The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 13 Luncheon Group as a founding member. As I celebrate my 50th milestone in a few years, so will TLG. In 2007, TLG honored Amb. Perkins— author, dynamic leader, mentor, motivator, promoter of excellence, transformational diplomat—with its Pioneer Award. It was given in recognition of his outstanding service as a professional diplomat and his leadership as ambassador to South Africa and to the United Nations during times of great crisis. The award also recognized his cham- pioning, as the first African American Director General of the Foreign Service, the creation of a Department of State that reflects the diversity of America. And TLG saluted the ambassador’s service at the University of Oklahoma, where he continued to cultivate and mentor a new generation of foreign affairs professionals. LETTERS-PLUS M any of you have learned of the passing of Ambas- sador Edward J. Perkins in November. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted that longevity has its place. Amb. Per- kins lived an incredible life during his 92 years with us. Some point to the need to mourn the loss of this gentle giant. I, in turn, see the importance of celebrating the gain we received through his wisdom, experi- ence, presence and the profound impact he made on all of us. He was a godfather, colleague and friend to me for much of my adult life. In life we must recognize certain symbols. I am from Shreveport, Loui- siana. Amb. Perkins grew up on a farm in Monroe, Louisiana, about 1.5 hours from my home. We agreed that from where we started in life, it was highly unlikely that we would both enjoy careers at the State Department. My childhood home’s numerical address was 1407. I sent many holiday cards to Amb. Perkins at his Washington, D.C., apartment, which was also 1407. But the most profound connection was that I was born in 1973—the same year that Amb. Perkins was busy set- ting the stage to establish the Thursday Remembering My Mentor and Dear Friend BY STACY D. WILLIAMS RESPONSES TO DECEMBER FOCUS, “A Conversation with Ambassador Edward J. Perkins: 2020 Recipient of the AFSA Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy” Stacy D. Williams is chair of the Diversity Council in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. He has served as president of the Thursday Luncheon Group. When I first joined the State Depart- ment in 1997, my many mentors within TLG always pointed to two successful and consummate professionals who came before them: Career Ambassador Terence A. Todman and Ambassador Edward J. Perkins. Little did I know that I would be fortunate enough to have both men take a real interest in me. They were always present and took an active role in guiding my efforts to forge a successful career path. They supported my multifaceted initiatives to elevate and advance the goals of theThursday Luncheon Group as the group’s president. I first met Amb. Perkins shortly after the release of his autobiography, Mr. Ambassador: Warrior for Peace (Uni- versity of Oklahoma Press, 2006). My job within TLG was to greet him at the airport, transport him to the Army Navy Club and, the following day, drive him to Fort Myer, Virginia, for his book sign- ing. As any curious individual would do, I read every page of his book in advance of our encounter and learned that he had served as ambassador to Liberia, South Africa, the United Nations and Australia. I learned about his work as Director General, initiating theThomas R. Picker- ing Fellowship to increase diversity within the Foreign Service as prescribed by the Foreign Service Act of 1980. This program served, in turn, as the model for establish- ment of the Charles Rangel program. For many years, Amb. Perkins was always pres- Ambassador Edward J. Perkins and Stacy Williams celebrate the Thursday Luncheon Group’s 45th anniversary at the State Department in 2018. COURTESYOFSTACYD.WILLIAMS