Public Service Spotlight
Deputy Press Attaché, American Embassy in Cairo
Robert Greenan (MPA '00) is the Deputy Press Attaché at the American Embassy in Cairo. As part of the embassy's public diplomacy operation, he works with local, regional, and international media, facilitating the flow of information through the embassy to the citizens of Egypt and the world at large. A true global citizen, Greenan speaks Arabic, Russian, and German, in addition to English, and he spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Russia prior to coming to NYU Wagner.
Upon receiving his MPA in 2000, Greenan took a job at the Foreign Policy Association and joined the U.S. State Department in 2002. He began as a senior program officer for exchanges with the Middle East and Eurasia in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, D.C. and later served as the Special Assistant to the Bureau's Assistant Secretary. In August 2005, Greenan was named Deputy Director of the State Department Foreign Press Center in New York. In these positions, "I truly used what I learned at Wagner" he says. "I gained a reputation as someone who could look at a budget and really understand what the numbers mean." Moreover, having had management classes with a strong emphasis on teams, means that "there are concepts that I'm not afraid of [when it comes to working with others] and that strengthens me," he adds.
Roughly two years ago, Greenan put in a successful bid for the assignment he now holds in Cairo. He moved to Egypt in October of 2007 and the skills he built in graduate school continue to "serve me well every day," he asserts. As Deputy Press Attaché, Greenan's day-to-day responsibilities include working with media to inform, engage and educate the broader public about the U.S.-Egyptian partnership. Additionally, he works hard to make sure that members of the press understand the U.S. political system. "During the recent U.S. elections," he notes, "I spent a lot of time explaining how the system works." As one might imagine, "no one quite understood what a super delegate was," he notes with a sense of humor.
Although Greenan has been in Cairo for only a short while, much has happened since he arrived and his work always keeps him on his toes. In the year and a half since he took his post, the embassy has worked on six Secretary of State visits, two presidential visits, and numerous visits by members of the Senate and the House, all of which are of intense media interest. He notes that serving as the Ambassador's speech writer has become an added bonus. "Being able to quote such an eloquent president is a gift," he acknowledges.
Egypt's geography, combined with it's rich history and emerging economy are perhaps part of what makes the city of Cairo what Greenan calls, "both a cultural capital and a media capital" of the region. "The media environment is growing and dynamic," he says, adding that, "the journalists are serious and they're going to ask tough questions," regardless of who is in office.
Greenan accepts the challenges of the work with open arms. "This is the greatest job," he says. "I'm having more fun than I ever thought I would."
When asked if he'll seek to move to a different part of the world when the time comes to bid for a new assignment, Greenan admits he would like to stay in the region if possible. "This new administration has a clear objective of engaging the world...[and] the possibilities for better relationships between the U.S. and the Middle East are real." For someone who has been building relationships with other parts of the world for his entire career, "it's an exciting time to be here," he says.