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March 20, 2012 > Friendship Force features Ambassador James Shinn

Friendship Force features Ambassador James Shinn

Submitted By Terry McInnes

"The United States is still a beacon to the world, albeit a fractured beacon," said former career Foreign Service Officer James Shinn, whose career spanned nearly 40 years in consulates, embassies, and other diplomatic posts in Pakistan, Japan, Okinawa, France, Italy, and Switzerland. Shinn, and his wife Patricia, spoke on March 10 to some 40 members and guests of Friendship Force International's San Francisco Bay Area Chapter at Scott's Restaurant in Jack London Square in Oakland.

"Since the United States was at its height as a world leader in the mid-1960s, several factors have caused the world's attitude toward America to decline including corporate globalization, decline in military power, a shift in demographics, and environmental issues.

"By the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, fundamentalist Islamist terrorists began attacking American interests. In 2001, with the attack on the World Trade Center, the world experienced a complete sea change in attitude toward America.

"Corporate globalization and its changes in our economic structure revealed the weaknesses of America's economic structure. Militarily, we are not as strong as we were in 1965. Meanwhile, shifts in our population have led to increasingly wide divisions between liberals and conservatives in our country, making achieving consensus on foreign and other political issues increasingly difficult.

"Moreover, our poor educational system has left most Americans ignorant of foreign languages and of the world in general."

In spite of this, he noted, "America is still the country to which most people want to emigrate."

They both spoke about how Americans should represent themselves and our country during their travels overseas.

"Be moderate with our attitudes of openness and generosity," Mrs. Shinn said. "Many people you encounter abroad are more reserved than Americans and can be offended by too much openness. Too much generosity can impress a heavy debt on other people."

Mrs. Shinn, who served alongside her husband in diplomatic posts in Pakistan, Japan, Okinawa, France, Italy, and Switzerland, noted that while traveling abroad, "There is no need to apologize for America. We are an open and generous people, warm and kind-hearted.

"Don't underestimate the importance of what you do in Friendship Force," she said.

Friendship Force with its chapters around the world brings people together with home stays and tours. Recently, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter hosted visitors from Indonesia and will host a group from South Africa this summer. Meanwhile, San Francisco chapter members recently visited their counterparts in New Zealand.

For more information about upcoming activities and membership, call 510-794-6844, or email The club's website is, and the international organization's website is The public is generally welcome to the club's activities, which occur every month except August.

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