Honoring Excellence and Dissent

Letter from the Editor


This edition celebrates the recipients of the 2021 AFSA awards: the Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy, the Rivkin Award for constructive dissent by a mid-level officer and eight outstanding achievement awards.

The October 2021 AFSA awards ceremony honored the recipients of both the 2021 and the 2020 awards (AFSA did not hold a ceremony in 2020 due to the pandemic), and we were able to hear from most of them. That story is in AFSA News. The interview with the 2020 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award recipient Ed Perkins and the profiles of the other 2020 award winners were published in the December 2020 FSJ. Sadly, Ambassador Perkins passed away shortly after the interview. His daughter Katherine Perkins spoke on his behalf at the ceremony.

Our 2021 awards coverage kicks off with a great conversation with the recipient of the Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy, John Negroponte. From junior officer in Vietnam to Deputy Secretary of State, and a stint as the first director of national intelligence (DNI), Ambassador Negroponte has a message for all of us: “Government service is a noble calling, and a Foreign Service career is definitely worth pursuing.”

FSO Anny Vu is the 2021 recipient of the William R. Rivkin Award for constructive dissent by a mid-level officer. Her courageous work pushing back on Chinese influence in multilateral organizations from a position at the National Security Council meant standing up to internal political pressures.

FSO Erika Kuenne received the Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy for her work on support for Taiwan. Office Management Specialist Bridgette Huerkamp was selected for the Nelson B. Delavan Award for keeping the embassy community connected during the pandemic crisis in Bangladesh.

FS family member Alisse Sargeant received the M. Juanita Guess Award for a Community Liaison Office Coordinator for her outstanding support for Mission China as it was hit by the pandemic, and for sharing best practices to assist other posts.

The Avis Bohlen Award for an FS family member was given to Amanda Jager for her extraordinary support of the U.S. Embassy New Delhi community during COVID-19, and to Ivana Lawrence, for her work with expat families in Cairo.

Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Boyatt received the AFSA Achievement and Contributions to the Association Award (for a second time) for innovations he brought to AFSA over the past 20 years. Based on her work at Mission Jordan, USAID FSO Charlee Doom was selected as an AFSA Post Rep of the Year along with USAID FSO Randy Chester, who was chosen for his work at Mission Pakistan.

Our Cover Story—“When the Soviet Union Collapsed,” 30 years ago this month—contains two must-read pieces by retired diplomats who were there. James Goodby charts the course of the improbable but fortuitous U.S.-Soviet partnership between Reagan and Gorbachev that helped end the Cold War. And George Krol takes us back to 1991 St. Petersburg to offer “Practical Lessons for Today’s Foreign Service.”

Krol’s advice is evergreen, and I must bow to nostalgia and recall the wonderful spring of 1989 in then-Leningrad helping out at the overstretched consulate. We had strict contact rules then (only meet Soviets with a buddy), but it was the era of glasnost (opening up), and one could go almost anywhere.

I recall writing a cable on “Soviet Youth Today” to justify to the RSO my extensive out and aboutness. Today’s Foreign Service faces severe restrictions due to real security concerns, but we are seeing new movement away from total risk avoidance to risk management that can get diplomats out of fortress embassies. I hope we’ll hear from some of you about this.

In FS Heritage, Ray Walser goes back 80 years to “Recalling Dec. 11, 1941: When World War II Truly Began.” Beatrice Camp reflects on “An Upset in Budapest.” And in the Education Supplement, find notes for high school students on why and how to prepare for the SAT and ACT from David Huemer.

Do keep in touch, drop us a line or comment on our LinkedIn page. Best wishes for a peaceful, healthy 2022.

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.