The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2016
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ast month, I presented the formu-

lation the AFSA Governing Board

and staff crafted to explain to

those outside the Foreign Service

family what we do:

We deploy worldwide

to protect and serve America’s people,

interests and values.

I welcome your

thoughts and refinements, as well as your

feedback on how this message lands

when you use it with family, friends and

elected officials.

Now I want to update you briefly on

what we are doing to get that message

out—and encourage you to pitch in.

I am delighted to report that the Una

Chapman Cox Foundation has decided to

partner with AFSA to enhance outreach

efforts and support a multifaceted strat-

egy to reach numerous target audiences.

For example, through a new partner-

ship with the U.S. Institute of Peace, we

will multiply the impact of the successful

AFSA National High School Essay Contest

with this year’s theme of “Building Peace

through Diplomacy.” And we are reaching

out to high school social studies teachers

eager to have a member of the Foreign

Service guest lecture.

We are also exploring ways to provide

Foreign Service mentors to high school

and college students involved in Model

U.N. to help them role-play diplomats.

And we are also

exploring whether

we can incorporate

a segment on the

work of the Foreign

Service into the

curriculum of AP

history and government courses, which

together reach nearly a million bright and

aspiring students each year.

We will need similar strategies and

partnerships to reach American busi-

nesses and other audiences.

All of our work is supported by the

2016 AFSA budget passed at the Novem-

ber Governing Board meeting. The

budget is the key to better aligning AFSA’s

resources behind the vision and the strat-

egy I have laid out in these columns.

But fear not: the 2016 budget is a

model of fiscal responsibility, enhancing

AFSA’s capacity to do focused outreach

that improves public perceptions of the

Foreign Service while keeping dues at last

year’s level. That’s right: no dues increase.

Finally, a word about this edition of



, which takes on the important

and highly sensitive issue of mental

health in the Foreign Service. For the past

dozen years, the Foreign Service has been

under extraordinary stress after having so

many of our members deployed to war

zones. But it doesn’t take war duty to take

a toll.

As Acting State VP Bill Haugh notes in his AFSA News column, we will be

healthier and more resilient individually

and as an organization if we can acknowl-

edge that the toll of our service is real. I

congratulate the FSJ Editorial Board for

venturing into this territory and opening

up space for a conversation.

I remember talking to my doctor on

my return from two back-to-back tours

in the front office (as DCM and ambassa-

dor) of large embassies that followed two

years as deputy coordinator for Iraq. Did

he think the numbness in my hands, my

inability to sleep soundly, and my short

fuse with my family were due to some

chemical imbalance?

The doctor smiled, “One-third of my

patients are in the Foreign Service. You

know what’s wrong with you? Stress. You

need to exercise, eat right and take it easy.

Meditate. Swim some laps.” That was just

the advice I needed to get back on track. I

was fortunate that, in my case, some basic

lifestyle changes were sufficient.

I share that story with you in the hope

that owning up to my own vulnerability

will help weaken the FS taboo against

admitting that we are human, that our

extraordinary work makes extraordinary

demands on us, and that we need to take

care of ourselves—and each other.

As AFSA president, I pledge that AFSA

will champion clarity, transparency and

consistency in howMED and Diplomatic

Security address mental health issues,

and will work with management to lower

the barriers to seeking help and to improve

work environments.



Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Reaching Out



The 2016 budget is a model of fiscal

responsibility, enhancing AFSA’s capacity to

do focused outreach while keeping dues at last

year’s level.