Celebrating the Foreign Service and AFSA Centennial

May 24, 2024, will mark 100 years since President Calvin Coolidge signed the Foreign Service Act into law, combining the consular and diplomatic services and creating the professional U.S. Foreign Service.

For a century, Foreign Service members have represented the United States of America at home and abroad, in times of war and in times of peace. They have been participants in and eyewitnesses to historic events. They have managed and advanced U.S. relationships worldwide, laying the groundwork for peaceful solutions to complex and often dangerous global challenges. This proud history is driven by everyday heroes who choose to serve their country at home and abroad.

To appropriately honor this milestone, AFSA has planned a yearlong celebration to raise awareness about the role, contributions, and history of the Foreign Service. We also plan to look ahead to the next 100 years by celebrating the next generation of talented and dedicated people of the Foreign Service.

Telling the Story of the Foreign Service

We are honored to announce that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has agreed to serve as the chair of our Centennial Honorary Committee (for the full list of committee members, click here).

We have a lot going on this centennial year. In May, AFSA will host a gala in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room for the official centennial celebration. We are collaborating with several presidential libraries across the country to host Foreign Service exhibits. We are also developing a short video that celebrates the most valuable resource in diplomacy—its people.

The 2024 AFSA National High School Essay Contest invites high school students to consider the centennial and share their ideas on the future of the Foreign Service. Our regular outreach programming—Diplomats at Work, Inside Diplomacy, Speakers Bureau—will touch on the centennial, and we are working with partners, including select World Affairs Councils, to host programs celebrating the Foreign Service.

We are also infusing the centennial into our ongoing engagement on Capitol Hill, using this opportunity to educate the congressional community about the contributions and importance of the Foreign Service. And AFSA is advocating for an anniversary resolution from Congress.

You’ll find centennial articles throughout the year in the pages of The Foreign Service Journal, beginning with this edition’s kickoff cover story on AFSA at 100. Each edition will include a profile on one of AFSA’s “good works” supporting the FS community. Expect articles and commentary from great names in the profession, past and present. And look for the winning essay from the FSJ’s Centennial Writing Competition in the May centennial edition.

We will share all this activity on our social media channels, and, as always, we invite AFSA members to help extend our reach by sharing with your own networks.

Celebrating AFSA Members

This year also marks 100 years of the American Foreign Service Association as the “voice of the Foreign Service.” AFSA is here to support, defend, and protect the institution and people of the Foreign Service. We plan to use these dual anniversaries to celebrate you, our members, beginning with a happy hour in February.

Join us for this and other events throughout the year, including a “birthday party” in the spring. We will invite you to join a spring launch event for the updated edition of The Voice of the Foreign Service: A History of the American Foreign Service Association, by Harry Kopp.

As with any proper celebration, we will launch fun and fresh new merchandise so you can show your Foreign Service pride.

We are working with AFSA Post Reps on the possibility of hosting local centennial celebrations, sharing ideas and materials to help mark the occasion. This will also be an opportunity to recognize the important contributions of locally engaged staff members.

Foreign Service Day on May 3 will also be a time to celebrate, and we are glad to hear the State Department plans to return to a full Foreign Service Day schedule, including the traditional lunch in the Ben Franklin Room honoring our retirees.

We hope you will stop by AFSA for our annual Foreign Service Day open house on May 2. And we will reach out to Foreign Service retiree associations across the country about how we can support their local centennial events.

Here’s to a year of recognition and celebration, but also consideration of where we go from here and how we can best support U.S. diplomats and development professionals as they navigate an ever-changing world.