Sharing A State Dept Official’s Non-Partisan Comments on What Retired Foreign Service Officers and Others Might Tell International Friends About the Stability of Our Institutions

Given how many of us where associated with US government organizations with international obligations, I thought it might be appropriate and useful to pass on this blog post which highlights the careful and non-partisan comments of a State Dept official, who is a also a career officer, on what would be appropriate and helpful for the retired to share with those they know in this time of uncertainty.  Special thanks to the Marketing Department, which asked Joan and me to represent Collington at the American Foreign Service Day at State, last Friday.  That’s how I got to gather this.  I should add that we also gathered and shared ideas for how to build on our relationship with the magazine of the organization.  Please do feel free to spread around.

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As Posted on Richard Zorza’s Politics and Humor Blog.

At the American Foreign Services Association day at the U.S State Department on Friday, I got to ask John Hefferern, Principal Assistant Deputy Secretary, and a career officer, about what retired Foreign Services Officers could and might tell their friends around the world to make clear that America’s institutions are not crumbling. (See my prior general post on the need for this kind of outreach through international networks of professionals and friends)

I did the best I could to reconstruct his reply, so this is not an exact quote:

First, I would say that retired Foreign Service Officers can say, write, or do anything.

I would urge you to be vocal on US values, on the Constitution, on what we do internationally.

Tell people that there is not going to be chaos, that our institutions are not going to crumble.

Tell them to watch what we as a country say and do. Judge us by what we do, not by what might happen. Tell them that this kind of frank debate is what we do.

Our global role is not going to go away. The American people are vibrant and look outwards.

 I would ask that you avoid name-calling. Rather be positive in your description, and tell people how important it is to remember that most Americans agree with the essential bi-partisan consensus that has stood for more than 40 years in support of NATA and our commitments.

I would ask that you help us get that word out as much as you can

This pretty much speaks for itself — except that I would reiterate that this advice applies to all of us, particularly those who may have credibility in the rest of the world in our personal networks.

Lets think about how to engage as many people and organizations, academics, medicine, foundations, sports, media, business networks, professional organizations, in getting this kind of word out.  Remember that very very few of our friends in other countries have anything like our record of stability, and are therefore less likely to be able to understand the strength of enduring institutions supported by long term consensus.

I will try and follow up later with more ideas on how to do this oureach this most effectively.

By the way, I was at the gathering representing Collington, our retirement community, that has many residents who worked in the Foreign Service, and related international organizations.

3 responses to “Sharing A State Dept Official’s Non-Partisan Comments on What Retired Foreign Service Officers and Others Might Tell International Friends About the Stability of Our Institutions

  1. richardzorza

    Carl Brown Comments:

    Dear Richard Zorza,

    Unless I have misread your recent Collington Residents Association piece I must enter a demurrer.

    Your sentence “Remember that very very few of our friends in other countries have anything like our record of stability, and are therefore less likely to be able to understand the strength of enduring institutions supported by long term consensus.” bespeaks smug American exceptionalism.

    Much better, in my view, to deliver the message that we Americans are indeed worried by the proto-fascism and caudillismo that Trump represents. And we reach out to you in resisting this evil.

    Put differently, by emphasizing the stability of American institutions we inadvertently downplay the threat that Trump represents. Wrong message at this time.

    Carl

  2. Art Krueger

    Most interesting & relevant. Thanks for posting, Richard, and am glad that you & Joan could attend and represent Collington. I have long admired the role our Foreign Service plan in representing our country. But I am also pleased that you refer to the role of other US government organizations. Some of these are scientific, such as NOAA, USGS, & NASA.. Agencies that address our concerns for weather & climate, the oceans, the Arctic & Antarctica. If much of our interaction with the world is confrontational, the world’s scientific effort here is cooperative, respectful, and friendly. I am sure it will continue into the future.. Thanks again ………….. Art Krueger

  3. Jeanne Barnett

    Of course our foreign service is on the ‘front lines; of our relationships with the rest of the world and is critical not only in developing economic, political i and institutional ties but stimulating and encouraging as well the kind of people-to-people relationships that begin to transcend many cultural and other differences. The Cold War created an icy barrier between the US and Russia, China and other countries but when it finally began to melt a whole different world became possible, one not without its problems of course but profoundly more congenial and open. I of course watched this happen with China – almost a pariah nation when I first went in 1975 as I a member of the first American woman’s delegation and although now not exactly bosom buddies China and the US are once again ‘speaking to one another’ with some common language and concern. The flow of people back and forth – as tourists, students, business folk, diplomats, etc.- is now standard. Clearly a US President and a Chinese premier officially ‘opened the door’ but the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979 was critical to the development and enhancement of that relationship over the last several decades. I remember being in Beijing in the 1980s when US diplomats began showing up – one of them Carla Freeman’s father, Chas Freeman – and I recall going to event here in DC when the Chinese Liaison Office first opened, Now there are large and energetic embassies in both Beijing and Washington.

    But all this does not just happen without the skill and expertize of our foreign service.

    Jeanne Barnett