After serving in some of the hottest spots in the world — Libya, Iraq, Syria and Israel — William Roebuck’s (’78, MA ’82) next posting might seem like a day at the beach for the career diplomat.
In July, President Obama nominated Roebuck as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, an archipelago in the Persian Gulf with about 1.3 million people. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Roebuck’s nomination last month, but he still awaits confirmation by the full Senate.
Testifying before the foreign relations committee, Roebeck summed up his impressive 20-year career: “I have spent most of my career posted in the Middle East … fostering political dialogue, providing support for elections, helping governments address the threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism, promoting and protecting human rights, and encouraging regional security efforts between neighbors.”
Roebuck follows in the footsteps of at least two other alumni. Jeanette Wallace Hyde (’58) was ambassador to Barbados and areas of the West Indies from 1994 to 1997. The late Graham Martin (’32) was a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Thailand and Italy and was the last U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam before the country’s fall to North Vietnam in 1975.
“Bill” Roebuck, 58, grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and received a George Foster Hankins Scholarship to Wake Forest. He wrote for the Old Gold & Black and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature.
As reported on the news site, AllGov.com, and in his State Department biography, Roebuck served in Côte D’Ivoire during a stint with the Peace Corps and taught English in Saudi Arabia. After earning a law degree from the University of Georgia, he joined the Foreign Service in 1992. In the two decades since, he’s become a well-traveled and respected diplomat.
He was a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for several years before moving to Damascus, Syria, where he served as acting deputy chief of mission. After a short stint in Washington, he went back to the Middle East as deputy political counselor at the embassy in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.
Roebuck was sent to Tripoli, Libya, in early 2013 as chargé d’affaires — the top U.S. diplomat in the country in the absence of an ambassador — several months after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Most recently, he was deputy assistant secretary of state of Egypt and Maghreb Affairs, based in Washington.
While Bahrain doesn’t attract the headlines of its Middle East neighbors, Roebuck isn’t likely to have much time to spend at the beach. He’s sure to be tested as he and the U.S. government push back against the Bahrain government’s human-rights record and targeting of opposition groups.
Fitting for one who spent his college days studying literature, Roebuck occasionally writes poetry for the Foreign Service Journal. Bahrain’s leading English newspaper, the Daily Tribune, even described the “new amby” as a poet. Roebuck once penned a moving tribute to his late friend, Chris Stevens, which reads, in part:
“I think back to that long night last September: the frantic phone calls, The unreliable shards of information, the series of urgent plans drawn up and discarded, The crushing news, And no time to mourn, then or later.”