Thomas and Gaetana Enders Biography

Thomas Ostrom Enders

Thomas O. Enders was born on November 28, 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut. He was educated at Yale University, where he was a member of the Scroll and Key society, receiving a B.A. in 1953; at the University of Paris, receiving a M.A. in 1955; and Harvard University, receiving a M.A. in 1957.

In 1958, Enders joined the United States Foreign Service as an intelligence research specialist. From 1960 to 1963, he was a visa officer and then an economic officer in Stockholm. From 1963, he was supervisory international economist at the Bureau of European Affairs. In 1966, he was a special assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. In 1968, he became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Monetary Affairs.

From 1969, he was deputy chief of mission in Belgrade. From 1971 to 1973, he held the same position in Phnom Penh. In 1974, Enders became Assistant Under Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs.

In 1976, US President Gerald Ford nominated Enders as United States Ambassador to Canada; Enders held this post from February 17, 1976 to December 14, 1979.  As Ambassador to Canada from 1976 to 1979, set the stage for the historic CUSFTA: he fired up talk of free trade with Canada; he engaged policymakers, business people and Canadians in general in a future-oriented dialogue to define a shared North-American destiny, reversing Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s third option and East-West blueprint for Canada’s economic development.

Introducing himself in an interview with Bruce Philips on CTV on 11 April 1976, Tom said: “We think that the Canadian-American relationship is one that has a lot of opportunities as well as clearly some differences that have to be solved. I think that an activist approach to this is the word I would use about the kinds of missions that I’ve been given and the kind of person I expect to be here. This is necessary to ensure that we exploit those opportunities as well as try and resolve those differences so that the differences don’t come to dominate the relationship.”

Enders decided on an extensive outreach effort of speeches focused on his ‘missions’: defense, energy, the environment and trade liberalization. This was a dramatic change from the historical tradition of US envoys engaging in fatuous talk about best friends, closest neighbors and undefended border”.  He was at times attacked for unwarranted intrusion in Canadian affairs. Intensive socializing was also part of the program. Both Tom and Gaetana spoke perfect French: essential in Canada in 1976 on the eve of the victory of the Parti Quebecois. They travelled the length and breadth of Canada, Tom alone claiming to have travelled 50,000 miles each year.

Early on in his posting, Tom addressed in a speech at the Conference Board of Canada in November 1976, the “continentalism that haunts every discussion of improving Canadian-US relations”. This periodic Canadian paranoia of being absorbed by the US de facto, he thought, was a natural consequence of the US being Canada’s top trading partner. He responded by noting that the US had now also recognized Canada as its top trading partner, setting the stage for a partnership of equals. Tom anticipated that mutual dependence would grow under ambitious tariff liberalization.

“Canada-US relations will not work well”, Tom said, “if we feel we are prisoners of that interdependence, not its masters.” He urged a new common practice: that every difficulty and dispute be met with consultation, inquiry, process towards a joint understanding. He urged “expansionary” solutions be found to permit a higher balance of advantage, rather than taking something away from one country for the benefit of the other.

His Excellency, then Under Secretary of External Affairs Allan Gotlieb, subsequently Ambassador to the US in the 1980s, said about Enders: “Over many years, Canada and the US typically emphasized the importance of resolving issues, or trying to, behind closed doors. Tom was, I believe, the first US Ambassador to Canada to speak so often and openly about our differences and the reasons for them. This sometimes gave rise to controversy, but he believed that a key part of his assignment was to contribute to a better public understanding of the relationship and issues between us. This sometimes got him into hot water with the Canadian government and senior officials, but he rightly saw this as a key part of his job. As a part of his practice of public diplomacy, he and Gaetana  (see her biography below) made the Ambassadorial residence a place of great excitement and for continuing debate and dialogue. The official residence became highly prized as a place to mix and mingle and debate. There was no more exciting place to be in Ottawa and probably Canada.”

Strengthening management of shared environments, as had been achieved since 1972 by the International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes, was a recurring aspiration for Tom.  At the time, the irritants were the Garrison Diversion project on the US side and the Saskatchewan Government’s plan to build a thermal generating plant on the Poplar River near the border with Montana. In several speeches on environmental frictions, his message was “we must develop better ways of dealing with them to our mutual benefit and not to trade them off.”

Tom knew a lot about trade with Canada even before he arrived. He was closely involved in the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations in 1966 and 1967 as Special Assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs Walt Rostow. Reporting to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Tom stated a “a very significant – in some ways brilliant - deal with Canada” had been reached “involving substantial cuts on $1.3-$1.4 billion on trade in each side”.  The Kennedy Round was the first of the multilateral trade negotiations to build multilateral tariff cuts on the basis of a series of bilateral tariff deals that were then multilateralized to all GATT parties.

By 1977, Enders was “running around talking about free trade” in Canada. In a key speech to the Conference Board of Canada, he said: “You’re going to ask right off what two job-short economies can do for each other in the field of trade without making their problems worse. The answer is, of course, that you can get important net job creation – and a major assist in combating inflation – by reciprocal reduction of trade barriers…”

On October 20, 1977, freer trade with the US became official Canadian policy and the third option was formally binned. Finance Minister Jean Chrétien’s Economic and Fiscal Statement to the House of Commons indicated: “We need lower – not higher – trade barriers here and around the world if we are to build efficient manufacturing industries and increase our productivity.”

Both Canada and the US were firmly focused on concluding the Tokyo Round of multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) held by the GATT. The Tokyo Round was not going well, mainly because Japan and the European Economic Community were reluctant to cut tariffs in a period of economic recession. The US instead believed that multilateral trade liberalization was urgently required to re-start economic growth in all its major trading partners in the wake of the energy crisis.

Enders publicized a US tariff offer to reduce (but not eliminate) nuisance tariffs on processed raw materials which hindered Canadian exports to the US.  He thought an ambitious bilateral tariff cutting agreement with Canada might galvanize Japan and the European Economic Community to do the same. He also saw the multilateral route as being the only one for Canada and the US to advance in their common objective of removing trade barriers to the export of agricultural products, including distortive aid for grain exports to emerging markets.

If the MTN route seemed superior to Tom, he was also keenly aware that a trade agreement might not “yield enough economic benefit to offset its political costs” and a North American energy market, would “arouse American expectations that cannot be met and stir up Canadian fears that are difficult to put to rest” (CUSFTA and NAFTA are merely free trade agreements and not common markets.).

From 1979, Enders was United States Ambassador to the European Communities. President Ronald Reagan nominated Enders as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs; Enders held this office from June 23, 1981 to June 27, 1983. The Reagan administration made the decision to reduce the emphasis that the Carter administration had put on human rights issues in dealings with allies and this new policy had been made clear to Ambassador Jack R. Binns, a Carter appointee, following his repeated reports of human rights abuses by the Honduran Military.

In a June 1981 cable, Binns reported that he was deeply concerned about increasing evidence of officially sponsored or sanctioned assassinations of political or criminal targets and repression. Binns was summoned to Washington by Enders.  I was told to stop human rights reporting except in back channel. The fear was that if it came into the State Department, it will leak, Binns recalled. They wanted to keep assistance flowing. Increased violations by the Honduran military would prejudice that.

Reagan then named Enders US Ambassador to Spain, with Enders presenting his credentials to the Spanish government September 15, 1983 and representing the U.S. in Spain until July 6, 1986.

Enders retired from the State Department in 1986. He died in New York City on March 17, 1996. He is buried in Waterford, Connecticut. 

Source:  Adapted from


Gaetana M. Enders

Gaetana Enders, Italian by birth, was born in Tangier, Morocco where her father was the Administrator for Judicial Affairs for the International Zone. She and Tom Enders met in 1953 after she had secured her Italian baccalaureate and he had graduated from Yale University. They married in 1955 in Tangier, and moved to Boston where Tom completed his graduate work at Harvard. By 1959 when Tom joined the Foreign Service, they already had four children: Domitilla, twins named Alice and Claire, and a son, Tom.

Throughout their diplomatic life she has been deeply involved in the visual arts. While in Washington she served on the Ladies Board of the Corcoran Museum and helped to organize the docent program, an innovative method of introducing public school children to art. During the years that Tom was an Ambassador, Gaetana was responsible for sponsoring exhibitions of American art and opening the Embassies in Canada, Belgium, and Spain to school children and art students.

When her husband served in Cambodia, Gaetana founded a refugee organization that took care of seventeen camps. For her work she was honored by the Chief of Staff of the Cambodian Army with the highest decoration of the Khmer government.

After the fall of Vietnam in 1974 she was named by President Ford as the only woman member on his Committee for Refugees which was responsible for placing the first 375,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In that capacity she traveled to refugee camps in the United States and Thailand. Tom became Ambassador to Canada in 1976 and Gaetana continued to oversee refugee camps, working closely with the House of Commons to bring about a change in the immigration laws to allow for greater numbers of refugees to enter Canada.

After the Enders left Canada they moved to Brussels, where Tom was Ambassador to the European Community; then Washington, where he was Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American; and then to Spain, where he was United States Ambassador until 1987.

After completing his work in Spain, Tom left the Foreign Service to join Solomon Brothers in New York as Managing Director. Upon leaving Madrid, Gaetana accepted the position of International Editor of HOLA! Magazine, and later HELLO!, two major weekly publications with a joint readership of 8-million. She became President of the American Friends of Canada, an organization that promotes cultural exchanges between the United States and Canada, and served as Chairman Emeritus. Gaetana was also a member of the Americas Society, an organization that she greatly respected as she was deeply involved in all aspects of Canada and Latin America.

Gaetana Enders died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York on May 21st, 2014.  The Enders had four children, three daughters (Domitilla Elena Enders; Claire Enders Thomson; Alice Roessler Enders) and a son Thomas.   The Thomas O. and Gaetana Enders Foundation partners with ACSUS and SAIS/Johns Hopkins to sponsor a variety programs that further the Enders’ remarkable legacy in fostering understanding in the Canada-US relationship.

 Source: adapted from



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