Ken Quinn (’64): “Now I know what it means to be an American”

Ambassador Ken Quinn, Ph.D. (’64) wrote and opinion piece that appeared in the Des Moines Register. In his article, Quinn reflects on his experiences serving as ambassador in Cambodia while considering the political divisions that currently deepen in our nation.

Ken Quinn (’64)

In his article, he posits:

“With pundits describing our division into two political tribes, with the drums of war being beaten every evening on competing cable channels, and now the increasingly painful evidence of the bitter feelings of alienation and exclusion felt throughout the Black community, the American algorithm of e pluribus unum (one out of many) was never more challenged.

“Are we in fact one people, linked together by some underlying fundamental bond that supersedes all of the differences that are now so exposed in such a raw fashion?”

It is through the eyes of others outside of this nation that Quinn finds his answer:

“People in Southeast Asian cultures are rarely given to any public expressions or personal interactions involving touching. So what happened next was as unexpected and startling as it is memorable. Without any warning, Lu Lay Sreng stepped toward me, threw his arms around me and hugged me tightly, and he uttered the statement that is indelibly embedded in my memory: “Now I know what it means to be an American.”

You can read Quinn’s full article here on the Des Moines Register’s website.

Quinn retired as president of the World Food Prize last year after 20 years at the helm of the organization.

After graduating from Loras College with a political science degree, Dr. Quinn earned his Master’s degree from Marquette University before he found himself working in Washington, D.C. in 1974 as part of Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council staff. While at the White House, he also served as personal interpreter in Vietnamese for President Ford during meetings in the Cabinet Room as South Vietnam was collapsing. His 32-year State Department career culminated in assignment as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia from 1996 to 1999.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).