Page 21 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

This is a SEO version of Foreign Service Journal - September 2013. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
First given in 1968, the Harriman and Rivkin Awards were
joined the following year by the
Christian A. Herter Award
honoring constructive dissent by Senior Foreign Service
officers. And in 2000, AFSA created the
F. Allen “Tex” Harris
for dissent by Foreign Service specialists in honor of
the renowned FSO and AFSA activist, who himself received
the Rivkin Award in 1984.
Ambassador Thomas D. Boyatt, himself the recipient of
two AFSA dissent awards, points out that in a culture where
peer regard is very highly prized, these awards bestow
extraordinary distinction. Moreover, most Harriman and
Rivkin awardees have gone on to enter the Senior Foreign
Service, and account for a much higher percentage of ambas-
sadors than the Service as a whole.
Together, the four AFSA constructive dissent awards con-
stitute a program unique within the federal government, one
that celebrates the courage and integrity of Foreign Service
personnel at all levels who have challenged the system from
The association confers its dissent awards, as well as
performance and other awards, each June in the Benjamin
Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room at the Department
of State in the annual AFSA Awards Ceremony, which is
co-sponsored by the director general of the Foreign Service.
The Secretary of State or Deputy Secretary has frequently
attended the ceremony, as well. (Coverage of this year’s cer-
emony, which took place on June 27, and detailed profiles of
all this year’s winners begin on p. 63.)
A Unique Program
Commenting on the distinctiveness of the AFSA construc-
tive dissent award program in a September 2010 Speaking
Out column, retired Ambassador Edward L. Peck, the 1973
recipient of the Rivkin Award and a longtime member of
AFSA’s Awards and Plaques Committee, observed:
“Doing battle with authority is certainly not a major facet
of the Foreign Service’s public persona. When people think of
us at all, they tend to do so in terms of good manners, a care-
fully balanced approach, extensive use of the passive voice
and, perhaps as much as anything else, conflict avoidance.
In the real world, however, only the Foreign Service, acting
through AFSA, publicly commends members who are willing
to advocate and pursue changes in policies or management.
No similar program exists in any other organization.”
It is important to emphasize that the subject of the dissent
does not have to be related to foreign policy. It can involve a
management issue, consular policy or personnel regulations.
Some nominees may have used the formal State Depart-
ment Dissent Channel to express their views, but that is not
a requirement to receive one of AFSA’s constructive dissent
From 1968 through 2011, AFSA conferred the Harri-
man Award on 36 entry-level officers and, collectively, the
Embassy Tehran hostages (in absentia in 1980 and in person
in 1981). Over the same period, the Rivkin Award went to 43
mid-level FSOs, as well as the Iran hostages and, in 1994, a
group of 13 officers who dissented over the Clinton adminis-
tration’s initial refusal to intervene in Bosnia.
In addition to the group awards for the Iran hostages in
1980 and 1981, 38 Senior Foreign Service ofcers received the
Herter Award from 1969 through 2011. And since 2000, 10 spe-
cialists have won the Harris Award for constructive dissent.
AFSA also issued a special posthumous award for con-
structive dissent in 2002 to Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV. Dis-
obeying State Department orders, Bingham issued life-saving
visas to more than 2,000 Jews and anti-Nazi refugees in Mar-
seilles in 1940 and 1941. For this act of courage and human-
ity, he was eventually forced out of the Foreign Service.
Calling the Honor Roll
The names of all past winners of AFSA’s constructive
dissent awards are posted on the AFSA Web site (
Even new entrants to
the Foreign Service will likely recognize the names of at least
some recipients. Here is a small sampling of awardees and
the issues about which they dissented.
John Paul Vann
, deputy director of the Civil Opera-
tions and Revolutionary Development Support program
The purpose of this program is to celebrate the
courage and integrity of Foreign Service personnel at
all levels who have challenged the system from within.