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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

APRIL 2017

13

LETTERS-PLUS

Diplomacy: What We Do,

and Why We Do It

BY THOMAS M . COUNTRYMAN

On Jan. 25, career FSO Tom Countryman

was on his way to Rome for an arms

control conference when he received

word to return home. He was one of the

senior State Department officials asked

to step down from their positions. The

gracious and inspiring remarks he made

at his Jan. 31 retirement ceremony

circulated quickly inside and outside

of the State Department.

As part of the

Journal

’s ongoing

discussion about loyalty, dissent and the

responsibilities of members of the Foreign

Service, we share Mr. Countryman’s

remarks (as prepared) here, for

the record.

—The Editors

Thomas M. Countryman joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and retired in January

2017. He served as acting under secretary of State for international security affairs

from October 2016 through January 2017 and as assistant secretary of State for

international security and nonproliferation from September 2011 through January

2017. He served overseas in Belgrade, Cairo, Rome and Athens. In Washington, he served in

high-level positions at the State Department and at the National Security Council, and in New

York City at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Preparing my retirement ceremony

remarks on fairly short notice, I intended

them to be a quick personal reflection on

why the Foreign Service meant so much

to me. I was surprised and pleased that

many colleagues found my talk inspiring

and shared it.

One month later, my apprehension—

that this White House will not learn to

depend upon the knowledge and talent

at State—has only grown. What has also

grown is my admiration for those who

remain in the department and who persist

in dedicated and imaginative service to

the American people.

I hope readers find my remarks of

value as they ponder how each of us can

best serve our nation while staying true to

our personal values. I recommend more

strongly the farewell address of one of our

great ambassadors, Dan Fried, who bril-

liantly explained how U.S. foreign policy

has served well the rest of the world and

our own most noble values.

*

Some of you have asked if recent

events have left me disgruntled. The

answer is no; I am probably the most

“gruntled” person in the room. When

Ambassador Robert Pel-

letreau retired 20 years

ago, he said, “The State

Department doesn’t

owe me anything. It has

given me everything.” It

is the same for me.

In my very first tour,

the department gave me more than I

could ask for in a lifetime. It sent me to

Belgrade, where in 1984 I met my wife,

Dubravka Trklja, the greatest thing ever

to happen to me. She reminds me often

that she could have had a better hus-

band, but I suspect she feels what I feel

so strongly: that I could never have had

a better friend. And as a result, I have

something else, the only thing for which

you should envy me: Stefan and Andrew,

the two best sons and the two most

remarkable young men anyone could

have.

The department gave me and my

family the opportunity to see the world,

and not just as tourists. It allowed me to

see the reunification of families divided

by the Iron Curtain, and to see Israelis

and Palestinians negotiate face to face.

I saw—and contributed a little to—the

restoration of democracy in Serbia. And

for the last few years, it’s given me the

chance to speak for the United States

about a priority shared by 11 successive

presidents: reducing the risk of a nuclear

holocaust.

High Road, Hard Ball

This career gave me a constant resur-

gence of energy in the form of bright

young officers with brilliant careers

ahead of them, people like Rafik Man-

sour, Patrick Connell, Daniela Helfet,

Seth Maddox, Lizzie Martin and David

Kim.

It allowed me to work for ambas-

sadors legendary in the Foreign Service

(some of them here today), like David

Anderson, Dick Miles, Barbara Bodine,

Emil Skodon, Patrick Theros, Skip

Gnehm, Frank Wisner, Bob Pelletreau,

Marc Grossman and Charlie Ries.

From them I learned the four words

central to diplomatic success: “High

Road, Hard Ball.” And it gave me the great

honor to stand beside exemplary Secre-

taries of State like Madeleine Albright,

Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton and John

Kerry.