Patrick Mendis, a professor who has taught international relations at the University of Minnesota and once worked for the Minnesota House of Representatives, has been named to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The commission provides advice to the State Department on activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Mendis, who has written op-ed pieces for MinnPost, is now an affiliate professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University in Virginia.
Working at the State Department, Mendis advised the U.S. Delegations to the United Nations, coordinated the science and technology policy with the White House, and served as the secretariat director of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He has also worked for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He was very close to Ed Burdick, the longtime chief clerk of the Minnesota House who died last year. Mendis worked with Burdick in the House, and Burdick later became an “adopted” father to him. Mendis established an annual Edward Burdick Legislative Award at the U of M’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
A State Department press release about Mendis’ appointment quotes some dignitaries on his qualifications:
- Former Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle: “Dr. Mendis has extensive experience in foreign policy and international trade having served previously in the Department of State.”
- Congresswoman Betty McCollum: “The depth of knowledge and experience as diplomat possessed by Dr. Mendis makes him a natural choice to join the US National Commission for UNESCO. His leadership on the commission will be extremely valuable to our country.”
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “Dr. Mendis is a respected leader and award-winning public servant, teacher, and diplomat” who has served in “the US Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Defense, and State …”
Mendis, who was born in Sri Lanka but educated in Minnesota, called his appointment “a distinct honor to serve my adopted country through the UNESCO Commission.”
He’ll serve a minimum of three years on the commission.