OKOLONA – There is a big world out there and Sherrill Clark has seen much of it.
Clark is a former U.S. Foreign Service Ambassador’s Assistant and she was the guest speaker last week for the Chuquatonchee Chapter of the DAR in Okolona. She told the group some of her stories and showed them artifacts she had picked up in 18 countries spread over three continents.
“My first assignment was Paris and I got to carry my daughter with me,” said Clark. “I attended ICC, graduated from MUW in 1968 and grew up in Itawamba County. I had a family and had learned French in College. It all happened rather quickly.”
The move was not easy, but in retrospect Clark said she has never regretted the change.
“I’m a substitute teacher in Amory and I tell kids all the time there is a big world out there and they need to explore it,” said Clark. “I tell them my stories and encourage them to think big and dream big. It can happen – it happened to me.”
Clark said one of her jobs at the French Embassy in Paris was buying French perfume for the ambassador to be given as gifts for visiting dignitaries.
“I also bought flowers for the embassy every day and helped create the menu for state dinners,” she said with a smile. “That’s pretty big stuff for a country girl from Mississippi.”
There were other assignments too.
“In Haiti I saw so much poverty and so many kids who were so bright and yet the future was bleak,” said Clark. “I was glad to be there and help any way I could.”
And Clark said that is the first goal of any embassy employee.
“We helped businesses from the States solve problems in country,” said Clark. “We helped tourists with problems. And at every station I was assigned I got involved in the community as much as I could to help and show people that Americans were good people who really cared about their country.”
Clark said U.S. Foreign Service Diplomats or Ambassadors are appointed by the President and so her boss changed often.
“My favorite ambassador was Teddy Taylor, a diplomat to Papua New Guinea,” said Clark. “He was fun to work for and I served there twice.
“The hardest boss I had was in Paris,” said Clark. “She wanted every thing to be perfect and no problems. It don’t think she ever learned my name.”
Job requirements for the assistant to the ambassador included attending all diplomatic dinners and helping with the Fourth of July celebrations, which would include hundreds of people.
During Clark’s U.S. Embassy stints and Foreign Service travel, she has been to Paris; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Gaborone, Botswana; Conakry, Guinea; N’djamena, Chad; Pria, Cape Verde; Bujumbura, Burundi; Niamey, Niger; Nairobi, Kenya; Asmara, Eritrea; Yaoundé, Cameroon; Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; Cape Town, South Africa; Lagos, Nigeria; Kigali, Rwanda; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Mbabane, Swaziland; Port Louis, Mauritius; Djibouti City, Djibouti; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; and Beijing.
Clark has been semi-retired since 2003 when she had a death in the family. She spent six months in 2006 and 2007 working at embassies and is able to fill in while other ambassador assistants are on leave.
“I tell people the Foreign Service was great for me,” said Clark. “But it is a lot of hard work and there can be difficult times. I am proud to say I was never hurt or truly afraid when I worked with the Foreign Service.”
Clark now lives in Amory, where she is a substitute teacher at Nettleton, Amory and Monroe County Schools. She is active in her garden club and loves being a speaker at local civic organizations.
Clark brought everything from cloth and artwork to musical instruments and ceremonial mask for the members of the DAR to touch and see.
“I loved telling people in foreign countries about America,” said Clark. “I still love telling people all the good things America has done in this world.”