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Serving the U.S. Globally

David Wisner ’00, deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires a.i., of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania, with his son, Silas, at ceremonies celebrating Veterans Day in Korçë, Albania. Photo Credit: Antonio Cakshiri

As the son of a foreign service officer, David Wisner ’00 grew up all over the world. “We lived in Zambia, India, Egypt, the Philippines, all before I went to Taft,” he says.

      But it took a while for him to realize he wanted to be a diplomat. After graduating from Middlebury College, he worked in a series of very different jobs, teaching in Morocco and working in investment banking in San Francisco.

      He also interned for then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign, and while interning for Sarkozy’s foreign policy team, something clicked. “I realized I really enjoyed the foreign policy side of things, but I was not French,” says Wisner, whose mother was born and raised in France. “That’s when I decided to take the foreign service exam.”

      Wisner joined the U.S. State Department in 2008 as a foreign service officer and never looked back.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center right) during his first visit to Albania in February with Wisner (center left). Photo Credit: Antonio Cakshiri

      His career has taken him to the Algeria, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Washington, D.C. He’s now the deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires a.i. (ad interim) at the U.S. Embassy in Albania, where he serves as the de facto head of the embassy, pending Senate confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to the southeastern European nation, a NATO ally. “What I love about the State Department is that you have an opportunity to serve the United States, this country that’s given us all so much, in a way that is varied,” he says.

      Not only has he been able to live all over the world, but he has also been able to build expertise in a range of areas. Before heading to Albania, he led the State Department’s Office of Global Food Security, which aims to fight hunger and help the world’s poorest increase food production and adapt agriculture to climate change.

      “Every two to three years, I have a new opportunity to learn about a place, and live it, experience it, and hopefully give back to it,” Wisner says.

      All that travel has its challenges, however, particularly now that he’s married with two young children.

      “It’s both an adventure and at the same time, difficult,” Wisner says. “You uproot your family, you ask your spouse to make sacrifices for your career, you ask your kids to change schools and make new friends every one to four [or so] years.”

Wisner explored Gjirokastër, Albania’s rich history and enjoyed a tour of the Old Bazaar with mayor Flamur Golëmi and local residents. Photo Credit: Antonio Cakshiri

      What keeps him going is his faith in the work he does. “You have to believe in—at least, I have found—the ultimately constructive role that the United States plays in the world,” he says.

      He was recently able to help forge a deal for the Albanian military to buy U.S. helicopters, he said by way of example; the partnership will support U.S. jobs while providing Albania with equipment it needs to fight wildfires and contribute to NATO operations around the globe.

      In his prior role leading the Office of Global Food Security, he was able to help mobilize millions of dollars of food research funding that will benefit people all over the world.

      “I [was able] to contribute to all of those things. It’s immensely rewarding,” Wisner says.

      If there’s a throughline to Wisner’s career, it’s a focus on service, he says. “It goes back to the Taft motto.”

      The idea that you should use your skills and education to help others, he says, “is one of those things that I took from Lance Odden, Willy MacMullen, Jon Willson, and all these incredible teachers that I had.”