Previous positions held by Joe Biden's top UN nominee include Director General of the US Foreign Service, US Ambassador to Liberia, and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. In 2017, just days into the new Trump administration, she was kicked out from the latter post as part of a "purge of senior State Department officials and career professionals over nearly four years".
She previously worked closely with Tony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State and now Biden's Secretary of State, as well as John Kerry, the former top diplomat who will serve as Biden's special envoy for climate.
Currently, Thomas-Greenfield is a senior counsellor at the Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington, DC.
Emphasis on Diplomacy
Even before the confirmation, Linda Thomas-Greenfield has made it clear she's determined to showcase that her team is up and running. President Joe Biden's nominee was quick to assemble a team of foreign policy veterans with extensive expertise in UN affairs, who have already been included in an internal list.
Their boss, Ms Thomas-Greenfield is herself also a veteran official, with a 35-year career in the Foreign Service in her portfolio.
Throughout it, "LTG", as she is cordially referred to, was posted to Switzerland, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Liberia, to name a few.
She is expected to bring a new tone to the international body, CNBC reported citing her comments after Biden introduced her and other members of his foreign policy team in November.
"America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back", Thomas-Greenfield, a black American, said solemnly at the time, implying there is a difference betweeen her and her predecessors.
Richard Gowan from the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based political think tank, outlined the vector of the US mission, bringing up Saudi Arabia's part in the Yemen war and "need to press both Turkey and Ankara's Arab adversaries to ratchet down the tensions in Libya", noting Thomas-Greenfield may play a part in it.
"Thomas-Greenfield can nudge these processes in the right direction by ensuring that UN mediators have sufficient resources (and get full US diplomatic support), pushing the Council to send supportive messages, and encouraging the UN secretariat and agencies to plan for post-conflict assistance", Gowan wrote in December.
'Gumbo Diplomacy' to Break the Ice
With diplomatic efforts holding pride of place, the question arises about what Thomas-Greenfield's favourite negotiating tool is.
Thomas-Greenfield has referred to it as "gumbo diplomacy", saying she happened to employ it across four continents during her extensive foreign service career.
In my thirty-five years in the Foreign Service across the world, I put a Cajun spin on it. I call it Gumbo diplomacy.— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) November 24, 2020
Wherever I was posted, I’d invite people of all walks then make homemade gumbo. Thats how you break down barriers, connect, and see each-other as humans. pic.twitter.com/Au1Qd7Yczq
In short, she would invite guests to make a roux sauce and chop onions for the "holy trinity" made up of onions, bell peppers, and celery in line with the Cajun tradition observed in Louisiana.
In the remainder of circumstances, she would talk her way out of a dead end, she said, citing a scary encounter from 1994.
At the time, when dispatched to Rwanda, she was confronted by a "glazed-eyed young man" with a machine gun who had apparently mistaken her for a Tutsi he had been supposed to kill.
"I didn't panic. I was afraid, don't get me wrong", she said in 2019. She asked him his name, then told him hers, and managed to escape.
Facing Burning KKK Crosses
The Louisiana-born and raised public servant, aged 69, attended segregated schools as a little girl, being brought up by her mother and father, an illiterate labourer.
In a 2019 speech, she depicted growing up in a town "in which the KKK regularly would come on the weekends and burn a cross in someone's yard".
Honored to be honored with “2020 Distinction in Diversity Award” at #LSU with other amazing honorees: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Seimone Augustus, Dr. Rachel Emanuel and my classmate of 50 years Lawyer Leo Hamilton at a Jazz Brunch! pic.twitter.com/uOmVJvBHv5— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) February 29, 2020
She recounted how she faced flagrant racism during her time at college, noting that as she attended Louisiana State University, KKK leader David Duke, a frequent speaker on campus, had significant leverage among students and staff.
After getting her masters in public administration on a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin, Thomas-Greenfield started working on a Ph.D. and traveled to Liberia for fieldwork, where her interest in a diplomatic career was first sparked.
"You live in the United States as an African American, and we know that we are of African descent, but there was no connection to Africa. It's not like you're an immigrant and you have relatives that you stay in touch with", she told the podcast "Global Dispatches" in 2017.
"So for me, going to Africa for the first time, I connected the dot in a sense between the US -- being an American and being an African".
Thomas-Greenfield's Personal Life
Her official biography states Linda Thomas-Greenfield's husband is called Lafayette. Together, the couple have two children, Lindsay and Lafayette II.
While little else is known about her husband, Lafayette, as he seems to keep his life private, their son, Lafayette II Greenfield, has a Twitter account, where he sometimes posts about his family, among other things. Lafayette II, whose major was political science and law, specialises in advising clients in the aerospace and telecom industries.