Carthage to Bangladesh – Flanigan trains for first diplomatic post

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Bren Flanigan poses with the Bangladesh flag on Flag Day - when he received his first assignment as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. Photo Courtesy Bren Flanigan

As a student, Bren Flanigan oftentimes represented Carthage for various activities … Today he’s representing the U.S.A. as a Foreign Service Officer.

The 2012 CHS graduate went on to obtain his degree in economics and global politics from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., in 2016. Bren said his studies closely connected to global perspectives and one of his favorite professors was a veteran of the U.S. Peace Corps.

“His lectures on global politics intrigued me, and my academics continued to go there,” Bren said. “My internship at the U.S. Embassy in Zambia confirmed my love for the art of diplomacy.”

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But upon reflection, Bren said he knew where his passion originally began.

“Sometimes people imagine southwest Missouri as isolated, but I saw that the world come to Carthage in unique ways,” he said. “From travelers to festivals – our foreign exchange students – I was always fascinated how we connected to people from all over the world … I grew up in the post 9-11 era, and we learned what it means to be a patriot – mostly from Mrs. Rosenthal at Mark Twain Elementary School. That was very impactful for me, and it instilled a deep love our country and a drive for service.”

Bren served the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa and credited that experience to solidify his pursuit in international relations.

After Bren earned his Master of International Affairs at Columbia University in the City of New York in 2021, he pursued a Fulbright Grant Scholarship. This program – that originated after WWII under Senator William Fulbright – involves a rigorous selection process and collaboration between nations. This extraordinary honor allowed Bren to study how natural disasters impacted a population’s economy and how challenges are overcome at the grassroots level.

For this nine-month research project, Bren spoke with 100 small business vendors (in French) in Niger and was inspired with their economic resilience. He encompassed a wide range of people – both producers and consumers – from farmers to merchants, from pharmacists to artists.

“My research provided a snapshot of the economic environment and the resilience of the people of Niger,” Bren said. “It was a narrative behind the statistics. Some of the people had incredible solutions to problems, and it was amazing to see. The success was collecting those stories and sharing them with people who want to make a difference … It’s tough to pinpoint one moment or class or experience that drew me to this service because I’m going to draw on all these experiences to be an effective officer. It’s been something that’s built on itself over time. Each experience taught me something new, better preparing me for the next.”

Bren is currently in Washington D.C. training for his first U.S. Diplomatic post in Dhaka, Bangladesh – a South Asian country he can add to his list of 40 nations he’s visited. He’s learning the Bengali language and culture, and preparing for next year when he’ll meet many influential people to support U.S. policy and promote mutual understanding and cooperation.

“When you get your first assignment, you attend a Flag Day and it’s very nerve-racking,” Bren said. “I was in a group with 189 colleagues to find out where we were going for the next two years. It meant the world to me that my parents were there for that moment. My parents [Matt and Tracy Flanigan] and my sister [Anne Flanigan] the foundation of who I am – they’ve always been so supportive – and I carry them with me wherever I go … I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity, and honored to be a Foreign Service Officer in Public Diplomacy. This will be a new area of the world for me and I cannot wait to learn more and serve my country. It’s a mission that comes with unique challenges, and I’ll be with people whose dedication outweighs those hardships, as well. It’s a service, and I’m grateful for the perspective Carthage gave me to face it.”

The views expressed in this article are the respondent’s and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.

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