THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
ast month, I presented the formu-
lation the AFSA Governing Board
and staff crafted to explain to
those outside the Foreign Service
family what we do:
We deploy worldwide
to protect and serve America’s people,
interests and values.
I welcome your
thoughts and refinements, as well as your
feedback on how this message lands
when you use it with family, friends and
Now I want to update you briefly on
what we are doing to get that message
out—and encourage you to pitch in.
I am delighted to report that the Una
Chapman Cox Foundation has decided to
partner with AFSA to enhance outreach
efforts and support a multifaceted strat-
egy to reach numerous target audiences.
For example, through a new partner-
ship with the U.S. Institute of Peace, we
will multiply the impact of the successful
AFSA National High School Essay Contest
with this year’s theme of “Building Peace
through Diplomacy.” And we are reaching
out to high school social studies teachers
eager to have a member of the Foreign
Service guest lecture.
We are also exploring ways to provide
Foreign Service mentors to high school
and college students involved in Model
U.N. to help them role-play diplomats.
And we are also
we can incorporate
a segment on the
work of the Foreign
Service into the
curriculum of AP
history and government courses, which
together reach nearly a million bright and
aspiring students each year.
We will need similar strategies and
partnerships to reach American busi-
nesses and other audiences.
All of our work is supported by the
2016 AFSA budget passed at the Novem-
ber Governing Board meeting. The
budget is the key to better aligning AFSA’s
resources behind the vision and the strat-
egy I have laid out in these columns.
But fear not: the 2016 budget is a
model of fiscal responsibility, enhancing
AFSA’s capacity to do focused outreach
that improves public perceptions of the
Foreign Service while keeping dues at last
year’s level. That’s right: no dues increase.
Finally, a word about this edition of
, which takes on the important
and highly sensitive issue of mental
health in the Foreign Service. For the past
dozen years, the Foreign Service has been
under extraordinary stress after having so
many of our members deployed to war
zones. But it doesn’t take war duty to take
a toll.As Acting State VP Bill Haugh notes in his AFSA News column, we will be
healthier and more resilient individually
and as an organization if we can acknowl-
edge that the toll of our service is real. I
congratulate the FSJ Editorial Board for
venturing into this territory and opening
up space for a conversation.
I remember talking to my doctor on
my return from two back-to-back tours
in the front office (as DCM and ambassa-
dor) of large embassies that followed two
years as deputy coordinator for Iraq. Did
he think the numbness in my hands, my
inability to sleep soundly, and my short
fuse with my family were due to some
The doctor smiled, “One-third of my
patients are in the Foreign Service. You
know what’s wrong with you? Stress. You
need to exercise, eat right and take it easy.
Meditate. Swim some laps.” That was just
the advice I needed to get back on track. I
was fortunate that, in my case, some basic
lifestyle changes were sufficient.
I share that story with you in the hope
that owning up to my own vulnerability
will help weaken the FS taboo against
admitting that we are human, that our
extraordinary work makes extraordinary
demands on us, and that we need to take
care of ourselves—and each other.
As AFSA president, I pledge that AFSA
will champion clarity, transparency and
consistency in howMED and Diplomatic
Security address mental health issues,
and will work with management to lower
the barriers to seeking help and to improve
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
BY BARBARA STEPHENSON
The 2016 budget is a model of fiscal
responsibility, enhancing AFSA’s capacity to
do focused outreach while keeping dues at last