James B. Smith came to Saudi Arabia in 2009 and served for four years as the United States Ambassador, with dignity and a sincere thirst for understanding the Saudi culture and people.
As they always say, behind every great man is a great woman. This proverb is particularly true when referring to Ambassador Smith’s wife, Dr. Janet Breslin-Smith.
With a distinguished career of her own prior to becoming the ambassador’s wife, she taught national security strategy as a professor at the National War College and worked in legislative affairs in the United States Senate.
Breslin-Smith spent significant time learning about Saudi society. She interacted with Saudi women and men on a personal level by organizing many events, among which involved young Saudi female lawyers and, thereby, allowing them to network in a way that was never possible before.
“I grew up with both of my grandfathers serving as the Kingdom’s Ambassadors in France and other countries for many years. I also grew up around my grandmothers who supported their husbands in diplomatic missions and undertook responsibilities as part of their role as 'first ladies.’”
Her initiatives are even more important in a culture where U.S. male diplomats cannot freely engage with the Saudi female population.
Her efforts galvanized U.S. female diplomats to engage and champion pressing issues faced by Saudi women.
Since she came to the Kingdom in 2009, Breslin-Smith took it upon herself to organize lunches, dinners, and private gatherings to bring together young Saudi female lawyers and law students to share ideas and create an informal network.
She also organized meetings that allowed Saudi women to meet and learn from foreign academics and practicing lawyers.