The U.S. Department of State presented the Diplomacy for Human Rights Award on April 21 in Washington, D.C. to Stephen Beecroft, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan. The award honors Brother Beecroft's service in furthering human rights and democracy in Jordan, where he has been serving as ambassador since August 2008.
William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, presented the stone plaque which recognizes Brother Beecroft's "extraordinary commitment to defending human rights and advancing democratic principles of government." As the U.S. Chief of Mission in Jordan, Brother Beecroft has contributed to the progress of individual human rights cases and has also encouraged systemic reform.
But he remains humble about his efforts. In an interview after the ceremony, he noted the contributions of others as well.
"I have many colleagues who are very deserving, so I feel it's an honor to be recognized," said Brother Beecroft. "The award also implicitly recognizes my colleagues at the embassy, those at the State Department who support us, and the officials in the Jordanian government who we work with."
He said that his role is really to encourage and assist the Jordanian people in their own efforts to expand human rights and to advance democracy.
Human rights issues, he observed, are complex and wide-ranging. They include the need to protect against human trafficking as well as the desire to expand freedoms, such as the freedom to gather, to practice a religion, or to voice an opinion. Part of the remedy, Brother Beecroft believes, is to implement laws that are not being enforced, as well as to change laws to provide new or additional rights.
Engaging with his Jordanian government counterparts on these issues, he said, has been a pleasure.
"It has been my great good fortune to serve in Jordan during the tenure of some truly extraordinary Jordanian government officials who have wanted progress and been willing to work for it. They have been a delight to work with and have helped make my three years in Jordan a wonderful assignment," he emphasized.
Advocating for the rights of others is something that Brother Beecroft learned as a child. He particularly credits his father for teaching him about compassion.
"I distinctly remember my father taking me aside and teaching me to look for the person in need," he said. "He used to send my brothers and me out at Christmas time with money in envelopes to anonymously deposit in the mailboxes of people in our community who were in need. I also saw him contribute to the missionaries and their families and help people get employment — or hire them himself."
Brother Beecroft's father also showed him how the scriptures emphasize true charity and love.
"He cited the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew to teach me that the Lord will divide his flock according to the way we have treated others," he said.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).
Brother Beecroft's father also pointed to the Old Testament story of Samuel to show how God sees differently than man.
"For it is not as man perceives it; a man sees what is visible to the eyes but God sees into the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
"He stressed that God looks on the inside," Brother Beecroft explained. "We shouldn't judge the way the world judges and we need to help people as children of God."
One day of counsel from his father was especially memorable.
"I was in seventh grade, and my junior high school had just been integrated. It was our first day back after the change, and before I left for school, my dad told me that some people in the community had spoken out against integration. He explained that it was our responsibility as members of the Church and as moral individuals to help people. African Americans had long been disadvantaged and discriminated against, so I should look for ways to welcome them and, if necessary, help stand up for them, even if I had to do so physically," he recalled.
To be honored decades later with a Human Rights Award from his country is evidence that Brother Beecroft has continued to look out for those in need.
Former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice swore Brother Beecroft in as ambassador in July 2008. He lives in Jordan with his wife, Anne, and their two youngest children, Sterling and Grace, where they attend the Amman branch of the Church. An older daughter, Blythe, is serving in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission, and an older son, Warren, is a freshman at Brigham Young University.
Brother Beecroft graduated from BYU in 1983 and the University of California at Berkeley Law School in 1988. He practiced law in San Francisco for several years before joining the Foreign Service in 1994. His previous positions included serving as Executive Assistant to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condolezza Rice.