The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 19 Speaking Out is the Journal’s opinion forum, a place for lively discussion of issues affecting the U.S. Foreign Service and American diplomacy. The views expressed are those of the author; their publication here does not imply endorsement by the American Foreign Service Association. Responses are welcome; send them to A graceful motor launch named Hiawatha has been a well-loved presence in its host city of Istanbul since 1932. Now docked at a museum, it is still in diplomatic use. Ambassador Jeff Flake, his colleagues in Türkiye, and the Fund to Conserve U.S. Diplomatic Treasures Abroad have raised $300,000 toward saving this symbol of U.S.-Turkish friendship. Diplomatic Treasures Tell Our Global Story and Deserve Support The State Department manages more than 3,500 buildings in 190 countries. Of those deemed culturally, historically, or architecturally important, 15 percent are in UNESCO World Heritage areas, and 44 are listed in the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property. Secretary Antony Blinken calls it an “honor to preserve our landmark American properties abroad,” describing them as “physical representations of our longstanding diplomatic relationships.” In preserving them we face a tall order. The Paris residence alone, for instance, needs a breathtaking $200 million for deferred maintenance, upgrades, and restoration. Either we divest and downsize, deaccessioning our history, or we tell their stories and raise endowments for their care. We have begun to develop a more systematic approach to setting up endowments, which will take time. But there are always small steps we can take to raise the profile of our heritage assets. Our residences and chanceries receive many visitors, both in-person and virtually, and when time and resources allow, our colleagues have created materials to tell their stories. CH has begun to develop virtual tours, films, and studies of some properties for U.S. and local audiences. To celebrate the centennial of Villa Otium, our Oslo residence, U.S. Embassy Oslo enlisted a local celebrity to conduct a lighthearted tour on social media. The public reacted positively. On Wikipedia the entry for Spaso House in Moscow shows how to bring a place to life. We can do more to open up residences and embassies, mindful of security strictures, especially where cities set aside a weekend or a week to publicly showcase local landmarks. Independence Day celebrations at our heritage properties present opportunities to relate their histories with visual displays for host-country and American guests and the media. Developing awareness and a culture of caring for our notable properties and collections will take time. We have work to do to prepare detailed resources for those wishing to start endowments, but take a look at what the Fund to Conserve U.S. Treasures Abroad has accomplished in a short time to showcase the Tangier Legation, Paris residence, Istanbul’s Hiawatha, and “Washington at Princeton” (see And the fund has now been accepted for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign, allowing everyone to contribute. This year’s Foreign Service centennial and America’s coming 250th form a favorable backdrop to efforts on behalf of America’s diplomatic heritage. For those with an interest in American diplomacy and all it has done to advance our nation’s interests, now is a good time to answer the Secretary’s call to save the landmarks that tell our nation’s diplomatic story. n