From the Mississippi to the Mekong; The Archive of the Life and Adventures of Ambassador Kenneth Quinn
In 1999, as I traveled from Phnom Penh, where I had served as a U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, to Des Moines to assume leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation, I was literally going from the "Killing Fields," back home to the "Field of Dreams."
This transition from my 32 year career as an American diplomat confronting violence, conflict and genocide, to what would be a 20 year stint in building a non-profit foundation into a major internationally recognized entity promoting global food security, was the linkage for my 52 year long involvement in foreign affairs.
This would have seemed an incredibly improbable story as I grew up as a city kid born in the Bronx and raised in the American Midwest, mostly in Dubuque, Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Having graduated from Loras College in 1964, it would still be another year before I ever flew on a plane. But then, a test would change the course of my life forever as I passed the Foreign Service Exam to become an American diplomat. In 1968, I boarded a flight to Vietnam to begin an assignment as a rural development officer in SaDec Province right along the Mekong River.
It would be the first of three separate times I lived on the Mekong, culminating in my ambassadorial assignment. However, no matter the allure of the foreign settings, I was always drawn back to the Mississippi and Iowa.
This theme-- "From the Mississippi to the Mekong," from Iowa to Indochina-- best captures the lifelong adventure I have had encountering conflict, war, refugees, torture, terrorism and genocide along the way. It is the framework for the stories that I have accumulated and which are preserved in this archive and on this website.
My hope is that these experiences and lessons I have learned and endeavored to preserve in my written articles, speeches and video blogs may prove engaging to students of history, and instructive to the "next generation" of students, educators and those pursuing what was my lifelong avocation-- Building Peace Through Agriculture.