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British consul visits Notre Dame

Christian Myers | Tuesday, November 2, 2010

British Consul General Robert Chatterton Dickson visited Notre Dame’s campus Monday to meet with University President Fr. John Jenkins and undergraduate students.

Dickson was appointed Her Majesty’s Consul General in Chicago on June 26, and he said the job has been both fascinating and busy thus far. He is responsible for relations between Britain and 13 Midwestern states, including Indiana.

He said his position involves a variety of responsibility in terms of relations between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and the geographical range of his responsibilities has led to frequent travel.

“Campus visits are one of the best parts of my position,” Dickson said. “This is my fourth campus visit, and I always enjoy them. It was a real privilege to visit Notre Dame.”

Dickson traveled from Chicago to South Bend to meet with Jenkins Monday morning, and he said the two discussed cooperation in higher education relations. According to Dickson, higher education is one of the most important connections between the United States and the UK.

Dickson said he recognized just how important education is for the future of, and the relations between, both nations.

During his visit the Consul General also lectured in an Introduction to Political Science Class and toured campus. He said he enjoyed his visit and interactions with Notre Dame students. Both the quantity and quality of student questions during his lecture told him a lot about the caliber of students at the University, he said.

“I was impressed by the Notre Dame students,” Dickson said. “They were intelligent, thoughtful and engaging. I was also very impressed by the campus and the spectacular Basilica. I am keen to do more with Notre Dame; I’ll be back.”

Dickson has had an extensive career leading up to his current post. A self-described career diplomat, he said he enjoyed the variety of his 12 different positions during his 20 years of service.

In 1990, he left his “more lucrative” job at a bank to work in the government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and said he has never regretted that decision.

As a British ambassador to Macedonia, he managed a team that aided the Macedonian government in gaining admittance into both the European Union and NATO.

Dickson described his work in the British embassy in Manila, Philippines, as both fascinating and challenging. He dealt with poverty, floods and earthquakes, but said he enjoyed position and was struck by the spirit of the Filipino people.

He also worked in the British embassy in Washington, D.C., which he said is most similar to his current position.

“Our relationship with the United States is the most important relationship we have with any country,” Dickson said.

He was involved in shaping the UK’s contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein. Dickson advised British officials and was involved in diplomatic negotiations.

For a time, Dickson was the joint-head of the counterterrorism department at the FCO in London. In that capacity, he said he managed teams that helped various countries develop strategies to counter terrorist activities within their borders. He focused on countries in South Asia, North and East Africa, and the Middle East.

He described the work as both busy and unpredictable. One particularly unpredictable facet of his work was crisis response, wherein his team was responsible for advising the British Government on how to respond to terrorist attacks and activities. The worst attacks during his tenure were the shootings and bombings in Mumbai in 2008.