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Saluting African-American History Month: Robert Dance

Office of Civil Rights
Washington, DC
February 22, 2007

Saluting African-American History Month: Robert DanceRobert Lawrence Dance was born in Kentucky in 1942. Raised by his grandparents, he grew up in a small farming community (population 180) and attended a one-room segregated school. After attending high school in Cincinnati, he dropped out of college and joined the U.S. Army in 1962. After short stints in Turkey and at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, then located at Fort Belvoir, he attended the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in lieu of the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) and graduated in 1968 -- the first African American, and the fourth and last American, to graduate from PMA. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant Armor officer in the U.S. Army. He served overseas in Vietnam and the Philippines and in the U.S. at the USMA and at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He qualified as a parachutist, a Civil Affairs officer, a Foreign Area Officer (FAO), and a military instructor. While in the military, he received a bachelor's and two master's degrees.

Mr. Dance retired from the military and entered the Foreign Service as a member of the U.S. Information Agency in 1986. He served in public diplomacy positions in U.S. embassies in Trinidad, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia, and Malawi. Most recently, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission in the U.S. Mission in Swaziland. In Washington, he has been the Director of Career Development and Training and the Deputy Director of Career Development and Assignments. He also received a master's degree from the National War College. He is currently the Deputy Director of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Bureau of African Affairs.

When asked about a guiding principle, Mr. Dance stated that he had two:

"First, I believe in the Golden Rule: 'Treat others as you wish to be treated.' In the State Department context, this means that I must take care of my people.

"My second principle is, 'Do the best job possible in whatever you do.' It is a principle that I learned from my late grandfather who would often tell me, 'If a job isn't worth doing right, then it isn't worth doing at all.'

"Following these principles has helped me achieve much more than anything I dreamed as a child. More importantly, it has allowed me to put my three sons on the path to successful lives.

"I must say that as a person of predominantly African ancestry, I take pride in my dominant ancestry and in what we as Americans have achieved."

To view more 2007 profiles, visit the main gallery.


Released on February 27, 2007

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