Former State Senator David Adelman (M.P.A. '95) serves as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore
By Andrea Jones
U.S. Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman (M.P.A. '95)
SINGAPORE - Step into the Embassy of the United States in Singapore, an imposing white building that sits squarely onto a well-manicured street in what is, arguably, the cleanest city in the world.
Outside, traffic buzzes by, aided by a sophisticated network of electronic cameras that alert motorists of accidents. Orchids and other tropical flowers line the streets. Efficiency and order are key in this city-state, known worldwide for its infrastructure.
Pass through security and up a staircase, and you'll find David Adelman, the affable former Georgia state senator, leader of this 500-person post.
Under the Gold Dome, Adelman, a Democrat who represented the 42nd District from 2003-2010, earned a reputation as a moderate legislator who often reached across party lines.
In Singapore, his warm demeanor and easy handshake makes American visitors, a more than 20-hour plane ride and 12 time zones away, feel right at home. But instead of lunching at Harold's Barbecue, a down-home staple among those at the Georgia Capitol, Adelman now brings guests to the Singapore equivalent: Samy's Curry, where the service is just as good, but the food is spicier and served on banana leaves.
"It is the highest privilege to represent the United States in an increasingly important part of the world," Adelman says.
He was nominated in November 2009 by President Barack Obama to the post. Confirmed in March 2010 by the U.S. Senate, he and his wife, Caroline, who served as spokesperson for Obama's Georgia general election campaign, packed up their three children, Oscar, Leah and Avery, and made the move halfway around the globe to one of the farthest embassies from Washington D.C. It's been a whirlwind for the family, who Adelman says are truly honored and are on the adventure of a lifetime.
GSU Magazine sat down with Adelman to learn more about what it's like to be a U.S. Ambassador.
How different is your job as a U.S. Ambassador from being a member of the Georgia Legislature?
The work we do in the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is more far-reaching. That is especially true here because East Asia is a very dynamic and important part of the world. Singapore plays a significant role because it is a center of regional activity. Our first priority is to keep Americans at home, and in Southeast Asia, safe. A good part of my portfolio is national security, which is very different from the type of security issues addressed in state government. The United States has very important military interests in East Asia and we are a leader in providing humanitarian assistance. As a result my daily work involves the highest levels of our military and the militaries of many countries in this region.
How important is commercial diplomacy in Singapore?
Commercial interests and opportunities for the United States in Asia are enormous. In March of last year, for the first time in history, U.S. exports to Asia exceeded U.S. exports to Europe. The growing markets in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and, of course, India and China are critical to American prosperity. Singapore plays a crucial role in trade and commerce throughout Asia. In Singapore, business is king and it is a country that "punches above its weight." Despite its small size, it is the 10th largest destination for U.S. exports. Our exports to Singapore make up almost half of all U.S. exports to Southeast Asia, which together is our fourth largest trading partner. Twenty five hundred American businesses have significant operations here and 25,000 U.S. expats are living here, many of whom work for America's leading businesses. Singapore and Hong Kong are the two places where American businesses most often locate decision makers for their Asia interests. Contributing to the American economic recovery and creating American jobs is at the top of our team's agenda in the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. Because I represent the United States in the most trade dependent country in the world, I am in an especially strong position to support America's exports and claw back some of the jobs that were lost in 2007 and 2008.
Did you have personal ties to Singapore before you took the job?
I had done some business in Northeast Asia but not as far south as Singapore... Only recently have many American businesses begun to realize the tremendous prospects in Southeast Asia. My job is to help American businesses leverage the hard-earned goodwill that America has in Asia. One thing has become clear since arriving here: Asians are attracted to the prestige, quality and safety of American products and services.
How has the family settled in? It's been great. We've been welcomed from day one very warmly by people from all walks of life in Singapore. It's a first-world, English-speaking country and it's very comfortable. We're far from home and we miss our family, friends and professional colleagues, but it is a magnificent experience for our entire family. Our service here has given us a more full appreciation for the good standing the United States enjoys, and the opportunities there are outside of the U.S. for Americans. The more Americans engage abroad, the greater prospects we will have for continued American security and prosperity. We even brought our two dogs from the U.S.
Ah yes, those are the same dogs from your family campaign picture back from your Senate campaigns? Yes, that's Peanut and Pepper. They're just in front of a different house now. I wish they were eligible for frequent flier miles.