Members and guests of the LWV of Dare County sat spellbound for nearly two hours on February 24th at COA as two local retired foreign service career professionals recounted their married life as U.S. Ambassadors over three decades, covering the administrations from President Carter to President Obama.
The speakers were Marcie Ries, Ambassador (Ret.) and Co-Chair, American Diplomacy Project, and her husband, Charles Ries, Ambassador (Ret.) and Adjunct Senior Fellow, the Rand Corporation. The couple presented PowerPoint photos and news articles as they swapped stories that astounded and amused. The couple drew on their experiences serving in Washington, Europe, and the Middle East. Serving under Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 and 43, and Obama, the Ries’s were witness to, and in some cases participants in, the end of the Cold War, the events of 9/11 and the war against terrorism, trade and arms control negotiations, the war in Iraq, relief efforts after a devastating hurricane in the Caribbean, the expansion of NATO.
Charlie and Marcie met at Johns Hopkins University in graduate school and married in 1974. When they both passed the Foreign Service exam, they decided to join together. What do Ambassadors do? They act as a 911 for Americans abroad, and they are negotiators for foreign treaties. They also promote and support American businesses and products, act as spokespersons and concierges, and inform and interpret events for the President. Above all, Ambassadors represent the American people, their values, and democracy.
The Ries started their careers in Santo Domingo in 1978, and in Aug. 1979, Hurricane David hit and killed 2,000 people. Charles worked on relief efforts and helped trapped Americans. Their next post brought them to Turkey after studying the Turkish language for a year, and by then, the couple had two babies in tow.
Secretary of State Colin Powell swore in Marcie as U.S. Ambassador to Albania on October 27, 2004, and Charles was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic (Greece) on December 13, 2004. Marcie later became U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria from 2012-2015.
Charles recalled that Bagdad was the most challenging post of their careers—they worked fifteen-hour days over fourteen months. For most of the time, they lived in a shipping container-like structure with a bathroom.
Charles retired in 2008. Marcie continued to work as a Strategic Arms Control Negotiator for the New START treaty. Most negotiations were conducted in Geneva, and the treaty was signed by President Obama in Prague.
The couple now lives in Southern Shores, where they have owned a home for many years. Marcie said it was an easy choice for her to join the Board of the LWV of Dare County as a natural extension of her career objective: defending democracy.
The Dare County League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that supports an informed, active, and healthy community that participates in all facets of voting and citizen participation in a free and open democracy. The Dare County chapter is always accepting new members. To learn more about the League, visit https://lwvdarenc.org