Last month, President Barack Obama announced the appointment of Rashad Hussain as ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. By video, Obama told attendees at something called the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, that Hussain, 31, was not just "an accomplished lawyer and trusted member of my White House staff," but also a "hafiz" - a Muslim who has memorized the entire Koran.

That reminded me: George Shultz, when he served as secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, would bring new ambassadors into his office where he kept a globe. "Show me the country you'll be representing," he would say. The diplomat would give the globe a spin, abruptly halting its motion to indicate Botswana, Bhutan, Brunei or whatever country he'd be calling home for the next few years. Shultz would shake his head. "No," he would say. "You'll be representing the United States of America. Try to remember that."

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