Having been in T&T for just over a month, the new American Ambassador to T&T Beatrice Welters says she is still settling into her new job and the country she'll be spending the next two years in.
She was speaking last Wednesday at the US Information Centre, Marli Street, Port-of-Spain, in her first major interview with the local media since being formally appointed as ambassador on March 11. Welters described her appointment by President Barack Obama as the Ambassador to T&T as a "surprise." "I was formally appointed as Ambassador on March 11, 2010. "To be quite honest I know many people in the US who support various presidents and that might be their goal but it wasn't my goal . My goal was to support President Obama in the best way I could and then go on from there. "So I was surprised I was among the ambassadors selected. Although I'm not surprised that I could do the job but just surprised because it was not on the horizon for me personally," she said.
Welters said she is no "political animal" but she was deeply moved by Obama when he was a senator and that's why she decided to support his run for president. "If you speak to my husband he would be the one who is involved in politics. I was not involved in politics until the then Senator Obama started to run for president. I felt that this person was a world leader and I wanted to put everything I could to support him. "I really am not a political animal as they say. I had to get involved in the race with Senator Obama. I did a lot of fund-raising for him," she said. She said Obama was the one who approached and asked her for support in his bid to be president. "President Obama was the one who sought my husband and I out in 2007 when he came to Washington as a senator. We had breakfast together and then we invited him for dinner at my home in Virginia and then after that he came again for a fund-raiser. A year later, his wife Michelle Obama did a fund-raiser with us for then Senator Obama, so that's the extent of the relationship," she said.
With a laugh, she said she did not belong to Obama's inner circle. "I'm not in the group of friends that he has. I'm not from the Chicago group," she said. Welters said her professional background in the US was in the area of social work. "I have been involved in a lot of non-profit organisations. About 15 years ago I formed a foundation called the An-Bryce foundation which focuses on youth and education; the affiliate of that is my camp Dogwood Summer Academy which is in the Virginia countryside and this camp focuses on education and programmes such as logical thinking, math and science. We do the regular camping activities like fishing and planting gardens. We bring people from the various sectors of the government and foundations to come speak to the campers. "We also have a New York University (NYU) under-grad programme for scholars and also an NYU programme for law school students. That's for those who are the first in their family to go to law school. "My husband and I have an endowment at NYU for that. We have more than 30 students in the law school programme," she said.
Welters said she has a close-knit family with two sons.
"I have two children, one will be 22 years next week and the other one will be 19 years in July. The eldest one graduated from the University of Notre Dame just a couple weeks ago and the next one will beginning his sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame in September," she said.
When asked about her feelings on being the first African American woman Ambassador to T&T, she replied by saying she hopes race and gender would become irrelevant in judging people's performance in the future.
"I just wish there would be a time where being a female or whatever race you are you wouldn't have to label it as the 'first'. I just hope to see in the future for someone as myself or the T&T Prime Minister it's just common place to have people like us," she said.