A news item that’s been in my posting queue since last October: in the October 2016 issue of The Atlantic, “Big in Denmark: The U.S. Ambassador” by Amy Weiss-Meyer, beginning:
When Rufus Gifford, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, won a Danish television award for his reality show, he ran onto the stage, beaming. “Oh man,” he said, surprised. “Wow.” The show, Jeg Er Ambassadøren fra Amerika (or I Am the Ambassador From America), was renewed for a second season (and will come to U.S. viewers this fall via Netflix [I am watching it as I write this]). A Danish biography of Gifford was a best seller. At a music festival in June, the chart-topping Danish pop band Lukas Graham dedicated its song “Nice Guy” to him.
“Rufus Gifford is a rock star,” Nicolai Wammen, a Danish MP and a friend of Gifford’s, told me. As an appointee of President Obama’s, Gifford is likely nearing the end of his diplomatic stint, though Danes frequently ask him to stay. His biographer, Stéphanie Surrugue, remembers walking alongside Gifford at a political gathering and noticing that he was getting as much attention as the nearby prime minister. “People were shouting ‘Rufus!’ as they were shouting ‘Lars’ after the prime minister.” It was, she says, “a little bit crazy.”
I’ll go on with the Atlantic piece. Here a few notes about the man. Aside from the fact that he is, as you can see from #1, something of a hunk (with muscles to go along with that face), as to character and presentation of himself: he’s open and charming, immensely energetic, with an easy masculinity and a drive to do something worthwhile in his life — showing a sense of civic responsibility and public service that I’ve seen in several other of the politicians that I’ve known personally and admired (notably, the late John Glenn and Richard Cordray, who’s still clinging to his job as director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the national consumer protection agency).
More from the Atlantic:
Gifford’s popularity is partly a function of his ubiquity: He rarely turns down an invitation from the Danish morning shows. “Press officers from other embassies have told me their ambassador was kind of envious about all the publicity,” Surrugue says. Gifford is also good-looking, with a glamorous pedigree as a Hollywood producer turned finance director of Obama’s reelection campaign. And he’s openly gay; his marriage last year to Stephen DeVincent [a veterinarian] at Copenhagen’s city hall only added to the good feelings among Danes, who see his appointment as an affirmation of their tolerant outlook. [AMZ tears of joy here]
DeVincent and Gifford at their wedding in Copenhagen
A typical segment of Gifford’s show opens in his bedroom, where he bids his golden retriever farewell for the day. As he’s driven around between meetings and appearances, many of which unfold on camera, he offers good-natured commentary on matters personal and public. Gifford told me that upon arriving in Denmark, he was startled to find that “everything American was debated in every classroom, every boardroom, every dining-room table.” True to that observation, the show presumes an appetite for the minutiae of American life and politics. [And also shows him working on learning to speak Danish]
Not content with all of this, he does improv comedy, too. And he works out, runs, and plays several sports.
Gifford grew up in Manchester-by-the-Sea MA, in an upper-class family (that he’s very close to), and went on to St. Paul’s School in Concord NH and Brown University in Providence RI (sort of a New England trifecta).
John Rufus Gifford (born August 5, 1974) is an American diplomat. He served as the United States Ambassador to Denmark from 2013 to 2017, and was the Finance Director for Barack Obama’s presidential re-election campaign in 2012. On August 1, 2013, Gifford’s nomination from President Obama to be the next United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark was confirmed by the United States Senate. He was sworn into the role on August 15, 2013, and presented his credentials to the Queen of Denmark on September 13, 2013.
… Gifford is openly gay, and commentators from GQ, Huffington Post and L.A. Weekly referred to him as Barack Obama’s informal “ambassador to the gay community.”
… Gifford married his husband, Dr. Stephen DeVincent, on October 10, 2015 in a ceremony at Copenhagen City Hall
In I Am the Ambassador, he repeatedly talks about his experiences as a gay man, the significance of his homosexuality to his work, and the pressing need for LGBT activism.
At one point, there was a significant Danish movement to push Gifford to run for POTUS — unrealistic, but very sweet.
He stepped down from his post on January 20th (the day before Inauguration Day), four days after he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark for his meritorious service to the kingdom.
This is the way we were.