HARRISBURG, PA, May 21, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Journalist and diplomat Philip Clark has been included in Marquis Who's Who. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected based on current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are considered during the selection process.
Through a series of "serendipitous opportunities," Clark found himself in journalism, music management, congressional relations and international affairs. He edited daily papers, edited and published weeklies, wrote editorials syndicated to three countries, managed rock bands, soothed ruffled congressional feathers and spent almost a dozen years as what a colleague called a "diplomatic mercenary," a non-career diplomat in the Foreign Service. Clark prefers "diplomatic irregular." His convoys in Iraq were bombed four times; the future president of Afghanistan yelled at him; and the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh rang the bell of a historic Dhaka church at Clark's wedding.
Without having planned a journalism career, just out of undergraduate school, Clark leaped at a temporary job offer at The Lebanon (PA) Daily News, his hometown paper. The Watergate scandal was still fresh, and young idealists "were fighting for journalism jobs to become the next Woodwards and Bernsteins." His government career began after he wrote editorials at The Daily Item of Sunbury (PA), criticizing waste and poor management in the Redevelopment Authority. State and federal officials had sanctioned the agency, and the city council looked for someone to clean up the mess. Deciding to "put his career where his editorials had been," Clark spent a year as a reform public official, revamping the troubled agency. He took over direction of a music-management firm, representing folk and rock musicians, because a musician friend had asked for help organizing his career. When a former reporter from his weeklies mentioned Clark to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public-affairs officer, the PAO recruited him as a reservist. His international career started when the Department of State sought officials of other agencies to fill overseas posts, and Clark "ran away to Iraq to join the State Department."
Clark worked at two dailies and ran two weeklies and an editorial service before taking the helm of Rockwhirled Music Management, "it's a pun only if you don't pronounce 'whirled' correctly," he observed, trying to bring a degree of stability to the free-form music business.
"I used to hear, 'Phil Clark shows always start on time.' In fact, I doubt any of our shows every started precisely on time; we were just a lot less late than was typical," Clark laughed. "It was a pretty easy business in which to earn a good reputation: don't be a jerk, don't be utterly incompetent, and don't be a crook."
Clark spent a year as a FEMA reservist handling public affairs in disasters, and then became the FEMA Region III congressional liaison, rebuilding long-strained relations between FEMA and the Congressional delegations of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. He won agency awards, a Congressional Commendation and letters of praise from members and congressional staffers of both parties, across the political spectrum.
He moved to FEMA HQ in 2005 as the first FEMA intergovernmental affairs national field operations manager for three years, and directed external affairs in dozens of U.S. disasters, including Katrina.
He left FEMA to become the second State Department governance advisor in Sadr City, a sprawling, violent slum, base of operations for the controversial cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. The job opened when the first governance advisor died in a bombing of the Sadr City Council Building.
"The post was vacant for eight months. Apparently, State had to wait for someone crazy enough to take the job," Clark said.
Crazy or not, Clark described the assignment as the best job of his career. Clark's task was to encourage development of effective, and not too corrupt, local governance in a place with no experience in democracy. He was the senior – and often the only – civilian official on army bases, which were popular targets for mortars and rockets. Apart from the showers, the bases had no running water, and Clark said one of the joys of his daily life was being the first person to use a just-cleaned chemical toilet, early in the morning, before the Iraqi sun turned the translucent plastic structures into "the world's foulest saunas." Obviously not to everyone's taste, the position gave Clark a real sense of connection between effort and outcome.
"We'd argue about everything: what we should do, how we should do it, when we should do it, who should do it. We'd settle one question, and an old one would pop up again. I would cajole, humor, propose, remind, nag and threaten. We'd take two steps forward and one back -- sometimes three back -- but, after months, we'd look up, and something actually had been accomplished."
Then-Washington Post reporter Ernesto Londono, now with The New York Times, knew Clark in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. Frustrated in his efforts to spring leaks from him, Londono declared, "Clark is an awful source but a strong, hilarious writer."
Clark then joined the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Afghanistan, initially as media adviser. He became the agency representative to the Afghan Public Protection Force, the Afghan government operation intended to replace controversial private security militia, such as Blackwater, that roamed the country. He went from this task to being the USAID/Afghanistan Executive Secretary, combining the roles of chief of staff and communications director, trying to coax the famously independent agency into coordinating better with the rest of the embassy sections and to "replace Usaidistani with English as the official language."
Clark subsequently held USAID executive communications and governance roles in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Germany, Kenya and South Sudan, occasionally detailed back to State and serving on presidential advance teams.
He is the author of "Bedlam in Penn's Woods" for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a study of the techniques and architecture of mental asylums in the Quaker State, and the blog, "Moon Over MRAP," a wry look at the experiences of "a diplomatic irregular" in Iraq. He has won Meritorious Group Honor Awards from the USAID Administrator and multiple USAID Missions, Individual Meritorious Honor Awards from U.S. Ambassadors to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Ryan C. Croker, and a citation from U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, as well as On the Spot Awards for "Leadership" and "Crisis Communications" from USAID/ Bangladesh.
Clark holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Drew University and completed coursework in a Penn State interdisciplinary humanities program, involving study in literature, visual arts and music, where Clark's focus was on 18th Century American political philosophy and architecture. He also completed professional studies in management at the corporate headquarters of Dow Jones subsidiary Ottaway Newspapers and through Empire State College. He supports cultural, education and environmental charities.
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