Page 38 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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38
SEPTEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
WHATMAKES SOMEONE
AN AMERICAN
CITIZEN?
The idea that American customs and
values should be a factor in determining
who becomes a U.S. citizen may soon be
a thing of the past.
BY JAMES R I DER AND SHANE MYERS
James Rider, an FSO since 2009, is assistant cultural afairs ofcer in
Tel Aviv. His frst posting was Caracas, where he encountered the issue
for which AFSA named him this year’s winner of the W. Averell Harri-
man Award for constructive dissent by an entry-level FSO.
Shane Myers, an FSO since 2009, was Mr. Rider’s supervisor in
Caracas and joined him in pursuing his dissent.
H
ere’s a question they don’t ask
on the Foreign Service Exam:
What is an American?
If you haven’t thought about
that, you should. As diplomats,
we represent the interests of
Americans to foreign govern-
ments, help protect and serve
Americans living or traveling
abroad, and explain “American” policy to foreign publics. So
what exactly makes someone an American?
If you’re a consular ofcer, your answer to this question
is likely legalistic: An American is anyone who has U.S. citi-
zenship or fulflls the legal requirements for acquiring U.S.
citizenship. If you are a public diplomacy ofcer, your answer
is probably more philosophical: An American is someone
who adheres to the fundamental customs and values that
make America what it is: diversity, love of freedom, respect for
democracy and an appreciation of fundamental civil rights.
Both defnitions are correct, of course. In fact, for most of
our history U.S. immigration law has used the philosophical
FOCUS
AFSA’S AWARDS PROGRAM