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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
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onceptually, diplomacy and diversity are very similar. They
both concern relationships within and between entities,
the resolution of conflict and maximizing opportunities
to engage. Success in both is predicated on the ability to recog-
nize commonalities, identify differences and—on the margins
—create space for interactions that most everyone else has over-
looked. Furthermore, neither diplomacy nor diversity efforts
can succeed without the support and understanding of the
major powers or groups.
So, despite the conceptual similarities, why did it take so long
for the idea of a diverse Foreign Service to be seen as beneficial
to U.S. national interests?
Institutional lethargy, individual preferences and the long de-
velopmental lead-time required to“develop an ambassador”are
all plausible explanations. But rather than focus on how it came
to be, I prefer to focus on what it can become.
Now, as a result of the leadership of the current and recent
Secretaries of State—none of whom fit the outdated stereotype
of the white,Anglo-Saxon Protestant, Ivy League-educatedmale
—diversity is recognized as empowering the State Department
to engage with the world’s multiplicity of cultures, religions, eth-
nicities and languages.
Today’s A-100 orientation classes are the most diverse ever.
The entrants are roughly 50/50 male and female, and include
gays and lesbians, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and
Hispanics (although, regrettably, very few of the latter).
Minority recruitment has benefited from targeted outreach
and mentoring efforts, such as the Rangel and Pickering Fel-
lowship programs. The extension of benefits to same-sex part-
ners has also eliminated most — but not all — institutional
barriers to an even more diverse Foreign Service.
Diplomacy benefits from our officers’ various backgrounds
and diverse perspectives. Inmy previous office, Christians,Mus-
lims, Hindus and Jews from various ethnic backgrounds, in-
cludingAfghans, Pakistanis, Indians and Iranians, worked side by
side to shape U.S. policy toward South Asia. Gender diversity
has also expanded the tools and tactics available for conflict res-
olution, both in the workplace and abroad.
Yet if one were to look at the composition of the Senior For-
eign Service, by all measures one would find less diversity. This
can be explained, in part, by the length of time required to enter
the SFS — it will take time before the incoming diverse classes
rise through the ranks. However, another plausible explanation
L
ast November, I toldAFSA President Susan Johnson that
I would like to stand down as VP for Retirees. Between
contractual commitments and family obligations, I just
don’t have the time to provide the service you all deserve. I
will remain a retiree member of the Governing Board, while
Susan works out a transition.
With this last opportunity to pontificate as the Retiree VP,
let me share views on the state of our career and the nation,
and what we as retirees can do to bolster the Foreign Service
and our nation’s security.
Today’s FSO does not experience the career we enjoyed.
For me, one of the greatest attractions of Foreign Service life
was that my family was an integral part of the experience. We
all lived in the local culture, and representational events at our
home introduced my family to personalities I dealt with on a
daily basis. Contrast today’s FS officer, often bottled up in a
Diplomatic Security Bureau-designed “Fort Apache,” who
can’t move about without an SUV full of gunslingers.
The absence of foreign affairs in our current political
process/presidential campaign is depressing. And this is where
we need you—not to take partisan positions, but to highlight
the need for robust, well-funded and
staffed foreign affairs agencies.
I believe our foreign policy is being “militarized,” but not
because there are evil or acquisitive folks in the Department of
Defense. Rather, it is a result of budgetary distortion: they
have the resources, and we are deprived. Inmany of our posts
in Africa, we find close to half of all spaces in the chancery
filled by military personnel.
What can you do? Express your views in letters to the ed-
itor of your local paper, and offer to speak at local institutions
(schools, Lions, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) on the
vital role of the Foreign Service. Writing your representatives
and senators to point out the importance of adequate funding
for the FS, and foreign policy in general, is also essential. The
growing ignorance and lack of interest in foreign affairs on
Capitol Hill, apart from posturing for domestic constituen-
cies, are appalling.
Retirees are uniquely qualified to fulfill an advocacy role.
Today, more than ever, our country needs you to speak out
and help provide direction. There is still a life to lead and a role
to play once an active career has ended.
V.P. VOICE:
RETIREE
BY ROBERT G. HOUDEK
An Adieu, with Reflections
Diplomacy and Diversity: Notes for All
BY MATTHEW ASADA, AFSA GOVERNING BOARD MEMBER
Continued on page 61