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AFSA and Smithsonian Partner on Foreign Service Outreach

A critical component of the

American Foreign Service

Association’s mission is to

conduct outreach and engage

the public to provide insight

into the life and work of the

Foreign Service.

As part of this effort, AFSA

partners every year with The Smithsonian Associates—

the largest museum-based

educational program in the

world—to present a daylong

seminar on diplomacy and

the Foreign Service.

This year’s event, held on

Aug. 11 and titled “Inside the

World of Diplomacy,” drew

more than 100 students, pro-

fessionals and retirees. The

first half of the day took place

at AFSA headquarters.

AFSA President Ambas-

sador Barbara Stephenson

opened by sharing her

insights on a day in the life

of an ambassador. Pass-

ing around her stamp-filled

diplomatic passport, newspa-

per clippings from countries

where she has served and

unique souvenirs she’s picked

up along the way, Amb. Ste-

phenson’s personal account

of the Foreign Service as an

exciting and rewarding career

resonated with the audience.

Matthew Palmer, a career

Foreign Service officer and

director for multilateral affairs

in State’s Bureau of East

Asian and Pacific Affairs, fol-

lowed suit. Speaking on the

ins and outs of the Foreign

Service, he offered a primer

on the Department of State

and the role of embassies.

In addition to regaling the

crowd with his FS adventures,

Palmer spoke to the need

for flexibility in one’s career.

This flexibility is every Foreign

Service member’s hallmark,

given the demands and rigors

of a career spent hopping

from country to country and

living in sometimes harsh or

dangerous settings.

For Palmer, that flex-

ibility paid off when a prized

assignment was unexpectedly

switched, ultimately leading

to his meeting his wife at the

new post.

After an engaging Q&A on

U.S. foreign policy priorities,

congressional appropria-

tions and the balancing act

between managing risk and

effective diplomacy, the group

spent the afternoon at Main

State learning about the Ops

Center and Foreign Service


Another successful

program on the books, AFSA

looks forward to continuing to

partner with The Smithson-

ian Associates to help tell the

Foreign Service’s story.


—Maria C. Livingston,

Associate Editor

AFSA President Barbara Stephenson describes the issues she worked

on while serving as ambassador to Panama, including the Panama Canal

expansion project and bilateral free trade agreement.


Changing of the Guard at Tales from a Small Planet

Tales from a Small Planet,

the nonprofit dedicated to

providing resources and post

and school reports for Foreign

Service families and other

expats, has selected a new

executive team.

Foreign Service spouse

Leslie Jensen has assumed

the role of executive director,

and the group’s new board is

composed of longtime board

member Patricia Linderman,

John McDaniel, Nicole Schae-

fer-McDaniel, Susan Shirley,

Kathi Silva, Rima Vydmantis

and Kristi Zilbauer.

Created in 2000 by a

group of Foreign Service

spouses who had previously

collaborated on the


Underground Newsletter


Tales from a Small Planet has

helped thousands of profes-

sionals and their families

evaluate potential postings.

It has also provided a use-

ful forum for sharing the joys

and frustrations of a mobile


As the new leadership takes

over, Tales is also reinvigorat-

ing its online presence. Please

follow them on Facebook at and on Twitter at @realpostre- ports. As always, their exten-

sive collection of post reports

is available on their website,



—Ásgeir Sigfússon,

Director of Communications