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The Unknown Ambassadors: A Saga Of Citizenship – Phyllis Michaux

I just read “The Unknown Ambassadors: A Saga Of Citizenship” by Phyllis Michaux.* Phyllis Michaux was an American citizen who married a French citizen/resident. She lived her adult life in France. By any standard, she was an impressive and effective advocate for the rights of Americans abroad.**

I recommend the book (if you can find a copy) to all Americans abroad. As diverse as the community of Americans abroad is, what unites them is far greater than what divides them. What unites all Americans abroad is the horrible discriminatory treatment they suffer at the hands of the U.S. government. (As the distribution of vaccines in the covid pandemic demonstrated, the discriminatory treatment is NOT limited to taxation.) In this respect the United States is practically unique. Ireland honours and celebrates its diaspora. France gives it expats representatives in the legislature. The United States does (in 2024) and always has (as documented in “The Unknown Ambassadors”) mistreat its citizens abroad. U.S. citizens abroad are examples of the “discrete and insular minorities” contemplated in Justice Stone’s infamous Carolene Products footnote 4.)**** U.S. citizens, more than the citizens of any other country are in need of a second citizenship.

Phyllis Michaux’s achievements from the 20th century offer lessons for the many individuals and groups who are advocating to achieve justice for Americans abroad in the 21st century.

“The Unknown Ambassadors” provides an account of Ms. Michaux’s recognizing discrimination against Americans abroad as a matter of fact, identifying the laws responsible for that discrimination, identifying the appropriate U.S. government agencies to lobby for change and finally executing that change. Advocates for Americans abroad in the 21st century should read this book. A testament to her achievements is that the “Phyllis Michaux Papers” are found in the “Georgetown University Archival Resources”.

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