James D. Melville Jr. spoke plainly about the reason for his resignation as U.S. ambassador to Estonia in July: President Donald Trump's antagonistic stance toward European allies placed him in an untenable position.
"Arrogance does not suit us well. 'America First' is a sham," Melville wrote in a Washington Post op-ed explaining his departure.
Melville, a native of New Jersey and a 33-year employee of the U.S. Foreign Service, took a new post in November at the College of Charleston's School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs.
He now serves as associate dean for international and community outreach, a position where he hopes to inspire the next generation of diplomats and public servants.
"Now that I'm here talking to students, there's a real hesitation to join this administration and it breaks my heart," Melville said Monday.
Melville said he encourages students to take the long view on their careers. While he felt compelled to step down this summer because of his leadership position, he reminds students their own careers can span multiple presidencies.
His own time in the Foreign Service spanned six White House administrations, starting under Ronald Reagan in East Germany in 1985.
"America needs ambitious, smart, patriotic young people to go into public service. ... You can do a lot of good and have a nice, interesting life," Melville said. "The fact that Donald Trump is in office now shouldn't deter you."
As a low-ranking official in 1987, Melville helped manage logistics for the American press corps during Reagan's iconic "Tear down this wall" speech at the Brandenburg Gate. His career took him to St. Petersburg, Paris, Moscow, London and Washington D.C. before Barack Obama nominated him to serve as ambassador to Estonia in 2015.
He left that post because of what he described as the Trump administration's "self-defeating" foreign trade stance and its retreat from the United States' historic leadership role in diplomacy.
As a leader, he said, he found it impossible to explain or defend his own administration's goals.
Melville said he started considering his career options after Trump nominated a new ambassador to Estonia in late 2017. He traveled to Charleston during the January 2018 snowstorm for interviews with college officials. He now makes $140,000 per year as an employee of the college.
Part of his new job in Charleston involves connecting students with the small Eastern European country where he recently served.
In addition to his associate deanship, he will serve as executive director of the nonprofit Center for the Global Alliance for South Carolina, which is based at the college and seeks to establish business relationships with high-tech companies in Israel and Estonia.
"Ambassador Melville is a consummate professional who will create new professional opportunities for College of Charleston students and faculty,” said CofC Provost Brian McGee in a statement.
President Trump nominated retired Rear Admiral Edward "Sonny" Masso to serve as ambassador to Estonia in September 2017. Trump withdrew Masso's nomination without explanation in May 2018.
The U.S. currently does not have an ambassador to Estonia.