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10

April 2015

|

the foreign Service journal

America’s diplomacy and national secu-

rity. Indeed, all 12 of my Foreign Service

classmates in 1981 were either retired

or prior military members. That was the

norm for the State Department’s cadre of

communications officers and technicians

at that time.

I served as an enlisted sailor in the U.S.

Navy from 1975 to 1979, then worked in

the Civil Service for both the Army and

Air Force before my appointment as an

FS-9 support communications officer in

January 1981. I retired from the Foreign

Service in January 2007.

It should also be noted that a large

number of State Department civil ser-

vants are also U.S. military veterans. These

employees directly support Foreign Ser-

vice operations abroad, especially within

the Bureaus of Information Resource

Management and Diplomatic Security.

Thanks again, AFSA, for your expres-

sion of interest and your recognition of

the vital service provided by America’s

military veterans across the generalist and

specialist corps of the Foreign Service.

I’m proud to say that veterans have been

and will continue to be a key factor in

the ultimate success of the department’s

global mission.

Timothy C. Lawson

Senior FSO, retired

Hua Hin, Thailand

Taking the Point

The three responses in the March issue to Rachel Schneller’s Decembe

r

letter, which called on AFSA to pay

greater attention to diversity, certainly

confirm that she struck a painful nerve.

Ironically, however, the writers’ zeal to

defend AFSA and the Foreign Ser-

vice only underscores the point Ms.

Schneller was making: To fix a prob-

lem, one first has to recognize it.

For instance, retired FSO Herbert

Levin says he doesn’t “recall that the folks

on the other side of the table ever cared

if the U.S. teamwas composed of Aleut

lads or the sons of Vermont hill farmers.”

Unless Mr. Levin possesses telepathic

powers, I’m confused as to how he knows

that is the case. Moreover, the very way he

frames the discussion mistakes an assort-

ment of white males for genuine diversity.

Retired ambassadors Edward Peck

and Edward Marks, both members of the

AFSA Awards and Plaques Committee,

correctly point out that the committee’s

mission is to honor constructive dissent

and exemplary performance—not to

strive for a particular set of demograph-

ics among the winners. Yet apparently,

neither sees anything remarkable about

the fact that year after year, most winners

of AFSA’s dissent awards continue to be

white males.

Personally, I think it would be well

worth AFSA’s time to look for ways to

solicit more nominations that reflect the

full diversity of today’s Foreign Service.

In her letter, Ms. Schneller suggested one

way to proceed: Each of us could make

a conscious effort to mentor colleagues

who are not members of our own demo-

graphic group, and nominate them for

AFSA awards.

Drawing on my experience as the

Journal’s

editor (2001-2014), I’d like to

propose a complementary approach.

Periodically, I contacted each of many

affinity groups in the foreign affairs agen-

cies to invite their members to contribute

articles to our pages, explain-

ing the process and

offering to answer

any questions they

might have. I also

made clear that all

submissions, what-

ever the source, are

approved by the For-

eign Service Journal Editorial Board.

That outreach brought in some good

articles over the years, which we very

likely would not have gotten otherwise.

Admittedly, I never heard anything at all

frommany of those affinity groups, and

only a few of the individuals who did

express interest in contributing material

to the magazine ever followed through.

But speaking as a white male myself, I still

think it is worthwhile to make sure every-

one knows that all AFSA members are

welcome to share their insights and views

with their Foreign Service peers.

In that spirit, I respectfully encour-

age AFSA to use the network of affinity

groups to invite all members of those

organizations to nominate colleagues for

its awards each year. I am confident that

such targeted outreach will broaden the

talent pool and enhance the quality of the

selection process, whoever the winners

may be.

Steven Alan Honley

Former FSO

Washington, D.C.

Diversity and Objectivity

We respectfully take issue with FSO

Rachel Schneller’s letter (“More Diversity on FSJ Pages, Please”) in the December

2014

Foreign Service Journal

. In addition

to “valuing diversity for its own sake,” as

the letter states, Americans value achieve-

ment for its own sake, including the

special contributions that dissent award

winners regularly make to American

diplomacy and the integrity of our For-

eign Service.

In making the head-turning, improb-

able assertion that “We are going to be

biased in favor of our own demographic,”

Ms. Schneller in effect contends that the

four winners could not have been the

most deserving because they were white

males. This stands objectivity on its head,