Dr. Miguel Diaz, President Obama's nominee to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, spoke at his confirmation hearing this morning in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his remarks, Diaz pledged to "embrace President Obama and Secretary Clinton's diplomatic vision of leading through active listening and learning from others to seek common ground."
Before delivering his remarks, Diaz was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who described him as "a faithful Catholic...a gifted theologian...a respected scholar...a natural teacher...and a dedicated bridge-builder." According to the Minnesota Post, Klobuchar added, "He knows and loves America, and he knows and loves the Catholic Church."
After a second introduction by freshman Senator Al Franken, Diaz began his testimony by saying, "As a Cuban American, my identity has been shaped by two cultures. I strongly believe that this has made me more open to others." Drawing on this experience, he said he would use it to "build bridges between different communities on behalf of our country."
Diaz, who has worked in the academic world for years, also pointed out that his experience is "not limited to the realm of books... and the classroom."
Perhaps offering a clue as to what he plans to do as an ambassador, Diaz cited his academic and personal "commitment to public action and service," which he said has inspired him to play "a leading role in promoting cultural, racial, and religious diversity on American college campuses."
"At the College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University, I have worked with religious leaders to [engage] local communities in exploring the role of religion in uniting people. If confirmed, my service to the United States as ambassador would be a natural extension of this work."
The nominee named his experience at "creating dialogues related to cultural diversity, immigration, poverty, and the role of religion in society" as areas of intersection for his possible ambassadorship.
"If confirmed," he stated, "I would embrace President Obama and Secretary Clinton's diplomatic vision of leading through active listening and learning from others to seek common ground in order to further the myriad mutual interests of the United States and the Holy See."
Following his statement, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) asked Diaz a single question about how he thought the July 10 meeting between President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI went.
The theologian responded that they discussed many areas of mutual interest and that the meeting "set up a great foundation for our work in years to come."
Diaz's confirmation still requires a vote by the full Foreign Relations Committee and then by the full Senate.