The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

66 APRIL 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL excitement and encouragement to fully embrace this career. Now I know how much they persisted. So should we all. Jane Carpenter-Rock is a recently retired Foreign Service officer with a 20-year career at the U.S. Department of State. Most recently she was director of the Orientation Division at the Foreign Service Institute, and prior to that, she served as the deputy director of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. She is currently deputy director for museum content and outreach at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. II: Feeling Seen By Maryum Saifee The film “The American Diplomat,” a PBS documentary chronicling the lives of three Black ambassadors during the Cold War— Edward Dudley, Terence A. Todman and Carl Rowan—felt bittersweet to me. On one hand, it was sobering to absorb just how actively the State Department fought to keep women, people of color and other groups deemed “unfit” on the periphery. But on the other, as a diplomat of color, I felt seen as a part of my institution’s story for the first time. It was the first time I’ve seen diplomats of color portrayed not just as protagonists in America’s history, but as heroes representing the very best of America and the very best of diplomacy. I have three takeaways: (1) For our institution to heal, we need to reckon with our own history with honesty and humil- ity; (2) to make our foreign policy credible and thereby effective, we need to reconcile contradictions between our domestic record on human rights and the narratives we project abroad; and (3) our future is bright if we can channel the courage of the ambassadors featured in this film. Reckoning with History On Feb. 1, on the anniversary of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in, Secre- tary of State Antony Blinken named the State Department cafeteria after Ambas- sador Terence A. Todman. The Secretary’s speech highlighted Ambassador Todman’s exceptional accomplishments—not for a diplomat of color, but for all diplomats of all time. He wove in beautiful anecdotes about how Todman had excelled and spoken truth to power, not just in deseg- regating department dining facilities as an entry-level officer, but his creative savvy and diplomatic skill later in his career negotiating with Fidel Castro to open up the first U.S. interests section in Havana. Having the Secretary of State recount our history, in its entirety, with such elo- quence and humility is needed to both heal the generations of us who have felt unseen, and inspire all of us to continue striving to live up to the ideals Todman and so many of our institution’s heroes embodied. Reconciling Contradiction The film’s tagline, “first-class patriots abroad, second-class citizens at home,” is a lived reality for many diplomats of color today. How do we credibly represent our country’s greatest ideals abroad—free- dom, dignity, equality—when we fall short at home? There is a powerful scene in the film in which an Indian journalist introduces Carl Rowan, whom President John F. Kennedy would later appoint to lead the U.S. Information Agency, as “an excellent propagandist for America.” The journal- ist goes on to ask: “We are all interested in how a man with a Black skin who has been unable to know freedom can talk so learnedly about a free society?” As the United States was trying to steer countries, including nonaligned nations like India, away from communism during the Cold War, our domestic record on race was a roadblock. For all diplomats, and especially diplomats of color, when our record at home is routinely called into question, our messaging on democracy, human rights and equality falls flat and, often, is exploited by our adversaries. The more we can take steps to recon- At a Feb. 1, 2022, ceremony, the State Department cafeteria was named after Ambassador Terence A. Todman. From left: Patricia Todman, FSO Maryum Saifee, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Terence Todman Jr., FSO Yolonda Kerney and Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley. COURTESYOFMARYUMSAIFEE