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better accommodated the public’s desire for heroes. (Tat
said, paper credentials such as Superior Honor awards have
more impact on the public imagination than we may realize.)
Fourth, the corollary to this principle is that the more
politically potent your message, the more strenuously critics
will look for material with which to discredit the messenger.
Te State Department behaved quite well in its public por-
trayal of our resignations, but it helped that our closets seem
to have contained no frightful skeletons. When the White
House feels seriously threatened, any lapse from the rigorous
personal integrity of the ideal diplomat will be used against
you mercilessly.
Fifth, the public responds warmly to sacrifce, but it must
be real sacrifce or it doesn’t count. Rather than jump ship to a
rival political party, disarm cynicism by spending time in the
wilderness, ideally with the specter of famine draped compan-
ionably on your shoulder.
Finally, keep faith in the meaning of your deed. A new and
excellent life awaits you, provided you take the message of
your resignation as seriously as fellow idealists demand. I lost
my sense of the importance of my gesture far too soon.
My Best Decision
I would resign better next time, but with resignation there is
no next time. Never mind. A heartwarming number of people
still come forward even now to thank me, perhaps because
at a dark hour, my gesture seemed a welcome reafrmation
that our system was capable of better things. If that were the
only result, my resignation would still be the best decision I
have ever made. I encourage young people to take the Foreign
Service exam, partly because so few other careers include the
right to such a life-transforming last resort.
Diplomats rationalize well and faithfully, serving America
well and faithfully in the process. But as we grow in experience
and infuence, we must keep our moral and professional com-
pass calibrated to that point—usually, but not always, comfort-
ably remote—where integrity and love of country declare,
“No further.”