Global Adventures on Less-Traveled Roads--A Foreign Service Memoir by James R. Bullington
Create Space Independent Publishing
Reviewed by Benjamin East
It's no common trajectory to go from being U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi to serving as Country Director for the Peace Corps in Niger. But then, James R. Bullington would tell you himself his journey's been one of unpredictable stops in unlikely places.
A self-described redneck, his itinerant upbringing included a failed family business in Tennessee, a short stint in L.A., and a hardscrabble boyhood on his grandparents' farm, where "life was hard and luxuries few." Yet from the segregated south of the 40's and 50's rose the future husband of a sophisticated Vietnamese interpreter. And from a junior expeditionary diplomat under siege in Hue came the elder statesman negotiating peace in coastal West Africa. In short, Bullington's journey began in the nation's grittier roots but reached great heights in the world of American diplomacy.
Bullington's Foreign Service memoir, Global Adventures on Less-Traveled Roads, details these circumstances with a journalist's sharp prose and a reporting officer's attention to fact. It's an inspiring book rich in clear-eyed hindsight, the immediacy of official cables, and relevant graphics, maps, and photos. Most important, the narrative analyzes the U.S. role in world events as it describes one man's arc of service in an unsung branch of national duty.
Early indications that Bullington would rise beyond his beginnings can be traced to his years at Auburn, where his moral compass and steadfast values put him at odds with local norms.
As editor of the school paper in 1961, Bullington penned an editorial denouncing the attacks on the Freedom Riders, "The political leaders who let them happen and the whole systemic culture of segregation in which they were rooted." After the letter was published on the front page of The Plainsman, "Everywhere I went I was cursed, confronted, and threatened with violence by angry students. A group of them collected copies of the paper and built a large bonfire to burn them along with an effigy of me." Still fuming over the publication 18 years later, the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides accosted Bullington at an Army War College reception: "So you're the son-of-a-bitch that wrote that editorial!"
Yet another sign the author was destined to defend American...