THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
ON EXEMPLARY PERFORMANCE & CONSTRUCTIVE DISSENT
Members of the Foreign Service
regularly grapple with
the professional and moral
dilemma of dissent.
BY HARRY KOPP
Former FSO Harry W. Kopp was deputy assistant
secretary of State for international trade in the Carter
and Reagan administrations. He is the author of
several books on diplomacy, including (with John K.
Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign
, published in its third edition by Georgetown University
Press in July.
t is hard to believe now, but there was a time, still within
living memory, when presidents talked like this: “Let
every public servant know … that this administration
recognizes the value of dissent and daring—that we greet
healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change.
Let the public service be a proud and lively career.”
That was President John F. Kennedy on Jan. 30, 1961,
in his first address to Congress on the State of the Union.
Then just 10 days in office, Kennedy sought to dispel the
stifling air of suspicion and conformity in which the loyalty
oaths, security investigations and anti-communist hysteria of
the previous decade had smothered the federal workforce.
For the Foreign Service and the Department of State, Ken-
nedy’s words were especially welcome. Under pressure from
Senator Joseph McCarthy and his supporters, the State Depart-
ment in the 1950s conducted a purge of employees who had
expressed nonconforming views, conveyed unwanted informa-
tion, engaged in unconventional behavior or associated with
someone who had. Hundreds of civil servants and Foreign
Service officers were fired or marginalized, their careers and