The Foreign Service Journal - September 2015
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mmediately after being sworn in as

AFSA president on July 15, I turned

and administered the new Oath of

Office to the incoming AFSA Govern-

ing Board. We promised to do our best to

represent all members of the American

Foreign Service so that we can strengthen

the ability of the foreign affairs com-

munity to contribute to effective foreign


In a stroke of serendipity, our next

act, just minutes later, was to receive the

183rd A-100 class at AFSA headquarters,

welcome them to our profession and

invite them to join AFSA—the voice of

the Foreign Service. They, and indeed

the new USAID class I welcomed a few

days later, reminded me of myself when

I entered the Foreign Service almost 30

years ago—brimming with pride at hav-

ing been chosen and eager to serve my

country on a global stage.

I know AFSA State Vice President

Angie Bryan was similarly impressed

when she welcomed nearly 90 new spe-

cialists to AFSA on July 30. As Angie writes


her column for AFSA News this month,

the good news is that the Foreign Service

is attracting and hiring the top talent we

need for our vitally important work.

Our challenge is to make sure the

career path offered

by the Foreign Ser-

vice is attractive

enough to keep

this talent across a

full career—hence

my commitment

to a strategic, comprehensive look at the

Foreign Service workforce.

One of my key goals as AFSA presi-

dent will be to ensure a healthy, attrac-

tive career path for members of the next

generation so that, whatever their cone or

specialty, they have the same chance that

I did to grow and develop into Foreign

Service leaders.

I spoke to the A-100 class, as I will

speak to everyone during my tenure as

AFSA president, of the extraordinary

demands that are made of the extraor-

dinary people who answer the call to

serve. As part of our pledge to worldwide

availability, we in the Foreign Service

willingly agree—in fact work hard to

prevail in a highly competitive selection

process—to take on a career that requires

us to serve in remote corners of the globe,

often in unsafe and unhealthy conditions

of genuine hardship, where good schools

for our kids and decent jobs for our

spouses are scarce.

We willingly agree to rotate jobs every

two to three years as part of our competi-

tive up-or-out promotion system. While

that means that we never get to settle

comfortably in a job and a place we love,

we know that this is the path to the broad

range of experience we need to grow as

Foreign Service professionals and pre-

pare to lead America’s foreign policy.

Ours is a remarkable story of service,

of delivering for our country in the face of

unique challenges. I want us to own that

story, to take pride and find strength in it,

and to share it with the American people.

In the coming months, you will hear

more fromme about an enhanced out-

reach effort to tell our story and stepped-

up efforts to mentor and develop the next

generation as well as to support those at

mid- and senior-levels.

These, along with my pledge to take

a comprehensive, strategic look at

workforce planning, form the core of my

vision for my tenure as president.

Please count on me to do my very

best to make the Foreign Service stron-

ger so we can lead America’s foreign

policy and deliver for the American

people. I welcome your feedback and

will need your help, and I thank all of

you who have already stepped forward

to volunteer to pitch in.

I now invite you to find inspiration

in this edition of

The Foreign Service


, “Honoring Those Who Make a




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

Stepping Forward to Lead



Please count on me to do my very best to make

the Foreign Service stronger so we can lead

America’s foreign policy and deliver for

the American people.