Dr. Patrick Mendis appointed Advisor to National Security Education Board by President Biden

Monday, 1 April 2024 04:27 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Dr. Patrick Mendis – Pic courtesy: The White House  



By Marlon Dale Ferreira

Washington, D.C.: With a significant recognition of his extensive contributions to academia and public service, President Joe Biden has appointed Dr. Patrick Mendis, a Sri Lankan-born US diplomat, as an advisor to the prestigious National Security Education Board (NSEB), according to a press release by the White House.

This presidential appointment not only underscores his invaluable expertise in international relations and university education but also highlights the impactful journey of a Sri Lankan on the global stage, reinforcing the bridge between his motherland and the world beyond.

Educated at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura’s Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce, the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Dr. Mendis has cultivated an illustrious interdisciplinary career that spans across continents from the United States to Asia and Europe.

After his teaching and research assignments at Columbia, Harvard, and Yale, he served as a distinguished visiting professor of global affairs at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan and a distinguished visiting professor of Sino-American relations at the Yenching Academy of Peking University in China. 

He is currently the inaugural Taiwan chair and distinguished visiting professor of international relations at the prominent Jagiellonian University in Krakow as well as a distinguished visiting professor of transatlantic relations at the University of Warsaw in Poland.

Beyond academia, his government service is marked by roles in several US administrations, contributing to his deep understanding of global affairs, the United Nations, and American foreign policy.


US Congress on Dr. Mendis

The presidential appointment was supported by a series of notable endorsements from influential figures in US Congress, demonstrating the high regard in which Dr. Mendis is held across political spectrums. 

Representative Betty McCollum, the leading Democrat in the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, praised his “vast experience at a senior level in U.S. government service and academia” as a significant asset to the Biden-Harris administration. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar lauded Dr. Mendis as a “respected leader and award-winning public servant, teacher, and diplomat,” emphasising his esteemed status in America and the world.

Contributions to US government service were also highlighted by Senator Chris Van Hollen, who recognised Dr. Mendis as a friend and former professor with years of dedicated service and achievements in both government and academic spheres.

Representative Gerry Connolly characterised him as a “highly respected foreign policy scholar and American diplomat,” reflecting on their time together as staff on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the Reagan administration.

Moreover, Senator Tim Kaine commended the attributes and skills of Dr. Mendis, asserting his strong work ethic, leadership, and integrity as key to thriving in national security and foreign affairs positions.


New National Security roles

Dr. Mendis’s career, characterised by his roles as a former military professor in the NATO and Indo-Pacific Commands, encompasses a breadth of experience that makes him uniquely qualified for his new role on the National Security Education Board, chaired by the US Secretary of Defense.

Furthermore, his leadership as the secretariat director of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) under Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, among other significant positions, reflects a deep commitment to enhancing US educational and cultural initiatives abroad. At the ECA Bureau, Dr. Mendis managed the Fulbright, Humphrey, and all other international exchange and cultural programs for the US government.

His scholarly contributions include over 200 books, journal articles, newspaper columns, and government reports, through which Dr. Mendis has explored vital topics such as the significance of Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations and the broader implications of democratic inclusion on the global stage. His work stands as a testament to his profound understanding of the interplay between national security, education, and global diplomacy.

Recognising his wide range of contributions to international education and global diplomacy, Who’s Who in America honoured Dr. Mendis with the august Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior to this, the Sri Lanka Foundation in Los Angeles also presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his scholarly contribution, government service, and philanthropy in financing scholarships in Sri Lanka, Minnesota, and Harvard.


Circle of powerful friends

With all this, the backing of such a distinguished group of American legislators and policymakers, coupled with endorsements from former Deputy Secretaries of State Brian Atwood and Thomas Nides, played a pivotal role in President Biden’s decision to appoint Dr. Mendis to the National Security Education Board. 

This collective endorsement underscores the breadth and depth of Dr. Mendis’s expertise and his potential to contribute significantly to the Board’s mission of providing strategic guidance and oversight for the National Security Education Programs in the United States.

His journey from Sri Lanka to the corridors of power in Washington, DC, is a remarkable narrative of achievement and service. The presidential appointment is not only a personal accolade but also a moment of pride for Sri Lanka, offering a shining example of how dedication to public interest and global engagement can bridge diverse worlds. 

As Dr. Mendis takes on this new role, his story continues to inspire, demonstrating the profound impact one individual can have in fostering a safer, more educated, and interconnected world.

(The writer is a Sri Lankan journalist residing in the United States.)