LAKE FOREST — Scott Gration has gone from a childhood in Africa to a military career as a major general in the United States Air Force to United States Ambassador to Kenya to losing the post because of accusations of wrongdoing he never committed and finally to author.
Gration signed copies of his book, “Flight Path, Son of Africa to Warrior-Diplomat,” and recounted his story to more than 75 persons November 14 at the Lake Forest home of his sister, Judy Kohl, the owner of the Mustard Seed Fair Trade Shop in Lake Forest.
Though he said he flew 274 combat missions over Iraq, oversaw the peace treaty that created the nation of South Sudan and served as America’s chief diplomat in Kenya, Gration wrote his book to tell the world of his innocence only after he learned the value of forgiveness.
“I had to decide if I was going to become better or not become better,” said Gration. “I couldn’t let them control me because I would not forgive them. When you forgive you take control.”
After receiving his Air Force commission as a second lieutenant upon graduation from Rutgers University in 1974 as part of its ROTC program, Gration had a 32-year military career where he rose to the rank of major general before retiring in 2006. He was a fighter pilot who eventually had a number of command positions.
Once he retired, Gration held several jobs in both the 2008 campaign and then the administration of President Barack Obama before being confirmed as the United States Ambassador to Kenya in April 2011. He resigned 17 months later amid accusations he misused his State Department email account. After the resignation, he said he proved he did nothing wrong.
“I did not send any classified information at any time on unclassified computers,” said Gration. “I did not use any Blackberries, laptops or computer servers while I was U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, my official business was conducted on State Department computers and I would not and could not permanently delete emails in the State Department computer system.”
Nevertheless, Gration said he was pressured to resign and it caused a lot of personal pain. He was raised in the Congo and Kenya by his missionary parents.
“It was my dream job,” said Gration. “I spoke Swahili. I knew it before I knew English. I flew with the Kenyan air force. I had the opportunity to represent my government there.”
Though he was cleared of any wrongdoing, Gration said no record was ever made of it by the Office of the Inspector General of the State Department. He decided to write the book to tell his story and let the world know of his innocence.
“I was exonerated and wanted everyone to know,” said Gration. “My life was not about six months of emails. My life’s work is 34 years of service.”
Besides his military career, Gration said the next stage of his life began when he went to Africa with Obama in 2006 while the President was still a senator. Though Obama was a “Democratic social change guy” and Gration a “Republican military guy” they bonded on that trip sharing a similar world view.
“Global problems need international solutions,” said Gration. “To get international solutions you have to work with world leaders to get them.”
Gration said he did not find the transition from warrior to diplomat an easy one. In the Air Force, he saw plenty of fighting. Between the two wars in Iraq, he said he flew 274 combat missions.
“That was more than any other pilot,” said Gration. He did much more including complex commands.
When he became a diplomat he learned how different it was. He said diplomats spend a great deal of time developing consensus before making a decision. Time is a more important element in the military.
“If we have 60 to 65 percent of the information we need and we feel good about we’ll proceed,” Gration said of military decision making. “In diplomacy, consensus is more important than time. I should have learned that. It was my fault.”
Born in St. Charles, Gration said he was 18 months when his parents went to Africa taking the family along. He grew attached and lives in Kenya today developing programs to create jobs to help people out of extreme poverty.
Gration said he is also happy with sales of his book. It is his first publishing effort.
“I’ve been told on a first book if you sell 75 to 150 copies you’re doing well,” said Gration. “We’ve sold more than 2,000 since July.
Click here to learn more about Gration’s story and the book.