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Backwards in High Heels: Faith Whittlesey, Reagan’s Madam Ambassador in Switzerland and the West Wing

Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 4:00pm - 6:00pm

You are cordially invited to a book event for

Backwards in High Heels:
Faith Whittlesey, Reagan’s Madam Ambassador in Switzerland and the West Wing

Thomas J. Carty, Ph.D.

Ambassador Faith Whittlesey
Chairman Emeritus, American Swiss Foundation

Friday, October 5
4:00 PM

The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

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Backwards in High HeelsAbout Backwards in High Heels:
“Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did,” so the saying goes, “but she did it backwards and in high heels.” Faith Whittlesey popularized this quotation during the 1980s, and many books attribute the line to her.  She first used that at a Teamsters’ convention at which she represented President Reagan.  

The message clearly resonated with a generation of American men and women coming of age in the late 20th century. In this book Faith Whittlesey gives concrete meaning to the quotation through her life and career as an effective “Madam Ambassador” in the corridors of power. Raised in a small town in western New York State by highly motivated parents-a Yankee mother and an Irish-American father-she worked to reach an eminent position as Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to Switzerland (twice) and to serve as the highest-ranking woman on Reagan’s White House staff from 1983 to 1985. There she occupied the West Wing office later to be Hillary Clinton’s. As a widow (since 1974) raising three school-age children, she provided a feminine voice of her own to a masculine presidential culture well before it was fashionable.  Whether operating from her second floor office in the White House West Wing or the bucolic U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Bern, Whittlesey advocated Reagan’s policies through persuasive argumentation to a wide variety of groups and individuals.  For more than 30 years, Whittlesey has proven to be one of the most important liaisons between the United States and Switzerland, a sister republic as well as arguably a global financial superpower. After leaving government service, she practiced private-sector diplomacy, serving from 1989 as Chairman and then Chairman Emeritus of the American Swiss Foundation, which endeavors to promote better understanding between the two nations, organizing several private high-level delegations to visit China, and participating, both publicly and also at times behind the scenes, in discussion of many significant public policy issues of recent decades.  This book provides a fascinating look into how one woman overcame daunting obstacles to achieve exceptional influence, working in government and then in private life to promote the principles of morally ordered liberty, limited government, and the rule of law she shared with President Reagan.

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Thomas J. Carty is Chairman of the Social Sciences Department and Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

His 2004 book A Catholic in the White House? Religion, Politics, and John Kennedy’s Presidential Campaign was reprinted in paperback in 2008.

Professor Carty has written widely on religion and politics for several edited books, encyclopedias, and journals, and he has presented his research findings at academic conferences in the United States and United Kingdom as well as in local New England and national media outlets, including Bloomberg News and C-SPAN.

He earned a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross, and the University of Connecticut awarded him an M.A. and Ph.D. Professor Carty currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.

Ambassador Faith Whittlesey began her work with the American Swiss Foundation in 1989, joining the organization as Chairman and President and initiating the Foundation’s central program, the annual Young Leaders Conference. Since 2008, Ambassador Whittlesey has served as Chairman Emeritus of the Foundation, overseeing the Young Leaders Conference, and maintaining her dedicated support of the Foundation’s mission.

A former Assistant U.S. Attorney, two-time Member of the Pennsylvania Legislature and Delaware County (PA) Council Chairman, Ambassador Whittlesey served as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland for two tours, from 1981 to 1983, and again from 1985 to 1988. From 1983 to 1985, she served as Director of the Office Public Liaison on the Senior White House Staff.  She served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Institute of World Politics for 6 years.

Ambassador Whittlesey serves on the boards of directors of the Schindler Elevator Corporation and Valassis Corporation. She remains a member of the Pennsylvania Bar. 

A cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wells College, Ambassador Whittlesey received a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and studied at The Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.