The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 17

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
NOVEMBER 2014
17
Our ability to help navigate a very complicated
international landscape in the pursuit of our interests
and values remains enormously significant.
East peace issues over the years. And we worked together on
what were then secret negotiations with the Libyans some years
ago.
And then I would mention Jim Timbie, another institutional
treasure. He has been working on nuclear and arms control
issues for a very long time, and I’ve worked very closely with him
on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Those are two people whose
names don’t often appear in public, but I think they reflect the
very best that this department has to offer.
Another superb public servant, Mary Dubose—who has put
up with me off and on for a quarter-century both in Washington
and overseas—is not only the finest Office Management Special-
ist I’ve ever worked with, but as decent and as skillful a profes-
sional as I’ve ever worked with.
And I’ve served with some wonderful Foreign Service
Nationals—I date myself when I say that, I should say Locally
Engaged Staff. Nadia Alami worked in public affairs at Embassy
Amman and did a terrific job when I was ambassador in Jordan.
But she is just one example of the many extremely talented and
dedicated Foreign Service Nationals with whom I’ve enjoyed
working over the years, just as you have.
RJS:
Absolutely. Let’s look for a few minutes toward the future.
Taking out your crystal ball, could you just give us some gen-
eral thoughts on how you see both professional diplomacy and,
specifically, the U.S. Foreign Service evolving to meet current and
future challenges?
WJB:
The world is obviously an increasingly complicated
place. Compared to the moment when I entered the Foreign
Service in January of 1982, power is more diffuse in the world—
there are more players on the international landscape.
Diplomacy is no longer, if this was ever the case, just about
foreign ministries and governments. It’s about nongovernmental
players. It’s about civil society groups and private foundations, as
well as the forces of disorder, whether it’s extremists or insur-
gents of one kind or another.
And on top of all that, information flows faster and in greater
volume than at any time before. So the challenges for profes-
sional diplomats are, I think, as great as I’ve ever seen them. But I
continue to believe that our work matters as much as it ever has.
Our ability to add value and to help navigate a very complicated
international landscape in the pursuit of our interests, remains
enormously significant. That should be a source of pride, not just
for our generation of Foreign Service officers, but for succeeding
generations, as well. And, fortunately, as I speak to A-100 classes
and to our colleagues around the world, I am continually struck
by the quality of the people with whomwe work.
RJS:
Y
es, I agree. We were just coming from an A-100 recruit-
ment lunch, and felt the same way, that there are incredibly
talented people coming in. What would be your specific advice to
the A-100 newcomers, and not just A-100, but all those in the early
years of their Foreign Service career? What should they be doing to
prepare for these future challenges?
WJB:
First, don’t take for granted the opportunity that you
have. Ours, I genuinely believe, is a life of significance. We do
work that matters with some exceptionally talented and dedi-
cated people. And that’s a rare-enough thing.
Second, I think you want to take some chances in your career,
as well. Learn new things, whether it’s working in a different
region, or learning a different language, or taking on a different
set of functional skills. I think all of those things are going to be
very important, because for the State Department, whether it be
the Foreign Service or Civil Service, staying ahead of the curve is
an unusually important challenge.
That’s why, as you look at issues that have been emerging in
recent decades, whether it’s climate change and energy security
(especially the energy revolution in this country and the oppor-
tunities strategically that that provides the United States), or
whether it’s global health issues (as we’ve just been reminded in
the midst of the Ebola crisis), diplomats have an extraordinarily
important role to play in dealing with those kinds of challenges.
Equally important is economic diplomacy, something to
which both Secretary [Hillary Rodham] Clinton and Secretary
[John] Kerry have attached a lot of emphasis. One of the things
I have always enjoyed most as a chief of mission is commercial
advocacy, trying to ensure a level playing field for American
companies overseas.
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