A distinguished fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center tells the story of the unlikely road she traveled to become a top diplomat and chief negotiator for the State Department.
Baltimore native Sherman grew up the daughter of a salesman father and homemaker mother who worked for racial equality. As much as their work inspired her, the author never imagined that it would help shape a future that would include a career in international diplomacy. Following her parents’ lead, Sherman became a college student leader and community organizer and then took a master’s degree in social work. She began her career managing a 24-hour crisis hotline in Georgia, where she worked with battered women and saw firsthand how the Jim Crow social order her parents had fought against in the 1960s “stood unchanged.” In the 1980s, Sherman served as then-Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski’s chief of staff and, later, Senate campaign manager. Her activities in partisan politics eventually led to positions as directors of the Democratic National Committee during the 1988 election and, in 1989, EMILY’s List. These successful experiences brought Sherman to the attention of major political figures, such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, while making her aware of the fraught relationship women have with “the mantle of power.” At the same time, they also paved the way for policy work on North Korea and, eventually, the contentious treaty negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program. As Sherman interweaves personal and professional anecdotes, she also offers candid observations on how she built successful work and negotiation teams, learned to let go of failed dreams—e.g., becoming deputy secretary of state—and persisted in the face of life and career challenges. Sharp and genuine, the book is as much a testament to her accomplishments as it is a call to “find common ground…[and] do good” in an increasingly polarized world.
Insightful reading for aspiring diplomats.