President George Washington signed into law the creation of the State Department in 1789 and ever since Americans have represented the country abroad. Today as America’s diplomats continue to serve and sacrifice in over 250 embassies, consulates and missions overseas we are pleased to observe Foreign Service Day and salute the men and women of the nation’s diplomatic corps. It’s a time to reflect on the important work of American diplomats who work on the front lines around the world — in many challenging, sometimes dangerous places — to advance the interests of the United States.
To understand the basic work of America’s Foreign Service consider the words of distinguished career diplomat, Ambassador Chas Freeman, writing in “Diplomacy as Risk Management, “The ideal outcome of diplomacy is the assurance of a life for the nation that is as tranquil and boring as residence in the suburbs. And, like suburban life, in its day-to-day manifestation, diplomacy involves harvesting flowers when they bloom and fruits and berries when they ripen, while laboring to keep the house presentable, the weeds down, the vermin under control, and the predators and vagrants off the property. If one neglects these tasks, one is criticized by those closest, regarded as fair prey by those at greater remove, and not taken seriously by much of anyone. Viewed this way, the fundamental purpose of U.S. foreign policy is the maintenance of a peaceful international environment that leaves Americans free to enjoy the prosperity, justice, and civil liberties that enable our pursuit of happiness.”
We also know that the work of the Foreign Service is not always akin to suburban tranquility. We have only to look as far as the evening news to keep up with the toll taken on the men and women who serve and the sacrifices of their families. Consider the 248 names on the Memorial Wall Plaques at the entrance to the State Department which carries the inscription, “Erected by the American Foreign Service Association in honor of those Americans who have lost their lives abroad under heroic or other inspirational circumstances while serving the country abroad in foreign affairs.”
Today is a day to learn what these intrepid patriots face in their day to day work advancing America’s interests, security and prosperity and to build bridges around the world.
To start we are sharing with you a Letter to the Editor of The Tennessean from Tennessee World Affairs Council board member and retired career Foreign Service Officer, Ambassador Charles R. Bowers. Below you will also find links to a video and remarks by newly sworn Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Lastly we are attaching a link to the full-length documentary, “America’s Diplomats.”
“Narrated by Kathleen Turner, America’s Diplomats goes inside the Foreign Service and behind the scenes of American foreign policy, uncovering the origins of the Foreign Service and the dangers diplomats face far from home, featuring John Kerry, James Baker, Samantha Power and some of the world’s most renowned diplomats.”
Honor foreign service
Charles R. Bowers
As one who retired from the U.S. State Department with more than 30 years of government service, and as a resident of Nashville, I am proud to have been a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.
However, I continue to be surprised at how little is generally known about America’s diplomats. We serve at 270 posts around the world, often in hard and dangerous places, working to protect America’s people, interests and values. We are America’s first line of defense, working in tandem with our military brothers and sisters to protect and defend our nation.
In 1996, the United States Senate designated the first Friday in May as “American Foreign Service Day.” It is on this day that members of the Foreign Service around the world and here at home come together to recognize and celebrate the thousands of people who commit their lives to serving the U.S. abroad and the impact their work has on us all.
This year, that day is May 4, so this week is an ideal time for anyone interested in what diplomats do and how they do it to learn more about the 16,000-member- strong United States Foreign Service.
I consider myself lucky that my diplomatic colleagues are hard at work 24/7 around the world, seeking to promote U.S. policies, level the playing field for U.S. businesses, open markets for U.S. agriculture and achieve wins for America.
With all the threats to U.S. security and prosperity out there our nation needs to field a top-notch diplomatic team, or risk forfeiting the game to our enemies.
— Charles R. Bowers, U.S. Ambassador (retired), Nashville
Ambassador Bowers is a retired career member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, Ambassador Bowers served in the American Embassies in Panama, Poland, Singapore, Germany and Bolivia where he was US Ambassador. During tours of duty at State Department headquarters in Washington D.C., he traveled to over 75 counties on negotiating, fact-finding and trouble-shooting missions. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1995. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee and serves on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee World Affairs Council. [more]
Secretary Pompeo Remarks at the State Department — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the keynote address at a Foreign Affairs Day event for active and retired State Department employees. [Video]
Remarks at the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Memorial Plaque Ceremony [Full Text]
“…So today, as we remember the fallen during this solemn occasion, we grieve for these heroes. We pray for their families and their friends and colleagues. But we must also keep our eyes fixed, knowing that a more stable and peaceful future is ahead because of the legacy they have helped us achieve. Every day, we get up with a goal in mind, remembering that the sacrifice we all make makes freedom possible, and we channel their dedication and their commitment to propel us forward. Thank you all…”
“America’s Diplomats” – Narrated by Kathleen Turner, America’s Diplomats goes inside the Foreign Service and behind the scenes of American foreign policy, uncovering the origins of the Foreign Service and the dangers diplomats face far from home, featuring John Kerry, James Baker, Samantha Power and some of the world’s most renowned diplomats.
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THE MISSION of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tennessee World Affairs Council is to promote international awareness, understanding and connections to enhance the region’s global stature and to prepare Tennesseans to thrive in our increasingly complex and connected world.
THE VISION of the Tennessee World Affairs Council is a well-informed community that thinks critically about the world and the impact of global events.
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