morehouse College in Atlanta when Council discovered how he could merge his two loves into a career that has so far taken him to 40 countries.
Council is a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. During a visit to Greenville last month, Council met with students from East Carolina University and Shaw University to promote the career opportunities available at the State Department through the agency’s Hometown Diplomats Program.
“It’s all about helping people and getting services to people,” Council said. “It is about representing American interests and making sure when taxpayer dollars are being spent overseas they are being used for appropriate projects and benefit our national security.”
One of the United States’ greatest assets is its diversity, Council said.
“We are a nation of immigrants, to quote the cliche. Our composition is from every part of the world,” he said. “Americans grow up with the experience of working and living with people who do not look like themselves, who come from different backgrounds. In diplomatic work that is all you do every day, work with people who are different from you.”
It is a unique position, since so many nations have homogeneous cultures, Council said.
“When you see the American Embassy, it looks like America. It informs the conversations we have when we are in these foreign countries,” he said. “It helps us make compelling arguments because we can speak to our own process, which is an ongoing process.”
Along with studying in Spain, Council had traveled to Scotland, China and Mexico to participate in World Model U.N. conferences. He wanted a career that would allow him to travel, but it wasn’t until he heard a Hometown Diplomat Program presentation by a Morehouse College alum who was a foreign service officer that he thought about joining the State Department.
Council was awarded the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, which allowed him to attend graduate school while providing internships in Congress and at an overseas embassy. The fellowship was named for Rangel, a former U.S. representative, who worked to diversify the State Department.
For decades, the image most people associated with the State Department was that of white male Ivy League graduates, Council said. Along with ethnic diversity, Rangel and others wanted department employees to have diverse educational and socioeconomic backgrounds and to be from the places where Americans live, both large cities and small towns.
“Both my parents worked in state government and seeing my mom on City Council, seeing them in different roles in the public sector, it was something that was fed to us,” Council said. When Hurricane Floyd brought flooding to Greenville in 1999, Council watched his mom cross the Tar River on a jet ski to reach constituents.
“I remember that dedication, to do whatever it took to be there for her constituents. It certainly has informed my own efforts at work,” he said.
During his nine years with the State Department Council has worked at Monterrey, Mexico, Brussels and in the United States.
He now is completing a two-year stint serving as foreign service officer for Somalia, while being based in neighboring Kenya.
Since the early 1990s Somalia has been destabilized by a civil war. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said about 1 million Somalis live outside the nation, with two-thirds taking refuge in surrounding nations. The United States has accepted slightly more than 47,400 Somali refugees as of 2016, according to CDC data.
Stabilizing Somalia deprives al-Shabab, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, of a base for operating its terrorist network within the region.
“Playing even a small role in helping mitigate the impact of that organization is an attractive thing,” Council said.
Somalia was on Council’s short list of postings. There are opportunities every day to help Somalis who are working to rebuild their economy, he said.
“You recognize how resilient Somalis are as a people, dealing with conflict and in many instances being willing to come back and bring their experiences from Europe, from the United States and wanting to use those experiences to help those who didn’t leave,” he said.
“In conversation with these folks you hear the trauma of why they felt they had to leave and some of the sacrifices they had to make and then seeing what they accomplished after they left,” Council said. “It’s very encouraging because in some places when you get here, it’s not easy being here, but they accomplish so many things.”
Council’s posting in Somalia ends in May. He will return briefly to the United States and in October start a two-year post as an economics officer in Angola, Africa, working on a framework agreement for investment between the two countries.
Angola is located on Africa’s west coast. It as significant petroleum resources and the United States sells agricultural machinery and equipment to bolster county’s farming and manufacturing sectors, Council said.
“Angola certainly has had to confront long periods of conflict but at the present they are post-conflict for the most part,” he said.
“I’ve done a lot of political work and human rights work so I thought it would be interesting to be at the point of engagement between our country and Angola,” Council said.
The post will give Council more time to explore Africa, where he has also already visited 12 countries.
“I think sometimes we fail to realize how vast the continent is. There are almost one billion people there and hundreds and hundreds of different ethnic groups and cultures,” Council said. “Just because of the way we learn about Africa, it’s framed as a monolith. You say Africa and it’s just one thing. But having a chance to travel to some of those countries you gain an even greater appreciation for the differences.”
There also is great potential, with young adults across the continent pursuing innovations in technology and manufacturing.
Council said he is glad the Hometown Diplomats Program gives him a chance to talk about his career.
“It’s important to share my experience with people who are coming up from the same walk of life and having the same experiences I had in Greenville,” he said.
“We come from all over the country and we all like to share the story of what we’ve done with our career so far and why we think it’s important for the department to be out there working on behalf of the country,” Council said. "We want to make it approachable and let people know that if they want to follow that path, if they aspire to it, it’s possible."