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A Conversation with H.E. Audrey Marks, Ambassador of Jamaica to the U.S.

December 2, 2021

Kent E. Calder, Special Advisor to the Dean and Director of Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at SAIS
James B. Steinberg, Dean, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s ambassador to the U.S.

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Dean’s Office hosted Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s ambassador to the U.S., for a discussion on U.S. – Jamaican relations on December 2, 2021. Kent E. Calder, advisor to the Dean and Director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS, delivered opening remarks noting Ambassador Marks was "not only Jamaica’s first female ambassador to the U.S., and the first ambassador to be assigned to the U.S. twice, but also is an entrepreneur, and the first female president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica."

Ambassador Marks opened the discussion, moderated by Johns Hopkins SAIS Dean James B. Steinberg, by recalling her unusual entry into the foreign service, citing her business and entrepreneur background. She discussed the differences between working in foreign service and the business world but emphasized that her time as an entrepreneur taught her the importance of negotiating. While Ambassador Marks described her role, Ambassador Marks pointed out her appointment in 2011 occurred “during a difficult time in U.S. – Jamaican relations over the issue of extradition requests.”

As the conversation shifted to the present, Ambassador Marks discussed COVID-19, telling Dean Steinberg, "the pandemic has forced us to accept living in a digital society." She outlined how Jamaica’s efforts to increase its capacity in cybersecurity and protection have accelerated since the country has created the infrastructure to provide aid globally to people suffering from coronavirus.

In the latter part of the discussion, Ambassador Marks touched on a variety of geopolitical issues ranging from the climate crisis, the need for foreign aid and support for Haiti, and balancing U.S.-China relations in an evolving global order. In her final remarks, she told implored the audience to "know your sources of support and what your strategic issues are, and then fight for them."