Recognizing Excellence

Letter from the Editor


Every December, the FSJ celebrates and honors the recipients of the annual AFSA awards for constructive dissent, for outstanding performance and for lifetime contributions to American diplomacy. We continue that tradition this month, at the close of an unusual and difficult year—from the impeachment hearings that brought Foreign Service colleagues into the national spotlight as witnesses, to the COVID-19 pandemic that led to worldwide disruption.

Election Day in the United States was peaceful, and as we go to press, the transition to a Joe Biden presidency begins. At the same time, Donald Trump has yet to concede defeat, and on Nov. 10 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the press there will be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” We’re in for a bumpy ride to January.

COVID-19 caused indefinite postponement of the AFSA awards ceremony but did not deter us from recognizing excellence in the Foreign Service, as illustrated by the 13 recipients of this year’s awards.

Our coverage begins with an interview with Ambassador Edward J. Perkins, recipient of AFSA’s highest honor—the Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy.

While finalizing pages, we learned the sad news that Ed Perkins passed away on Nov. 7. We are grateful to have had a chance to hear him reflect on his journey. His story is inspiring, and his enduring optimism is contagious.

Editorial Calendar 2021

  • JAN-FEB: U.S. Diplomacy for the 2020s
  • MARCH: Notes to the New Administration
  • APRIL: FS Realities in an Age of Disruption
  • MAY: Polar Diplomacy & Climate Change
  • JUNE: Great Power Competition
  • JULY-AUG: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity: An Update on Progress
  • SEPTEMBER: 20 Years after 9/11—Diplomacy Lessons
  • OCTOBER: Afghanistan Today
  • NOVEMBER: In Their Own Write
  • DECEMBER: AFSA Award Winners

This year was not the easiest time for voicing dissent. Yet, in a climate that prized loyalty over honesty, colleagues spoke out and stood up, dissented within the system and tried to right policies and practices they saw as wrong.

Julie M. Stufft received the Christian A. Herter Award for a senior-level FSO for her work at the National Security Council advocating for protection of American citizens through strong travel advisory messaging in the early days of the pandemic.

Monica Smith also received the Herter Award, for successfully challenging the approach of the USAID West Bank and Gaza Mission to managing U.S. engagement in the water sector.

Jason Smith received the William R. Rivkin Award for a mid-level officer for his dissent regarding language used by Embassy Jerusalem in addressing different religious communities.

Lindsay Dana received the W. Averell Harriman Award for an entry-level officer for her successful efforts to change a gender-biased non-immigrant visa online application form.

Dave Heddleston received the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award for an FS specialist for successfully urging the State Department to reexamine certain overseas security measures.

The recipients of the 2020 Awards for Exemplary Performance all went “above and beyond” to support and strengthen their overseas communities.

Rick Bassett (Avis Bohlen Award for an FS family member) brought the community together through music in Liberia. Jenny McCoy (Nelson B. Delavan Award for an office management specialist) helped the community rebuild after a terror attack in Sri Lanka. Jennifer Mauldin (M. Juanita Guess Award for a Community Liaison Office coordinator) created a strong support network in Karachi, a post hit hard by COVID-19.

Two FSOs were selected to receive the Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy: Alexandra Shema helped strengthen Moldova’s fledgling democracy, and Rafi Foley championed efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela.

Jason Vorderstrasse (Contributions to the Association Award) has done more than anyone to honor forgotten diplomats who died in the line of duty overseas.

AFSA Senior Labor Management Adviser James Yorke (AFSA Special Achievement Award) has directly assisted thousands of AFSA members during 25 years with the association.

Beyond the awards, you’ll find a look at the Dayton Accords at 25, the commissary conundrum and managing college during a pandemic.

We’d love to hear from you. Please consider writing for the Journal in 2021. Best wishes for the year ahead.

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.