NEW YORK — STIFF challenges are nothing new for Washington's top UN diplomat.
Edward J. Perkins began his education in a segregated two-room school in rural Louisiana. He served in a segregated branch of the US Army Quartermaster Corps in Tokyo and Korea. When he met his future wife, Lucy Liu, while both were studying Japanese in Taipei in 1960, her Chinese parents at first strongly opposed the mixed-race marriage. Perkins was 39 years old before he got the needed time and aid to earn a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Maryland.
Now he also has a University of California doctorate in public administration and several honorary degrees. One of his two daughters is getting a master's degree in Asian studies. The other works at the State Department.
Perkins's success in hurdling over barriers may help explain how he now takes the demands of his new job in stride. He begins each day at 6 a.m. with a visit to a gym where he uses a treadmill. He attends most meetings of the Security Council and often speaks to General Assembly working committees.
An avid reader, Ambassador Perkins makes time for books. He is a longtime fan of Sherlock Holmes and of author Arthur Conan Doyle's careful eye for detail. At the moment Perkins also is reading about the Cossacks in Central Europe ("The Sabres of Paradise") and "Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army," by Meirion and Susie Harries. Such Asian philosophers as Sun Tzu, author of "The Art of War," and Miyamoto Musashi, the 14th-century Japanese samurai and painter, are also hig h on his reading list.