Recognizing Achievement, Looking Ahead

Letter from the Editor


Each December The Foreign Service Journal honors the recipients of the annual AFSA awards for constructive dissent, outstanding performance, and lifetime achievement. We also include a story on dissent more broadly as a way to remind FS members that internal debate on policy is a valued tradition in the Foreign Service.

All Dissent Channel messages go to the Secretary of State through the Policy Planning Staff (S/P). The story of this unique vehicle for critical thinking is told in our Cover Story, “The State Department Dissent Channel: History and Impact,” by historian Sara Berndt and FSO Holly Holzer (who recently served as S/P deputy director). It is particularly timely given the current discord in the foreign affairs agencies over the U.S. response to the Israel-Hamas war and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

As Tom Yazdgerdi highlights in President’s Views, “Constructive Dissent Is Vital,” AFSA offers annual dissent awards to FS members who speak out—through the Dissent Channel or any other vehicle for internal debate—about a policy they believe is misguided or wrong.

This year’s constructive dissent award recipients are Mark Evans (Herter Award for a senior FSO), Alexander Douglas (Rivkin Award for a mid-level FSO), and Christophe Triplett (Harriman Award for an entry-level FSO). We profile each in this issue.

Ambassador John Tefft received the 2023 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award. It was my great pleasure to connect with him for our interview, “Meeting Post–Cold War Challenges.” He reflects on decades of experience in Russian and Eurasian affairs from a unique vantage point having served as ambassador to Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Lithuania.

Writing for the Centennial

Looking ahead to the centennial year for AFSA and the Foreign Service, please consider how you might lend your voice to the discussions about the future of diplomacy, development, and the U.S. Foreign Service. One way is to submit an essay for our Centennial Writing Competition. Entries are due Dec. 15, so get out your pens! The top prize is $5,000. Find details at

Write for the Journal in 2024. We are always looking for great ideas and submissions on any topic relating to the Foreign Service, from current challenges (Speaking Out) to diplomatic history (FS Heritage) and everything in between (Features, Reflections, FS Know-How, Family Member Matters, Book Reviews, Letters to the Editor, and photos for Off Road and Local Lens).

We welcome your pitch for a Focus section article (themes listed at We accept submissions on a rolling basis. Go to and click on Author Guidelines for more.

The 2023 Awards for Exemplary Performance were bestowed on the following members of the Foreign Service community: Katie Leis (Delavan Award for an office management specialist), Marina Grayson (Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy), David Burnstein (Palmer Award), Erin Cederlind (Guess Award for a community liaison office coordinator), David Baugh (Bohlen Award for an FS family member, honorable mention), Felix Peng and Paige Puntso (AFSA Post Representatives of the Year), and Ken Kero-Mentz (AFSA Achievement and Contributions to the Association Award).

Last, but by no means least, the Foreign Service Champions Award went to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

The Speaking Out from USAID FSO Yikee Adje, “Promotion Unicorns and the Case for Humility,” offers lessons on leadership gained from her survey of successful FSOs. In the Feature, “Operation Nica Welcome,” FSO Kate Applegate tells the story of the 2023 flight that brought 200 political prisoners from Nicaragua to start new lives in the United States.

In the Education Supplement, Dr. Chad Nelson updates his 2013 FSJ article, “A Parent’s Guide to Psychoeducational Evaluations,” that has been a popular resource for FS families. FS teen Natalie Aucoin asks in Family Member Matters if we’ve “Ever Heard of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets?” And in Local Lens, FCS Officer Martin Claessens offers a winter scene from Ontario.

Write us at We look forward to hearing from you!

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.


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