The Foreign Service Journal - October 2014 - page 7

his month let’s take a look at
two institutions of the Foreign
Service that deserve wider
recognition and appreciation.
e AFSA legal division and the Senior
Living Foundation of the American Foreign
Service are each important to our careers
and our moral well-being.
e legal teamat AFSA is an agent for
change. In U.S. history, change often begins
not through legislation or executive at
but in case-by-case legal challenges that
go beyond the individual context to alter
procedures, laws and eventually societal
at has been the way of the
AFSA legal team.
Here is one example from recent his-
tory. Two decades ago, being gay or lesbian
in the Foreign Service could have led to
a determination that one was an unac-
ceptable security risk, resulting in the loss
of one’s clearances and the end of one’s
e theory was that homosexuals were
susceptible to blackmail from foreign spies
based on their sexual orientation.
theory perfectly dovetailed with social
prejudices, but faced a problem: the lack of
factual evidence supporting it in individual
at is where AFSA’s legal
teamcame in. It represented
employees in security inves-
tigations and in grievances
before the Foreign Service
Grievance Board. AFSA’s
general counsel led an
amicus brief in the U.S. Court
of Appeals on behalf of a gay
Foreign Service o cer.
Over the years, AFSA lawyers, alongside
representatives fromGays and Lesbians
in Foreign A airs Agencies, continued to
challenge homophobic biases.
Today societal views have changed, and
policies are catching up. At the start of my
Foreign Service career, that wasn’t the case.
Personally, I wondered about the justi ca-
tion for this policy, but like somany others I
did nothing, unfortunately. And to be hon-
est, AFSA itself as an organization was not
in the forefront of challenging this policy.
AFSA lawyers were.
eir role in the
system is to advocate for individuals, and
they did their jobs well. In the end, they
also helped shape policy, under the old
common-law approach of one case at a
I had never heard of the Senior Living
Foundation before starting this assignment
one year ago. After working with Executive
Director Paula Jakub over the past year, I
want to report to you how vital this institu-
tion is.
e foundation supports retired Foreign
Servicemembers and their families who
need nancial help and personal
care. Here is the reality we are
all aware of: spending our lives
largely overseas oftenmeans we
have not built and sustained the
family and domestic networks
needed in retirement.
e foundation steps into that
gap and helps, fromone-time grants for a
wheelchair or hospital co-pay tomonthly
visits froma volunteer and support over the
course of one’s retirement.
e foundation
helps a lot of Foreign Service folks, more
than 1,200 since it started in 1988.
I have seen it intervene to prevent the
eviction of a Foreign Service widow, who
was selling her personal possessions to pay
her rent andmedical expenses. In another
case, a retired FS O ceManagement Spe-
cialist neededmonthly assistance as her
diabetes worsened and she was paying for
insulin out-of-pocket.
Here’s the problem: the Foreign Service
leadership of the foundation, people like
Joan Clark, Bill Harrop, Roz Ridgway, Alan
Lukens and Bob Blake Sr., are themselves
not getting any younger. We needmore
support from recent retirees and active-
duty folks to ensure that the foundation
remains healthy into the future.
If you want more information on ways
to support this worthy cause, please visit
the foundation’s website at or contact Paula Jakub at (202)
ese two institutions aren’t really
secrets, but they do deserve to be better
known. Each in di erent ways keeps us on
the straight and narrow.
Be well, stay safe and keep in touch,
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Two Secrets of the Foreign Service
The legal team at AFSA is an agent for change, and the
Senior Living Foundation helps retirees in need.
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