U.S. Ambassador to Honduras: Who Is James Nealon?
On May 1, 2014, President Barack Obama nominated James D. Nealon Jr. to be U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, and he was confirmed by the Senate on July 15, It is the first ambassadorial post for the career Foreign Service officer.
Nealon was born and raised in Virginia, where his father was a surveyor and later a land developer. His mother had worked for the State Department as an administrative assistant. Nealon graduated from Brown University in 1980 with a B.A. in American History. Before joining the State Department, he spent a few years as a high school coach and teacher.
In 1984, Nealon joined the Foreign Service. His early posts included being an assistant press attaché in the U.S. embassy in Chile, cultural attaché in the embassy in Uruguay and media attaché in the embassies in Hungary and the Philippines.
Nealon returned to Hungary as counselor for public affairs and later served in Madrid in the same capacity.
In 2005, Nealon returned to Uruguay as deputy chief of mission (DCM) and chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Montevideo, running the mission in the absence of an ambassador. He took a similar job in Peru in 2007 and was again DCM in Ottawa, Canada beginning in 2010. While in Peru, Nealon wrote a report, later released by WikiLeaks, expressing concern about “anti-system radicals” who might “lay the groundwork for a more systematic assault on the pro-growth model.”
He added, “To many (and to us), the similarity of this subversive campaign to events that unfolded in Bolivia in 2003 - with the unwitting help of well-meaning actors and the active support of able political radicals is uncanny.”
In December 2012, President Obama proposed Nealon as the ambassador to Bolivia, but, not surprisingly considering his comments, Nealon was rejected by the Bolivian government. There has been no U.S. ambassador in that country since September 2008 because of friction between Washington and the left-leaning government in La Paz.
Nealon was named civilian deputy to the commander and foreign policy advisor to the U.S. Southern Command, based in the Miami area, in 2013. The Southern Command is responsible for U.S. military planning and operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Nealon’s wife Kristin, a fellow Brown graduate, teaches English as a second language. They have four children—Rory, Katie, Maureen and Liam—all born overseas while Nealon was on assignment. Nealon speaks Spanish and Hungarian.
To Learn More:
Official Biography (pdf)
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