The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2017
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Protect Human Rights at Home

Countries around the world, their governments and people, pay

attention to what is happening in the United States. It will be

incredibly difficult to promote an agenda of diversity, equality,

tolerance and human rights overseas if we do not practice them

at home. Please protect the rights, safety and health of women,

LGBTQI persons and people of color in the United States so we

may continue to do so abroad.

Katherine Tarr


U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, Honduras

We Reassure Allies and

Communicate with Adversaries

Do not write off the entire Foreign Service as politically biased

against you and not to be trusted. There is a wealth of expertise

in the State Department that will make your foreign policy more

effective. We each take seriously our responsibility to the U.S. Con-

stitution, the American people and the president. You could have

the most brilliant game plan in the history of mankind, but if you

do not put your whole teamon the field you are going to struggle.

We have a tradition of constructive dissent, which we will

continue to exercise through appropriate channels, perhaps with

historic frequency. A reasoned challenge to one of your policy pro-

posals is not a personal attack on you; it is an argument in defense

of the national interest. We probably will not change your mind

often, but your effectiveness is certain to suffer if you disregard our

counsel completely.

Your election has created tremendous uncertainty around the

world, because this is your first public office and your style is …

unique. If you want to reassure allies and communicate clearly

with adversaries, you are going to need the Foreign Service.

Modern threats to U.S. interests are too dangerous for any of us

with any sense to wish for your failure. Your goal is to be a states-

man. What possible purpose would it serve the Foreign Service

to embarrass or undermine you? A safe and strong United States

must have a successful president, and we will do our duty to sup-

port you.

Brian T. Neubert


Director, Africa Regional Media Hub

Johannesburg, South Africa

We Understand Other Countries

Foreign Service officers are seasoned professional listeners paid

to interpret words, gestures, actions and the sometimes unstated

messages behind these and other kinds of communications.

Sure, we also speak and deliver clear messages of our own—

about the way we see the world, what we want to achieve and

what we hope to avoid. We are and represent the American

people, the United States of America, the U.S. government,

the current administration and—bottom line—the principles

embodied in the U.S. Constitution. (Our oath is to nothing else.)

In delivering messages, we try to say exactly what we mean—no

more, no less—to maintain focus on the issue at hand and to

avoid unnecessary problems.

Some problems are unavoidable, of course, which is why

we are paid to listen. Other countries and peoples don’t always

agree with our views. At a minimum, listening enables us to

understand the reasons why. More broadly, a clear under-

standing of differences is the seed of any possible solution; and

generating solutions—limiting disagreement and finding areas

of agreement—is the purpose of diplomatic work.

So let us speak freely, including in communicating the con-

trary views of other countries or peoples. In doing so, whatever

your view of issue X, you will be giving room for potential solu-

tions and keeping at bay the kinds of problems that might be

avoided. We have enough unavoidable problems as it is.

Alexis Ludwig


Bethesda, Maryland

Consider History’s Judgement

As a retired Foreign Service officer, I would like to tell you that

the Foreign Service is proud of its profession and dedicated to

the proposition that, to quote Churchill, “Democracy is the worst

form of government except all others that have been tried from

time to time.” The Foreign Service must continually ask how his-

tory will regard what it tried to accomplish.

Peter F. Spalding

Senior FSO, retired

Washington, D.C.

Appoint Professional Ambassadors

The one thing I would like to see the new administration focus

on is to appoint only professional diplomats as American