Page 59 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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A P R I L 2 0 1 2 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L
ama federal bureaucrat. Aprofessional
government employee. And guess
what? I’m damn proud of it.
It seems that all I hear these days are
the once and future leaders of our coun-
try tripping over themselves to denigrate
the work we do. I’m tired of it, and I’m
fed up. I don’t claim to represent anyone
other than myself, but I would bet that a
fair number of federal employees feel as
I do. We are lawyers, doctors, Ph.D. stu-
dents, economists, writers, electricians,
constructionworkers, security officers and
technology specialists. We are not a drain
on the national economy; rather, we are
a primary reason why the United States
remains as great as it is.
Likemany federal workers, I have sac-
rificed: a high-paying job in the private sec-
tor; a year of my life (and the first six
months of my daughter’s life) spent in
Iraq; long hours; high stress; pay freezes.
I’mnot complaining; in fact, I quite enjoy
my career and my life in the Foreign
Yet when I hear our politicians talking
about “fixing”Washington, I oftenwon-
der to myself: whom would they like to
“fix?” Is it the guy I see on theMetro every
day, heading to work at the Food and
Drug Administration to ensure that our
food is safe? Is it the woman going into
Commerce Department headquarters to
support U.S. companies abroad? Or do
they mean the thousands of people who
support our troops overseas? How about
my fellowForeignService officers, whoput
themselves in harm’s way in Baghdad,
Kabul, Damascus and hundreds of other
places around the world?
I have no doubt that some within the
federal bureaucracy simply showup each
day to collect a paycheck. I also have no
doubt that this happens within any num-
ber of multinational corporations, small
businesses and law firms. But I know for
a fact that most of us do this job not
because we want to make a lot of money
but because, simply put, we want to serve
our country.
There was a time, not long ago, when
government service was seen as a higher
calling. That’s the reason I decided to join
the State Department in 2005 — not
because I wanted job security or good
health benefits, but because I wanted to
devote my life to making this country
stronger, making the world a better, safer
place and pursuing a career I was proud
Seven years later, I still get excited to
come to work every morning. I still get
a thrill when I enter the StateDepartment
and see the flags of every nationwithwhich
we have diplomatic relations. And I cer-
tainly get chills each and every time I see
theU.S. flag on one of our embassies. I’m
fairly sure I am not the only federal
employee who feels this way.
So to all our politicians, I implore you:
stop using the government work force as
a political football. Just stop. It demeans
you, it demoralizes us, and it is counter-
productive to drive away the best and
brightest fromworking for the betterment
of this country.
We don’t do our jobs for glory, or
money or power. We do them—and do
themwell—because we take pride in our
work and pride in representing the
United States of America.
This commentary originally appeared on the
Washington Post’
s Opinion page on Feb. 26 and
is reprinted with the author’s permission.
I Work for Uncle Sam, and I’m Proud of It
Like many federal workers,
I have sacrificed: a high-paying
job in the private sector;
a year of my life (and the first
six months of my daughter’s life)
spent in Iraq; long hours;
high stress; pay freezes.
n 1982, retired Foreign Service officer
Mathilda W. Sinclaire provided AFSA
with a generous bequest to honor
ForeignService employeeswhoexcel in the
study of hard languages and their associ-
ated cultures. Since then, AFSA has hon-
ored more than 100 individuals for their
language-learning abilities.
AFSA is pleased to announce the eight
winners of the 2011MathildaW. Sinclaire
Language Award. They are: NancyAbella
–Dari; EricCollings –Uzbek; SarahGrow
–Persian/Farsi; JamesHallock–Mandarin;
Rebecca Hunter – Albanian; Theresa
Mangione – Vietnamese; E. Jerome Ryan
Jr. – Japanese; David Vincent Salvo –
Eachwinner receives a $1,000prize and
certificate. AFSA thanks the Foreign Ser-
vice Institute’s School of Language Studies
and itsmany language instructors for their
dedicationandassistance in identifyingcan-
didates for the award. Nominations are also
received fromteachers at regional language
For more information on the award,
guidelines and nominating procedures,
please visit
uage_awards.aspx, or contact Perri Green
at or
(202) 719-9700.
AFSA Announces 2011 Sinclaire Award Winners