LWV of Dare hears about life in the foreign service from two U.S. Ambassadors

By on March 2, 2023

(Submitted Story by League of Women Voters of Dare County)

Marcie and Charles Ries

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.

They explained that the Foreign Service is non-partisan and Ambassadors are confirmed by the Senate. Charles said they often use “soft diplomacy” like music, the arts, and sports to build relationships and present a positive image of America.

Both visited the Oval Office when President George W. Bush was President because he had learned they were going to Bagdad during the surge. There was not only a military surge but a diplomatic surge of which they were a part. Marcie shared a dramatic story about getting stranded in Basra after a meeting with the Prime Minister with General Lloyd Austin.  Gunfire rang outside the building, and the General said, “We might have to shoot our way out.” Luckily that was not necessary. Eventually, they got a ride on a medevac helicopter. To reach it, he told her to “run like hell across the field!”

Charles recalled that Baghdad 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.



  • Rosemary Rawlins

    Marcie and Charles Ries represent the best of us. I’m grateful for their service and example and heartened to know that U.S. Ambassadors around the world are representing us the way they did. Truly inspiring. Thank you!

    Friday, Mar 3 @ 7:11 am
  • G.Walters

    Sounds like a super interesting presentation, not to mention incredible life experiences. I am grateful to have Marcie and Charles as full time members of our community.

    Wednesday, Mar 15 @ 2:37 pm