The Foreign Service Journal - September 2017
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actions. It is truly difficult not to become emotionally involved

when you know what’s at stake.

Therein lies the danger. The entire process is emotionally

charged for the adoptive families—from the anticipation of

bringing a child into the family, to the financial commitment, to

the uncertainties of a long and complex procedure in a foreign

country. But it is also an emotional experience for the consular

officer overseeing the case. Emotions can cloud judgment,

making officers more willing to overlook potential problems.

Certainly, the temptation exists to approve an adoption case to

fulfill a family’s dreams.

When confronted with wrongdoing or malfeasance, a differ-

ent set of emotions comes into play. Many of us might prefer to

confront a flawed policy with either resentment or apathy. But

such feelings distort the message and ultimately undermine

the legitimacy of a reasoned and constructive dissent. Had I

responded emotionally, it is doubtful I could have changed any-

thing about adoptions in Uganda.

Still, I found the process of dissent itself emotionally draining.

Like others before me, I worried about the ramifications of my

actions. Would I have the ambassador’s support? Would Wash-

ington block me from future jobs because I openly voiced my

criticisms? In the end, to do the right thing, I had to push aside

these concerns. I had to rely on the facts in front of me, as we all

must if we are to do our jobs correctly.

Difficult as it was for me to take this path, I know it was the

correct one. The messages of support I received from colleagues

around the world are sufficient proof that dissent remains a criti-

cal part of our profession, and that we must all have the courage

to speak out when the evidence is clear. We may be filled with

unfamiliar or contradictory emotions in the course of our lives

and professional careers, but we should never let them cloud our

judgment in deciding what is right.


In the end, to do the right thing,

I had to rely on the facts in

front of me, as we all must if

we are to do our jobs correctly.

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