WASHINGTON, D.C. (FNN NEWS) – Her Excellency Yolande Smith very recently reached a unique and rare milestone: she has now been promoted to become her former boss’s boss. The former Deputy Consul General to the Grenada Consulate in Miami, headed by Ambassador at Large and Consul General Warren Newfield, has now officially become Grenada’s Ambassador to the U.S., making the move from Miami to Washington, D.C. She officially presented her credentials to President Donald Trump on April 8, 2019.
Ambassador Smith, a career diplomat, has been in a flurry of meetings to learn the length and breadth of her new role. “It’s been very hectic. I hit the ground running,” she told Florida National News in a recent phone interview with a smile in her voice. “There is a lot on Grenada’s plate.”
As such, there is a lot on hers. Upon becoming Ambassador, Ms. Smith has also become the Permanent Representative of Grenada to the Organization of American States (OAS), presenting her credentials to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro on January 24, 2019.
She currently serves as the Chair of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) for the OAS. She took the mantle as Chair at OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on January 31.
“My delegation is committed to continuing the work of CIDI in the specific areas of resilience and advancement of social and sustainable development,” Smith expressed at the time. “We must examine our response to the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters, as well as our level of preparedness and response to the effects of climate change.”
Ambassador Smith’s Priorities
Ambassador Smith’s highest priorities for her home nation in her new role are resilience, sustainability and security. She explained that resilience is important to Grenada in light of natural disasters–that the nation must be able to recover quickly and remain economically strong during the course of recovery, and that the resources needed must be readily available.
Sustainability is related, but with a different focus: Ambassador Smith noted that building Grenada’s sustainability involves using lessons learned from previous natural disasters, such as the last major hurricane in 2007 that ravaged their national nutmeg crop and devastated the economy, to prevent another such catastrophe. Nature cannot be controlled, but preparation can be, and Ambassador Smith’s work in Washington involves liaising with organizations and other nations to accomplish that goal. To that end, Ambassador Smith attended the Caribbean Resilience Partnership Forum, which took place April 12.
Security involves working with military tech companies to further protection in the Caribbean region, such as improving Coast Guard effectiveness to monitor the waters and ports of entry.
According to Ambassador Smith, Grenada’s other U.S. priorities include education, health, and technological assistance on the island. Education initiatives include scholarships for Grenadian students to study abroad, health initiatives are aimed at creating the highest quality healthcare for Grenada, and tech assistance is all about bringing Grenada to the cutting edge of technological innovation.
Another priority that has now come to the fore because of time is the 2020 Census. Ambassador Smith shared that the CARICOM Caucus will meet in May to discuss it, since CARICOM diplomats must be counted in it as well.
How the Ambassador Makes Things Happen
Ambassador Smith told FNN News that things get done in discourse–many one-on-one conversations and meetings. When talking about the difference between what she as an ambassador does versus what elected officials or legislators do, she noted that the difference is in the approach: as ambassador, she is a broker who speaks on behalf of Grenada, and therefore seeks solutions that mutually benefit her nation and the other party(ies) involved, whereas legislators more so lobby or push for the result they want in order to create laws.
A World Changer in the Making
While this may sound like a big job, Ambassador Smith is no stranger to meeting and speaking with powerful people to create lasting change. In fact, according to her, her last job as Deputy Consul General in Miami prepared her for this one. “Moving to Miami was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “Ambassador Newfield shared his vision with me, and I ran with it…He gave me the chance to grow.” When she pursued the ambassadorship, Ambassador Newfield supported her. “He said he wouldn’t want to let me go, but he wouldn’t stand in my way,” said Ambassador Smith. “He asked, ‘who do I need to talk to?’ He was so supportive.”
Prior to Miami, she worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the Office of the Managing Director for the HQ1 Task Force. She worked as Administrative Assistant to the Division Chief from March 2009 to April 2015, and was Administrative Assistant to the Director from April to June 2015. “I worked in procurement for six years,” Ambassador Smith described of her time at IMF. “It was a good learning experience. It gave a good bird’s eye view of how the IMF handles different countries.”
She said her IMF colleagues were incredulous of her move to Miami. “People don’t [just] leave the IMF!” she recalled them saying. “You only leave if you’re retiring!”
Prior to her time with IMF, she served the Grenada Embassy for ten years, from 1999-2009 in Toronto.
Ambassador Smith’s Ultimate Goal
Ambassador Smith noted that some seek the job for the prestige and access the title facilitates, but given her extensive experience, this new role is “another level of service” for her country. “The most and best we can do is encourage people to go to Grenada. It’s one thing to hear about it or see pictures, but we want them to go, then they can get hooked!”
In the vein of service, Ambassador Smith eyes the Grenadian Diaspora. “The Diaspora isn’t often engaged in this hot seat, but it offers a chance to engage.”
She will be busy where that is concerned. Her first official opportunity to engage the Diaspora as Ambassador comes on April 27 in Virginia, when Grenadians United hosts its 24th anniversary celebration. Some 350-400 attendees are expected.
Another touch point will be the official opening of DC Passport, in which people will have the opportunity meet with diplomats from several nations in an open forum to learn more about the services the embassy offers.
“I am the face, ears, and eyes here as Ambassador,” she expressed with verve. “It puts a lot of responsibility on me, but it is a great opportunity to serve.”
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org