Ambassador to Canada visits WKU, Gatton Academy

U.S. ambassador Kelly Craft answers a student’s question during the Q&A session at the end of her presentation at Gary Ransdell Hall on Feb. 15. Craft was appointed as the first female ambassador to Canada by President Donald Trump in October 2017.

Nicole Ziege

U.S. ambassador Kelly Craft discussed foreign service with about 20 students in Gary Ransdell Hall on yesterday afternoon.

Craft spoke to students at the Gatton Academy prior to her presentation to WKU students during the same day.

Craft grew up in Glasgow and graduated from the University of Kentucky. In 2007, former-President George W. Bush appointed her as an alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, according to the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada. President Donald Trump appointed Craft as the first female U.S. ambassador to Canada on Oct. 23, 2017.

Craft said she is relatively new to her job. She began her presentation by describing her daily schedule at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. Craft said she has anywhere from 10 to 50 events on her schedule every day.

Her favorite part of the day is when she takes the employees at her embassy out to lunch. She said she asks them about their family, why they decided to work in the Canadian embassy and how she can help them.

“It raises their morale,” Craft said. “They go back to work, and they’re like, ‘Wow, I really want to work hard. I really want to make this place great because she cares.’”

Craft said she works for those employees she takes out to lunch, and she said she tells them that.

“They’re there to just lift me up,” Craft said. “I’m temporary. They’re there for years.”

Craft said most of the employees at her embassy came through the foreign service, and she said they are assigned to a different country every three years. Craft said she was embarrassed she didn’t know about foreign service until she was appointed as ambassador.

“These people are so educated,” Craft said. “They are so well-rounded in knowing about everything, so I’m a real big proponent of the foreign service.”

Craft said those involved with foreign service were public servants. She said it was both a privilege to be in her position and an obligation to give back.

“It is a privilege in this country to have an obligation because in some countries, you do not have that opportunity,” Craft said.

Craft said many people who come through Canada come through for visas, and she said their stories are unbelievable.

“I walk away from there and I think, ‘Wow, I am so lucky to be an American,’” Craft said.

Craft also discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement during her presentation. NAFTA is a trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States, according to the website for the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

“The news is not negotiating NAFTA,” Craft said, regarding the 24-hour news cycle reporting on NAFTA. “Experts are negotiating NAFTA. We’ve got to let them do their job.”

Regarding the 24-hour news cycle, Craft said that “you can’t always believe what you’re reading.”

“With this news cycle now, you never know if it’s real, if it’s fake, if it’s old, if it’s new, if it’s just advocacy on behalf of one certain party,” Craft said.

Regarding the truth, she said the students needed to “go and seek it out” for themselves.

There was a question and answer session after the presentation. Student Government Association President Andi Dahmer, who introduced Craft before the presentation, asked if Craft believed that the United States will pull out of NAFTA, based on Craft’s personal experience.

Craft said that the U.S. “does not want to pull from NAFTA.”

“The President’s thinking about all of you,” Craft said in her response. “It may seem like we’re pulling out of NAFTA, but that’s only because that president, if he is focused on the end result, then he has a team of experts that are working to get there. Like I said, when you’re reading the news, it’s a lot of fake news out there.”

Craft said the U.S. will do what’s best for the county.

“I have faith in the leadership that they know what is going to be best for our economy,” Craft said.

After Craft’s presentation, Dahmer said she was “thrilled” Craft was able to speak at WKU, and she said it is “really inspiring” to her that Craft was the first female ambassador to Canada.

“I think it’s very important that we have female representation in all levels of government,” Dahmer said. “Seeing someone so genuine and caring with such a servant heart, to be doing that on an international level is just an inspiration for everyone here, really.”

WKU freshman and international affairs major Sarah Leger attended Craft’s presentation, and she heard about it through an email sent to her from the Potter College of Arts and Letters.

“I’m eager to hear what she says,” Leger said before the presentation. “It goes along with my major, being international affairs, and I’m interested in working in the state department. It’ll be nice to see an insider perspective from an ambassador to another country.”

WKU senior and corporate and organizational communications major Emily Pride said she attended the event because the event was discussed in her political science class and in her gender communications class.

“I’m excited because she’s the first female ambassador to Canada, and she’s kind of important,” Pride said before the presentation.