TWO LIFETIMES AS ONE: Ele and Me and the Foreign Service

Irving G. Tragen
Scarith, 2020
976 Pages, 2 Photos
ISBN 978-1-7333980-6-0 Paperback

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About the Author

Irving Tragen was born in San Francisco, California, in 1922. He attended public schools in that city before graduating from the University of California Berkeley Law School and undertaking postgraduate studies of Comparative Law at the University of Chile and in Mexico. Ele and Irving were married in 1947, beginning a life together that lasted 57 years until Ele’s death in 2005.  They shared the excitement and tribulations of each of their posts abroad and in Washington, D.C. Since Ele’s death, Irving has lived in retirement in San Diego, California; he remains engaged in building understanding and friendship between the United States and Latin America through support of the Museo de las Americas in Denver, the Chair for Comparative Law at the University of California Berkeley Law School, the University of California San Diego’s Mexico-U.S. Study Center and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the North County Chapter of the San Diego World Affairs Council.

About the book

Two Lifetimes as One is an autobiography of Irving Tragen and his late wife, Eleanor “Ele” Dodson. Irving, who suffered a severe hearing loss from the aftereffects of scarlet fever, relives their odyssey from their first meeting at International House at the University of California, Berkeley, through a dozen appointments in the United States Foreign Service and the Organization of American States. Ele and Irving lived in seven Latin American countries. Irving worked in all thirty-three Latin American and Caribbean countries on diplomatic, development, and drug trafficking–control assignments over nearly sixty years. He details each of those assignments and the lessons he learned and makes it very clear that he could not have carried out those assignments without Ele’s support.


“For anyone interested in contemporary Latin American history and the United States’ diplomacy in the region Irving’s book is mandatory reading and an must have addition to a library.” —Toby Westbrook, International Banker

“During his time at USAID, the Inter American Foundation, and the OAS Irving brought commitment, insight, empathy and effectiveness to solving the intertwined problems of development and counter-narcotics. In my view, Irving’s long-awaited memoirs will make a real contribution to the practice of development assistance in the real world.” —Charles Ries, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece

“In his memoir, the entwined lives of Irving and Eleanor Tragen exemplify many virtues: love and loyalty, fundamental American values, and the worth of modestly embodying them to their many friends abroad.” —Richard McKee, Former US Consul General, Lahore, Pakistan

“Given Irving’s remarkable and impressive professional career at the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and the Organization of American States, Irving’s memoir is not only detailed, but it is also of extraordinary interest and great historical value—particularly to officers of the United States Foreign Service as well as other officials at the OAS and other institutions that Irving has served during his career, including academic institutions and think tanks.” —Anne L. Howard-Tristani, President, Howard-Tristani International Consulting

“Irving’s engagement in issues of community development, labor laws, and the prevention of drug trafficking across multiple countries in the hemisphere offers unparalleled insight.” —Melissa Floca, Associate Director, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, UC San Diego