Nay, An Adventist, Takes Oath
as U.S. Ambassador to Suriname
Will represent nation, cites faith lessons
BY KEVIN D. GURUBATHAM, legislative fellow, Seventh-day Adventist Church Office of Legislative Affairs, reporting from Washington, D.C.
veteran United States diplomat who credits his education in Seventh-day Adventist schools, as well as his service as a student missionary, with shaping his decision to enter the Foreign Service is America’s new Ambassador to the republic of Suriname, a former Dutch colony on the northeast coast of South America.
John R. Nay, who holds both bachelors’ and masters’ degrees in history from church-owned Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, was sworn in August 13 by Nancy J. Powell, director general of the Foreign Service in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State headquarters. Also in attendance was Jacques R. Cross, ambassador of the Republic of Suriname to the United States.
“I have drawn on my experiences to encourage people to see that working together helps make progress possible,” Nay said in remarks following his taking the oath of office. “While one cannot immediately change the legacy of centuries, a commitment to human rights and decency and working together by all sectors of society without regard to ethnicity or religion can help overcome legacies of the past.”
Ambassador John Nay [Photo: U.S. State Department
He said the knowledge he gained representing the U.S. in countries such as India, South Africa, Taiwan, and Singapore has had a major influence on the way he will approach his new assignment in Suriname.
Also key, he said, was his own life story: Born in Louisiana in the 1950s, Nay spoke about how he has witnessed the principles and standards of the United States evolve since he was a child. “We have moved from being a country that treated millions of its citizens unequally–with slavery and Jim Crow laws leaving a sad legacy not fully overcome–to being a country that serves as an example to most of the world, even as we still work to meet challenges.”
It is not only work experience that has prepared Nay for this prestigious position. He gives much of the thanks and praises to his wife Judy and their children, Janelle, Jaclyn, and Jordan. He thanked his children for joining him on the “Foreign Service adventure.” And of his wife, he said she is “an all-around better and more deserving person than I, who has helped me throughout my career, and who deserves praise for her work on the United States’ behalf.… I, and the people of Suriname, are lucky to have her joining me there.”
Both John and Judy Nay are graduates of Andrews University. Judy graduated with a B.S. in Nursing, and John has a B.A. and M.A. in History. All three of their children attended Andrews for their undergraduate work as well. In addition to his support for Adventist education, Nay gives a lot of credit for his decision to join the Foreign Service to his work as a missionary. “My student missionary experience played a significant part in my joining the Foreign Service by helping to stimulate my interest in international affairs and the world,” Nay disclosed after the ceremony. “It was helpful to have a chance to see from abroad how the United States is perceived.”
Nay’s strong background in foreign affairs will be instrumental as he faces the challenges that will come with his new position in Suriname. He said he is honored by the appointment and is looking forward to working with the government and people of the country. To conclude his remarks, he reminded us that every one of us should share the same attitude of that of a United States ambassador: “I am honored to be able to formally use the title ‘ambassador,’ but we must all keep in mind that we are allambassadors–for our countries, for our families, for our ideals, and for our faiths. As my wife and I represent the United States in Suriname, we will seek to do just that.”
Approximately 48 percent of Suriname’s 487,000 people are Christians, with Protestants holding the largest share at 25.2 percent. An estimated 27.4 percent of Surinamese are Hindu, and 19.6 percent are Muslim. The Seventh-day Adventist Church organized the Suriname Conference in 1945 and today it boasts 17 congregations and nearly 3,700 members.
--With additional reporting by Adventist Review staff