Virginia E. Palmer, whose family has resided in the Williamsburg area for 42 years, is the new US Ambassador to Ghana.
She was nominated by President Joe Biden in late 2021, and after confirmation by the US Senate in March, Palmer assumed the West African post in April.
“I have been very well received by Ghanaians here,” she said in a phone call from Accra, Ghana’s capital. “They’re very high in the United States, and about 45,000 Americans live here now.”
During an appearance last fall before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was considering his appointment to Ghana, Palmer said “the close partnership with Ghana spans more than 60 years and is rooted in our commitment common cause for democracy and human rights for all, peace and security, economic opportunity and prosperity.
Human rights for all, she elaborated in the interview, “is a challenge that all of us – Ghanaians and Americans – must continue to work on. In Ghana, for example, there is a bill which would severely restrict the human rights of the LGBTQ community.
“As the Bill is considered, I hope that Ghana will be faithful to its constitution and its democratic principles, as well as the international instruments to which it adheres, because everyone deserves to live a life free from harassment and discrimination. .”
Regarding civil rights, Palmer recalled that “Ghana was a very important symbol of civil rights having been liberated from colonial rule. People like Dr. Martin Luther King saw Ghana as a beacon.
She also told the Senate committee that Ghana is a “key security partner and that its leadership is critical to U.S. efforts to promote regional stability and counter violent extremism.”
Elaborating on these comments, Palmer stressed that one of his main challenges for the future “is to ensure that West African coastal states are not centers of terrorism. It is an increasingly difficult area and Ghana has an important role to play.
Palmer explained that she would like to see an increase in bilateral trade and investment between the two countries. Bilateral trade now stands at $2.7 billion a year. The United States buys a lot of gold and cocoa from Ghana, while supplying pharmaceuticals, agricultural equipment and automobiles. Increases would benefit everyone, she added.
His parents, Richard and Becky Palmer, came to Williamsburg in 1980 when he joined the faculty of William & Mary. She was in college at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, at the time, but has traveled to Williamsburg frequently over the years.
“I’ve always considered Williamsburg my home,” she said. “The State Department lists it as my home base. Back home is where your family is.
The 36-year-old senior foreign service officer, who began his career in 1986, previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi from 2015 to 2019.
During his career, Palmer served twice as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in South Africa, 2011-2014 and Vietnam, 2008-2011. Other postings in his career included postings to Canada, Zimbabwe, China and Hong Kong, according to his biography at the State Department.
Prior to his appointment in Ghana, Palmer served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources.
Palmer’s family traveled frequently and “I always had the international bug,” she says. “When I was 15 I was an AFS exchange student in apartheid South Africa. I saw then what it was like to live without the freedom we took for granted and also the impact positive that the United States could have.
“I think I wanted to be a foreign service officer back then. So I went to university and graduate school to study international relations.
She received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her master’s degree from the University of Virginia, where she also completed doctoral studies.
Palmer’s husband, a retired foreign service officer, traveled with her to Ghana. They have two adult children, one of whom is a William & Mary graduate.
Her father was on the William & Mary faculty of the Department of Theater and Expression (it later included dance) for 36 years until his retirement in 2016. He served as Department Chair for 10 years and for many years artistic director of the William & Mary Theater and general manager of the Williamsburg Shakespeare Festival. He died in 2020.
His mother was a professional piano teacher for many decades and still lives in the Williamsburg area.
Wilford Kale, [email protected]