The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 13 A MESSAGE FROM THE HILL Dear Foreign Service: We’ve Got Your Back BY REPRESENTAT I VE T I M WAL Z s our nation faces complex problems around the globe, we once again lean on our Foreign Service to lead. From Embassy Seoul to Consulate General Ciudad Juarez, your professionalism and dedication help keep our nation safe and promote global peace. Now, more than ever, it is critical that our nation not retreat from its position of global leadership. Equally important is the responsibil- ity our nation has to strengthen its For- eign Service, and the decision-makers on Capitol Hill need your help to do so. The good news is that you can use the invaluable skills and expertise you use in service to our country abroad to effect change at home. Over the last 10 years, I have had the honor and privilege of serving the people of Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, including as the current ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as a longtime member of the House Committee on Agriculture and as a former member on the House Committee on Armed Services. After spending 24 years in the Army National Guard, I am humbled to be the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress. I am also a high school geography teacher by trade, and spent time teaching in China during the 1990s. My experience in the military and in the classroommake up the foundation for my appreciation, respect and admira- tion for the work you do. The service you and your families give to our nation is immeasurable and critical to the work of our democracy. AFSA’s Voice Needed on Capitol Hill From advocating against the hiring freeze to championing an appropriately sized foreign affairs budget, the American Foreign Service Association provides a voice for our Foreign Service to both the administration and to members of Con- gress. AFSA President Ambassador Bar- bara Stephenson has been instrumental in efforts to bring the story of the Foreign Service not only to decision-makers in Washington, D.C., but to their constitu- ents back home, as well. In August, I invited Amb. Stephenson to Minnesota Farm Fest, a trade and policy forum that brings together about 40,000 people in the Minnesota agricul- ture community each year. Her message was simple yet poignant: the work our FSOs do throughout the globe has a direct and substantial impact on the citizens of this great nation. From connecting the dots about the creation of agricultural export markets to explaining the importance of working with our international partners to foster peace, Amb. Stephenson is doing her part to refute the adage that foreign affairs issues lack a constituency in members’ districts and thus lack influence in the legislative process. The truth is that these issues matter to constituents—the trick is to take the time and effort to make that connection for Congress. For those skilled in the art of diplo- macy, I can understand why the notion of engaging with Capitol Hill may not be an appealing thought. However, that is precisely why your diplomatic expertise is so needed. I’ve had a fewmilitary officers and other government employees tell me, “Congressman, I’m just not interested in politics.” I always answer them, “Well, politics is interested in you, so you might want to think about learning how our systemworks.” To be clear, this is not a call to engage in partisan advocacy in your official capacities, but rather to engage in the pro- cess as our founders intended: to educate members of Congress while respecting our separation of powers. The two are not mutually exclusive. While AFSA serves as the lead orga- nization charged with advocating for the Representative Tim Walz (D-Minn.) is serving in his sixth term representing Min- nesota’s First Congressional District. He is the ranking member on the House Commit- tee on Veterans’ Affairs and serves on the House Committee on Agriculture. A Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of messages from members of Congress to the Foreign Service. a