The welcoming ambassador Mike Hammer received at the embassy.
On Wednesday, March 5, Mike Hammer was quietly residing in Potomac with his family where he enjoyed weekend walks to Starbucks and watching his children’s sports activities. However, one day later, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to Chile — and life started moving at a breath-taking pace.
Three days after the confirmation, he and his family boarded Air Force Two to fly to Santiago with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. “How your life can change in the course of three days,” said Hammer. “Just ask my daughter Brynja. On Thursday, she was a student at Hoover Middle School and by the following week, she had said farewell to friends, met the Vice President, been whisked away to Chile, enrolled in her new school and joined their swim team. It was an exhilarating week — but it seems surreal. I’m living the dream. I worry someone will pinch me, wake me up, and I'll be back in my driveway shoveling snow.”
Hammer is finding being an ambassador is “exciting and remarkable — a tremendous opportunity to promote America's interests — and to work with extraordinary people. We left Potomac very quickly to attend the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet, the new Chilean President who was just elected. A U.S. congressional delegation arrived that first week too.”
Hammer, who speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese and Icelandic was born in D.C., but grew up in Latin America where he lived in Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil. His father worked for the American Institute for Free Labor Development. In 1978, Hammer and his parents returned to Potomac from where his father continued his work on Latin America, particularly El Salvador to help the rural poor. In 1981, his father, Michael P. Hammer was assassinated in San Salvador at age 42.
Hammer chose to honor his father’s memory by preparing himself for the Foreign Service. He graduated from the Landon School, earned a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and master's degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and from the National War College at the National Defense University.
Hammer entered the diplomatic corps in 1988 and served abroad in Bolivia, Norway, Iceland and Denmark. During his service, he distinguished himself in many ways. He previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, special assistant to President Obama, Senior Director for Press and Communications, and National Security Council Spokesman. He served at the National Security Council as Deputy Spokesman from 1999-2000 and Director of Andean Affairs from 2000-2001.
Hammer and his family have resided in Potomac for the past five years and have returned here between international assignments. His daughter Monika and son Mike Thor both attended Potomac Elementary, Hoover Middle and Churchill High School and his daughter Brynja attended Potomac Elementary and was a 7th grade student at Hoover Middle. He is married to Margret Bjorgulfsdottir.
Hammer looks forward to having the opportunity to travel the length of Chile — 3,000 miles — and learn about the country and its people. “Through a video we launched on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFlFwkWriyM&list=UUrHm9O_1lkTs8qV03A-KdoA), I have asked Chileans to recommend places I should go. I’m really hoping to have the chance to visit Patagonia, Easter Island, the Atacama desert as well as the many cities and towns in-between. It’s an incredibly beautiful and diverse country.”
He has set many goals for his three-year tenure as ambassador. “I want to build on the strong relationship that the U.S. already has with Chile,” he said. “We will be working with their leaders as global partners to tackle the world's challenges and advance human rights. I want to promote U.S.-Chilean trade as well as opportunities for American businesses. I will also be expanding educational and cultural exchanges to bring people together."
One of the programs that Hammer is supporting is called “100,000 Strong in the Americas.” The goal is to foster region-wide prosperity through greater international exchange of students who are future leaders and innovators. “President Obama launched this program on a visit to Chile, to encourage 100,000 American students to study in Latin America and 100,000 Latin American students to study in the U.S. My daughter Monika will be doing a Syracuse semester abroad in Santiago and be a part of this initiative.”
His philosophy, “I am proud to represent our country and to serve — and to promote universal understanding among the peoples of the world. The more people know about the U.S. and the American people, the more friends and allies we'll make and the better we'll be able to create prosperity and ensure America's security.”
Those interested can follow the ambassador on twitter @MikeHammerUSA.