The Foreign Service Journal - September 2016
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As a professional association and labor union, AFSA seeks to

highlight achievement, outstanding performance and courage and

sacrifice within the Foreign Service community. AFSA’s construc-

tive dissent awards honor and spotlight those who work within the

system to change policy and performance for the better.

AFSA has sponsored a constructive dissent awards program,

unique within the U.S. government, for almost half a century.

The awards serve as a reminder of the important role of dissent.

Each year, AFSA calls for nominations for four dissent awards and

presents them during a formal celebration in the Benjamin Franklin

Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department. For more

information, please visit the AFSA website at


The Foreign Service Journal

continues to focus each year on

the role of dissent in democracy and, in particular, in the Foreign

Service. Here we call your attention to a selection of articles we have

published on this topic.

“Deconstructing Dissent,” by Amelia Shaw, The Foreign Service Journal , September 2015.

Amelia Shaw, the 2015W. Averell Harriman Award recipient, argues

that dissent is about integrity and speaking up about the things that

matter, regardless of what you think about the possibility for change.

Ms. Shaw received the award for her initiative and intellectual cour-

age in fighting for equal legal rights and protections for unmarried

women living along the U.S.-Mexico border, who face many obstacles

in transmitting their American citizenship to children born in Mexico.

“Cleaning the Air in New Delhi,” by Samuel Kotis, The Foreign Service Journal , September 2015.

Samuel Kotis, recipient of the 2015William R. Rivkin Award for Con-

structive Dissent, writes about using dissent as a tool to advance

a sensible, health-conscious approach to combating air pollution

in India. Despite initial resistance from superiors, Mr. Kotis com-

mitted himself to giving the Indian public access to data from air

quality monitors installed in U.S. mission facilities in the country.

This inspired new bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Indian


“What If I Disagree? Dissent in the Foreign Service,” by Ambassador Thomas Boyatt, excerpted from the book Inside a U.S. Embassy , 2011.

Ambassador Thomas Boyatt writes about the history and

significance of dissent in the Foreign Service. Foreign policy is

constantly evolving, never settled; FSOs take an oath to “uphold

and defend the Constitution,” swearing allegiance to their coun-



try rather than a certain administration. To fulfill that oath, they

must be able and encouraged to “tell it like it is.”

“Advise and Dissent: The Diplomat As Protester,” by David T. Jones, The Foreign Service Journal , April 2000.

Protests by Foreign Service officers may not have ended the Vietnam

War, but they did lead to the creation of the Open Forum and the Dis-

sent Channel. David T. Jones explains how the State Department was

forced to learn that it had to listen to widespread policy dissent if it

wanted to maintain a strong diplomatic corps (266, mostly junior,

officers resigned from the Foreign Service in 1968 alone).

“AFSA Constructive Dissent Award Winners: Where Are They Now?” by Shawn Dorman, The Foreign Service Journal , September 2013.

Eight Foreign Service members honored for dissent over the past 20

years discuss the impact of their decision to voice their opinion on

their careers and on U.S. policy.

“Some Thoughts on Dissent,” by John H. Brown, The Foreign Service Journal , July-August 2013.

John H. Brown argues that all government employees should

be free to speak their minds as openly as possible, but the term

“national security” is being wielded by many senior officials to pre-

vent them from doing so. Brown resigned from the Foreign Service

in 2003, after 22 years of service, in protest of the Iraq War.

“Integrity and Openness: Requirements for an Effective Foreign Service,” by Kenneth M. Quinn, The Foreign Service Journal , September 2014.

Kenneth Quinn, three-time AFSA dissent award recipient, describes

how his honesty and candor were often met with resistance and may

have cost him some jobs during his 32-year Foreign Service career.

But it ultimately allowed him to be proud of his role in our diplomatic

corps. He considers constructive dissent not just an option but a

responsibility, and encourages senior officials to treasure different

viewpoints rather than silence them.

“The Role of Dissent: In National Security, Law and Conscience,” by Ann Wright, The Foreign Service Journal , July-August 2013.

AnnWright, who resigned from the Foreign Service in protest of the

IraqWar, revisits her decision and reflects on its ethical implications.

She wrestles with questions such as,“How should public servants

go about challenging ill-considered policies?” and “Can one continue

working for a government carrying out policies one believes consti-

tute moral, ethical or legal failures?”

–Compiled by Shannon Mizzi, Editorial Assistant