My Hero: Todd Chapman

by U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach from San Francisco, California

144749Todd Chapman, Hero of Heroes public domain, Official PortraitI have been blessed to work with notable trailblazers in my career, and from the moment I met Todd, I could tell that he was a true transformational leader. This is my story of how Todd became my HERO. I know Todd is a HERO to many people. And I invite you to share your story along with mine on this site.

He has the trifecta for any great leader: intelligence, wisdom, and heart. Those key attributes, in conjunction with his depth of experience, vision and deep love of country, have uniquely positioned him to serve the State Department, and our nation, in many critical roles, and at critical times, including, most recently, representing our great nation as the Ambassador to Brazil.

144762Ambassador Todd Chapman and wife, Janette upon arrival in Ecuador.public domainNo one knows that better than his incredible wife, Jannette, who has served alongside Todd with her own intelligence, integrity, and compassion. As everyone reading this knows, diplomacy is truly a team sport. Todd and Jannette are a dynamic team and a blessing to our nation. I thank you both for your service.

It was the privilege of my life to serve as U.S. Under Secretary of State and have the chance to give back to this great nation that has given so much to my family and me. My mission was to develop and operationalize global economic security strategy, take U.S. economic statecraft to the next level. I had never worked in government before and was in the process of bringing in 12 results-oriented executives from the private sector, when I had the good fortune of meeting Todd in an elevator. It’s when I gave the greatest elevator pitch of my life.

144763Ambassador Todd Chapman with Ecuadorian Defense Minister, visiting USNS Comfortpublic domainTodd had just finished serving as Ambassador to Ecuador and was looking forward to a new posting. He was exactly the seasoned veteran I was looking for to school me in the ways of the state department and the nuances of foreign policy. I knew I could only have Todd on my team for a short while, but honestly, he had me at "hello." He’s what Nick Saban would call a “five-star recruit.” He became something of a consigliere to me, an invaluable voice of experience and reason. I am profoundly grateful for everything Todd brought to our team and the way we worked together so personally. Todd had served with honor and distinction and earned my trust and faith completely.

I would like to share one personal story of how I will forever remember my time with Ambassador Chapman. Just a couple months into the job, I was thrown into the Super Bowl of Diplomacy: UNGA (United Nations General Assembly).

Todd said to me without flinching, “You’re going to become a diplomat in one week.” I said, bring it on. But folks… I had no idea. But Todd didn’t blink, he simply said in his calm, cool, collected, James Bond sort of way, “Let me show you.”

144752Todd in Brasilia, leading the first Brazil-Japan-USA trilateralpublic domainThe next thing I knew, I had about 30 bilateral meetings lined up in a span of 3 days. I am no dummy, I had Todd sitting next to me for each one. 

My first meeting: Kazakhstan. I was thinking, "Couldn’t they have made my first one something easy, like, oh...  Canada?!"

My counterpart didn’t speak much English and my Kazakh was rather rusty. While I did no long-lasting damage to our international relations, let’s just say it wasn’t my finest moment. But I will always remember that in that critical moment, Todd gave me that perfect piece of wisdom I needed to go from zero to 100. He said, “Try this for the next one: Just talk to the guy like he’s another CEO." And that made all the difference.

144753In Brasilia, finalizing discussions with Brazil Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo on his announcement as the 50th country to join the Clean Network. public domainI filed that away for two reasons. First, his comment made me better and put me at ease to be myself. Second, I filed it away because I recognized that Todd possessed the skill and artfulness of the most nuanced and talented diplomat: he sized me up, got to the heart of the issue, spoke to me in my language and helped to transform not only my performance, but the results of our entire UNGA-bowl.

144756In Brasilia, press conference with Brazil on the 50th country to join the Clean Network. Todd front row.public domainTodd, my friend: in that example, and so many others, the team and I could not have done it without you and we are grateful for all of your tremendous work and friendship.

144754In Brasilia, at the inaugural US-Brazil Environmental Dialogue public domainYou truly have lived up to the nickname I gave you: the Oracle. If I had a stumper, I could go to Todd, and sure enough, he’d tell me, “We’ve tried that and it didn’t work. Try it this way.” And wouldn’t you know it… 9 times out of 10, it worked.

As I mentioned, I always knew our days in the E office together were numbered, but that’s the way it is when you work with the best. You have to share them with the world. Or in this case, with Brazil. I can't imagine anyone better suited to represent the U.S. in such an important country. In his youth, Todd spent a good deal of time in Brazil. He moved there when he was 11, when his parents relocated for work. He stayed through high school in Sao Paulo and came back to the United States for college.

Todd was nominated to serve in Brazil in October 2019. In February, he was confirmed by the Senate. In March 2020, he began serving as Ambassador, a post he has fulfilled with distinction, strengthening U.S. ties with a great friend and ally. It was a tremendous honor to me to swear in Ambassador Chapman to take on this important role. 

On June 9, 2021, Todd communicated to President Joe Biden his request for retirement from the State Department for a new adventure back in the private sector and have more family time and be closer to his two sons, who are launching their own careers.

Todd has had a magnificent career of service, spanning three decades. Todd will always be a HERO and forever appreciated, honestly respected, and deeply loved by everyone in the diplomatic corps.

And it's been quite a career. 

Here are a few highlights:

  • United States Ambassador to Brazil (2020-2021)
  • Senior Advisor to Under Secretary Keith Krach (2019-2020)
  • United States Ambassador to Ecuador (2016–2019)
  • Washington D.C., Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs (2014)
  • Brasília, Brazil, Deputy Chief of Mission (2011)
  • Kabul, Afghanistan, Senior Diplomatic Coordinator for Economic Affairs, U.S. Embassy Kabul (2010 to 2011)
  • Maputo, Mozambique, Deputy Chief of Mission (2007)
  • Washington D.C., Executive Assistant, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (2006)
  • La Paz, Bolivia, Political/Economic/Commercial Counselor
  • San Jose, Costa Rica, Economic Officer (2001)
  • Abuja, Nigeria, Energy Officer (1997)
  • Maputo, Mozambique, Economic/Commercial officer (1993)
  • Taipei, Taiwan, Consular Officer at American Institute in Taiwan (1991)

Todd speaks Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish. He and his wife, Janetta, have two sons, Josh and Jason.

144757U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Todd Chapman, meets patience aboard USNS Comfortpublic domainBefore serving as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Todd was Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs as of November 2015. Prior to this position, he served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, working together with the 350 personnel in the Bureau to advance global security relationships, administer over $6 billion in security assistance, and negotiate security agreements around the world.

Ambassador Chapman previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia from 2011 to 2014, managing the 1400-person mission and a wide range of economic, commercial and political issues. As the Senior Deputy Coordinator for Development and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, he provided policy direction and oversight for over $4 billion in foreign assistance. He was Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique from 2007 to 2010, implementing over $500 million in assistance programs. Earlier assignments completed include in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Taiwan, and in Washington D.C. several times. Todd joined the State Department in 1990 and is a Minister Counselor in the Senior Foreign Service.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Todd received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and a master’s degree from the National Intelligence University. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he worked in New York and Saudi Arabia as a commercial banker.

144755Dream Big poemanonymousWhen I think of Todd Chapman, I think of the old State Department adage: “Optimism is to the diplomat as courage is to the soldier.” I have never met anyone with more optimism and faith in humanity than Todd Chapman.

Todd, we will always be brothers. I look forward to continuing our journey of service, faith in humanity, and unshakable optimism.

I leave you with this great poem, "Dream Big," which has always been an inspiration to me, and one that I hope will be an inspiration to you as well.  

May God bless you and all your work ahead, or as they say in Brazil: Va con deus, go with God!

Page created on 6/27/2021 3:31:59 PM

Last edited 6/28/2021 10:52:54 PM

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