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The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

Dave Diaz: One Alum’s Journey to the White House to Shape National Security

Dave Diaz 88 still credits his junior year history course at Latin, Americas History in Vietnam, as one of his biggest inspirations for his career.
Dave Diaz
Dave Diaz ’88 still credits his junior year history course at Latin, America’s History in Vietnam, as one of his biggest inspirations for his career.

Dave Diaz ‘88, a former member of the National Security Council (NSC), a group that assists the U.S. President on national security and foreign policy, is living proof of “once a Roman, always a Roman.”

His dream of working on the NSC began when he took America’s History in Vietnam during his junior year at Latin. In this class, he was fascinated by the way the NSC interacted with various presidents, specifically during the Vietnam War. “What started as a history class at Latin when I was 17 turned into a lifelong career,” he said.

Throughout his decades-long career working in government, Mr. Diaz directly applied many of the skills he developed as a high schooler. For example, Mr. Diaz himself was a staff writer for The Forum.

“The skills I learned at The Forum are the skills that I built in my undergraduate journalism degree and the same skills I use everyday at the State Department: writing memos for the Secretary of State or National Security Adviser, providing analysis, giving assessments of the situation in a particular place and making recommendations on what the U.S. should do,” he said.

Such technical skills are not the only ones Mr. Diaz honed during his time at Latin. “The social skills [I] learned in a small, intense place like Latin have really helped,” he said. “They’ve allowed me to work with foreign dignitaries including adversary governments that aren’t friendly to us.”

Mr. Diaz grew up in West Humboldt Park, where he took the 72 North Ave. bus every day to school and back. “That 45-minute bus ride was more than just a couple of miles—it was a huge socioeconomic distance,” he said. “I’m going from a much less well-to-do neighborhood with a lot more crime and gang activity, and I’m going to the Latin School, which is the Latin School.”

This daily mental and emotional transition was a major challenge for him throughout high school. “My social relationships and my educational future were anchored in one area, but my family and upbringing were anchored in a completely different area,” he said.

As a 14 year old, dealing with that adjustment every day was harder than he expected. However, by the end of his freshman year, the young Mr. Diaz emerged stronger with a flexible mindset.

Thanks to his family and the supportive Latin community, Mr. Diaz’s time at Latin was a positive experience. “My classmates, the faculty, and the staff were invested in my success, so then I got invested in my success,” he said. “I’ve taken that mentality, and I’ve always applied it.”

One specific application is teaching national security policy to graduate students at Georgetown University. “I see it as my way to give back and contribute to the next set of youngsters who are looking to follow a path like mine,” Mr. Diaz said. “I want to make sure I’m helping them prepare for all the difficulties, just like [Latin] did for me.”

Mr. Diaz advises current high school students not to be so worried about college.

“People get so freaked out about what college to go to and what major to take that they lose track of why they’re going to college, which is to become a better person by learning about the world and how they can shape it,” he said. “Invest your time and effort in being curious about the world and figuring out what makes you want to get up in the morning and do something awesome.”

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About the Contributor
Edie Park
Edie Park, Staff Writer
Edie Park ('27) is honored to be writing for The Forum during her freshman year at Latin, hoping to focus on uplifting and interesting stories. Having founded an online local newspaper during the pandemic, she is excited to hone and practice her writing skills at The Forum. Outside of school, Edie is a competitive pianist and nature photographer. She enjoys participating in math and essay contests. Edie aspires to become a historian.

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