Save the world.
That could just as well be the job description for the position to which an Eau Claire North and UW-Eau Claire graduate recently was appointed.
Instead, Jeff Eberhardt’s new official title is special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation. The position holds the rank of ambassador.
Eberhardt, 61, a 1976 graduate of North, was nominated to the position in September by President Donald Trump and confirmed June 20 by the U.S. Senate on a voice vote.
After serving for 23 years in the U.S. Army before joining the State Department, Eberhardt said last week via email that he is “humbled by the trust placed in me by the President and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo.”
In his new role, Eberhardt said he will lead diplomatic efforts in the run-up to next year’s Review Conference for the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“This conference will mark the 50th anniversary of the treaty, which has done so much to make the world a safer place by establishing a foundation for the dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons we’ve seen since the height of the Cold War, and enabling the spreading of the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology,” Eberhardt said. “None of this would have been possible without the security provided by the treaty’s commitments, and the treaty-mandated (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards that serve to verify those commitments are adhered to.”
Eberhardt has worked on nuclear-related issues across three successive administrations in nonpartisan positions.
“What has struck me from these years of serving different administrations ... is the strong element of bipartisan continuity in U.S. nuclear policy,” Eberhardt said during April testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “There have been a few guiding principles that date back decades — for instance, that the United States will work to reduce the numbers and salience of nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of someday eliminating them, but that for so long as nuclear deterrence remains necessary, we will maintain an effective nuclear force.”
The U.S. also has remained steadfast in its commitment to ensuring global nonproliferation because of the “enormous dangers that would arise from allowing the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries,” he continued.
Not surprisingly, his parents, Richard and Esther Eberhardt of Eau Claire, are proud of their son’s role in such an important endeavor.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Richard, a retired Army master sergeant and Korean War veteran. “He has been in high-level positions, but to get the rank of ambassador is an area of even greater responsibility.”
Esther and Richard know their son, who is fluent in Russian, travels all over the world for his State Department duties, but beyond that everything is top secret.
“He’ll call and tell us when he’s leaving the country, but other than that he doesn’t talk about his job whatsoever,” Esther said.
Similarly, former North classmate and golf teammate Fred Hancock, who still sees Jeff Eberhardt occasionally during visits to the Chippewa Valley, said he knew Eberhardt was “kind of a big deal in Washington” even though he would downplay his role if it ever came up.
“I knew he was a terrific swimmer and a good student and he had a lot of success after high school and college, so nothing really surprises me about his success and his contributions to our country,” Hancock said.
Eberhardt, whose previous position at the State Department was director of the Office of Multilateral and Nuclear Affairs in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, said his time studying under former history professors Carl Haywood and Jack Lauber at UW-Eau Claire was extremely formative.
“They played a huge role in developing my critical thinking, and their demanding standards shaped how I’ve worked to this day,” Eberhardt said.
UW-Eau Claire political science professor Ali Abootalebi said it’s always thrilling to hear about the professional achievements of alumni such as Eberhardt while acknowledging that Eberhardt is assuming his ambassador position at a challenging moment in history.
“Mr. Eberhardt will represent the United States’ position on the issue of nuclear nonproliferation when both Iran and North Korea, along with other non-signatory states — Pakistan, India, and Israel — seriously challenge the future of nuclear nonproliferation,” Abootalebi, a native of Iran, said in an email from Tehran, Iran.
For his part, Eberhardt said officials in nuclear nonproliferation circles have been dealing with Iran and North Korea for many years.
“So while these are not new challenges, resolving them remains a critical part of our diplomacy,” he said.
In his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Eberhardt acknowledged that the challenges are daunting and the stakes are high, but insisted strong U.S. leadership is essential for success.
In his new position, the North and UW-Eau Claire grad plans to be right in the middle of diplomatic efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals and keep the world a safer place.
SEOUL, South Korea — President Donald Trump issued a Twitter invitation Saturday to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to meet for a handshake at the Demilitarized Zone that separates the North and South, and expressed a willingness to cross the border for what would be a history-making photo opportunity.
The invitation, while long rumored in diplomatic circles, still came across as an impulsive display of showmanship by a president bent on obtaining a legacy-defining nuclear deal. North Korea responded by calling the offer a “very interesting suggestion.”
Presidential visits to the DMZ are traditionally carefully guarded secrets for security reasons. White House officials couldn’t immediately say whether Kim had agreed to meet with Trump. The president himself claimed before flying from Japan to South Korea that he wasn’t even sure Kim was in North Korea to accept the invitation.
“All I did is put out a feeler, if you’d like to meet,” Trump said later of the message to Kim. He added, somewhat implausibly: “I just thought of it this morning.”
Later, after arriving in Seoul from a summit in Osaka of world leaders, Trump offered no further insight into his planned trip to the heavily fortified border. “It will be very interesting,” he said.
While in Japan, Trump said at a news conference that he was “literally visiting the DMZ,” but wasn’t sure whether Kim would meet him.
Trump said he’d “feel very comfortable” crossing the border into North Korea if Kim showed up, saying he’d “have no problem” becoming the first U.S. president to step into North Korea.
His comments followed hours after Trump asked for Kim to meet him there. “If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” he wrote.
It was not immediately clear what the agenda, if any, would be for the potential third Trump-Kim meeting.
“If he’s there we’ll see each other for two minutes,” Trump predicted.
Such a spectacle would present a valuable propaganda victory for Kim, who, with his family, has long been denied the recognition they sought on the international stage.
Despite Trump’s comments Saturday, he had told The Hill newspaper in Washington in an interview this past week that he would be visiting the DMZ and “might” meet with Kim. The paper reported it had withheld Trump’s comments, citing security concerns by the White House.
North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, said the meeting, if realized, would serve as “another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations.”
South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a tweet that Trump asked South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Group of 20 meetings whether he’d seen Trump’s Twitter message to Kim. When Moon replied he had, Trump said “(Let’s) try doing it” and raised his thumb, the Blue House said.
A Moon aide told reporter after the presidents had dinner that they agreed a possible Trump-Kim meeting would be a “good thing.” Moon talked about Kim’s commitment to denuclearization, while Trump expressed his “amicable” views on Kim, according to the official, Yoon Do-han, who added that a meeting would help pave the way for the resumption of nuclear diplomacy.
Trump’s summit with Kim in Vietnam earlier this year collapsed without an agreement for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. He became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the leader of the isolated nation last year, when they signed an agreement in Singapore to bring the North toward denuclearization.
Substantive talks between the nations have largely broken down since then. The North has balked at Trump’s insistence that it give up its weapons before it sees relief from crushing international sanctions.
Still, Trump has sought to praise Kim, who oversees an authoritarian government, in hopes of keeping the prospects of a deal alive, and the two have traded flowery letters in recent weeks.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has visited the 1953 armistice line, except for George H.W. Bush, who visited when he was vice president. The show of bravado and support for South Korea, one of America’s closest military allies, has evolved over the years to include binoculars and bomber jackets.
Trump, ever the showman, appears to be looking to one-up his predecessors with a Kim meeting.
As he left the White House for Asia earlier this week, Trump was asked whether he’d meet with Kim.
“I’ll be meeting with a lot of other people ... but I may be speaking to him in a different form,” Trump said.
Such trips to the demilitarized zone are usually undertaken under heavy security and the utmost secrecy. Trump tried to visit the DMZ when he was in Seoul in November 2017, but his helicopter was grounded by heavy fog.
Trump has staked his self-professed deal-making reputation on his rapprochement with the North and has even turned it into a campaign rallying cry. Trump has repeatedly alleged that if he had lost the 2016 presidential campaign, the U.S. would be “at war” with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The meeting would come at a time of escalating tensions. While North Korea has not recently tested a long-range missile that could reach the U.S., last month it fired off a series of short-range missiles. Trump has brushed off the significance of the tests, even as his own national security adviser, John Bolton, has said they violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Carol Peuse is raising a stink about horse manure along Eau Claire County roads.
And the town of Bridge Creek resident is hoping county officials take action to address it.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t happy about it,” said Peuse, who attended a recent Eau Claire County Board Highway Committee meeting.
This past week, Peuse said she is considering collecting signatures on a petition, asking the county to require the use of manure catchers on horses on county roads.
“If you drive out on roads where the Amish live, … there is a lot of manure,” Peuse said, “and it can be really bad on church days because of a concentration of buggies.”
“This is not meant to slam the Amish,” she said. “What I’m concerned about, and have been concerned about for a long time, is the health, safety and well-being of everyone.”
Horse manure can be found in the middle or on the side of the road, causing motorists to deviate to avoid it, she said. “People are crossing the center line, and that can be dangerous.”
In addition, motorists can end up with manure on and under their vehicles, stinking up their car or truck and their garage.
Supervisor Ray Henning, committee chairman, is sympathetic to residents living along roads where manure is regularly deposited, along with motorists having to dodge piles left on roads.
“Bridge Creek isn’t the only town in Eau Claire County with a problem,” said Henning, noting towns would need to enact their own ordinances to require use of manure-catching devices on town roads.
In December 2014, the Fairchild Town Board held a meeting to discuss possible resolutions to the mounting manure issue.
Some residents liked the idea of requiring the Amish fit their horses with manure catchers, but then-town Chairman Duane Merritt said ordinances needed to be enforced, or they were worthless.
“This would be difficult to enforce; I’d have to follow each and every one of you around,” Merritt told the Amish in attendance at the meeting, according to a Leader-Telegram article.
At that meeting, the Amish in attendance agreed to make a better effort to move to the side of the road when their horses defecate and pledged to do a better job clearing manure from the roads.
In September 1991, the Augusta City Council adopted an ordinance requiring manure-catching devices to be used on all horse-drawn wagons or buggies, according to news accounts.
Since then, “we have not had what I would call sterling cooperation,” said Mayor Del Thorson, who was the city’s attorney when the ordinance was enacted. “There are always people who feel anything that is an inconvenience to them is something for them to complain about or ignore.”
Manure catchers aren’t perfect, but Thorson believes the requirement has limited the number of horse deposits in the city.
“Every so often, we have to do little crackdowns, and the (police) chief will go out and talk to the bishops to get the crew compliant again,” Thorson said.
While he thinks local residents are fed up with having to deal with horse manure on the roads in eastern Eau Claire County, Highway Commissioner Jon Johnson has concerns about being able to enforce such an ordinance.
Johnson said he didn’t know what would keep people from dumping the contents of the catchers onto town roads once exiting county thoroughfares.
In Augusta, that has happened more than once, Thorson said.
“It’s not uncommon to have quite a manure pile by the city limits sign,” he said.