"Legal," Joseph LeBaron jokingly said as he signed himself into becoming the new U.S. ambassador to Qatar.
The mood was high as old friends, classmates, alumni and family showed support to LeBaron during his oath. LeBaron was joined by his wife and daughter as interim PSU President Michael F. Reardon delivered presiding remarks to the anxious crowd.
Paul De Muniz (PSU class of '72), chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, administered the oath of office to LeBaron.
Portland State is one of the first locations across the nation other than Washington D.C. where a United States ambassador has been signed into office, Reardon said. LeBaron hopes that his ceremony will create a trend in which the Foreign Service fosters a strong bond with the American people.
"I wanted to take this grand tradition out well beyond the Beltway. I wanted to bring it to Portland and to make it a story not about me but about the Foreign Service and about PSU and about Qatar," LeBaron said.
John Damis, director of the Middle East Studies Center, was pleased with Ambassador LeBaron's choice of the location for the ceremony.
"He thought it would be very symbolic and he thought it would be great to do it at PSU. It's an important thing that we support and we're delighted that he has chosen to be sworn in at PSU," Damis said.
During his speech LeBaron made jokes about needing his doctor and his daughter's bright blue hair. His presence made the ceremony powerful and yet lighthearted.
"Portland State has been so important in my own life, because through PSU I began to understand the larger world and because so many Gulf Arabs, including those from Qatar, have studied here at PSU," he said.
LeBaron spoke of Qatar as a country that has grown into its own, both economically and politically. LeBaron is looking forward to going back to Qatar where he will represent the United States in a country of strategic importance.
The swearing in ceremony is not only an integral event to Portland State but also constitutes one piece of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Alumni reunion events.
"His swearing in is timed to be part of these reunion events. This is the first time it's been at the PSU campus. The first one was in Dubai, the second one was in Doha, the third was in Kuwait and the fourth one was in Rejad. The one earlier this year was in Abu Dhabi," Damis said.
At the GCC Alumni Dinner July 19, Ambassador LeBaron was a presenter and took part with the active and increasingly large circle of PSU alumni with Middle Eastern connections.
"It's a growing circle of our alumni. We have some 2,000 alumni in the Arab countries," Damis said.
LeBaron's major goals in taking office are encouraging and deepening the education and cultural ties between Qatar and the United States, being an advocate of business, maintaining a good military relationship between the two countries and further outreach using Arabic to the people of Qatar.
After receiving a degree in sociology from Portland State in 1969, LeBaron earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He began his diplomatic career in 1980 when he joined the U.S. Foreign Service. His first assignment to the Middle East was as vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar.
LeBaron has also studied at the American University of Beirut where he focused in Arabic and Middle Eastern Affairs. He was a doctoral research fellow at the University of Khartoum and is also an alumnus of MIT's Seminar XXI on international relations.
After his oath was completed, LeBaron addressed the crowd with gratitude in representing not only Portland State but also the American people and its government.
"It will be so good to go back to Qatar and represent the United States people," he said.