Equipped to Lead and Succeed

USF Graduate Named U.S. Diplomat in Israel

by Evan Elliot, USF News

John Iosefo ’21 has been sworn in as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service — the first from American Samoa.

Starting in June 2024, Iosefo will serve a two-year assignment at the U.S. embassy branch office in Tel Aviv, Israel. In his first year he’ll serve as a consular officer, helping U.S. citizens and assisting people seeking to travel to the U.S.

“You lose your passport, I get you a replacement. You’re detained by local police, I meet with you, make sure you’re being treated fairly within the law, and pass messages to your family. You apply for a visa, I interview you,” he said.

In his second year Iosefo will serve as an economic officer, promoting trade as a path to peace.

“For example, Israel is good at desalination. More than 60 percent of the fresh water in Israel is desalinated saltwater,” he said. “The U.S. could use some expertise in desalination for arid or semi-arid regions like California, Arizona, Nevada. It’s plausible that Israel could exchange some water knowledge for some technology knowledge. These thoughts are my own, not those of the U.S. government.”

After that, Israel could exchange technology with its neighbors, Iosefo said. “It’s in your interest to get along and to trade. The more you trade, the less likely you are to fight.” 

In June, Iosefo graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a master’s degree in security studies.

“My favorite thing was meeting security professionals from around the world,” he said. “I had classmates from India, from Japan, an intelligence officer from Bangladesh, Europeans, from all different places and walks of life. It helped broaden my horizons as far as how the rest of the world sees our national security — and their own national security.”

While Iosefo studied full-time he also worked full-time as a legislative correspondent in the office of Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, representing American Samoa in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Iosefo, a politics major at USF, first interned with Congresswoman Radewagen’s office in the summer of 2019, between his sophomore and junior year, he said. “Then I started interning with her again in the summer of 2021 as a Rangel fellow.”

He attended Georgetown on a Rangel fellowship, with a full scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. The fellowship prepares students to serve in the foreign service.

“I always wanted to be in public service,” Iosefo said. Also, he said, he wants to represent American Samoa.

“My mom told me there are three ways off the island,” he said. “One, join the military. Two, be the next Troy Polamalu and get a football scholarship. Three, get an academic scholarship. I chose the third path.”

Iosefo said he hopes young people in American Samoa might look at him and stretch their idea of what is possible for them. 

“I may be the first foreign service officer from American Samoa but I don’t want to be the last.”