Diplomat Beers

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As Charlotte Beers appeared last week before a Senate committee considering her nomination to a top U.S. State Department post, it was a fitting cap to a remarkable business career (she led, with distinction, three major ad agencies-Tatham-Laird & Kudner, Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson).

Like so many things after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, her assignment as the overall chief of U.S. foreign-policy communications efforts has taken on unexpected gravity.

Not all marriages of business people and government succeed. Some in an often tradition-bound State Department will be skeptical about what a Madison Avenue executive has to offer. Ms. Beers will need to earn her stripes all over again in a different culture. It will take flexibility on her part, the knowledge that business world lessons won't always work in Washington, and the backing from top people at the department and in the White House. (It can't hurt that Ms. Beers is a Texan.) But with good will from her new government colleagues, and the energy, drive and smarts she exhibited in the ad world, she can be the right person.

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