The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

72 APRIL 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL In 1995 at the G-7 Summit in Halifax (Canada), Secretary of State Warren Christopher was meeting with the Japanese nance minister. Somehow the o cial notetaker did not show up, and I, lingering at the site as the control o cer for U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, got pulled into the meeting to take notes. When I entered, the two delegations were already seated. I saw no vacant chairs, so I crouched down in a corner and opened my notebook. Secretary Christopher started to welcome the Japanese delegation, then stopped midsentence, and said in a loud voice, “Get that man a chair!” After the meeting ended, the two delegations marched o to their limousines, and I stood on the curb. I was unsure about my next step. I was serving as the economic o cer at U.S. Consulate General Toronto and had been sent on temporary duty to help the team at the summit. I knew I had to write up the meeting immediately and send a cable back to Washington, but the how and where of that was not obvious. en, a window rolled down and Secretary Christopher said to me, “Michael, get in the car.” I wrote up the report and felt like I was at a high point in my Foreign Service career. Earlier in the month, a short story I’d written had won rst prize in a competition sponsored by e Toronto Star. Get That Man a Chair BY MICHAEL VARGA REFLECTIONS After a stint in the 1970s in the Peace Corps in Chad, Michael Varga became a Foreign Service o cer, serving in Dubai, Damascus, Casablanca, and Toronto. He served as the desk o cer for Lebanon and was a Pearson Fellow at the World Trade Center in Miami. He is a playwright, actor, and writer of ction whose columns have appeared in many newspapers and journals. To read more of his work, visit On June 4, Canadians woke up to my face on the front page of the newspaper. It was a heady time. But I also knew that things were likely to take a turn very soon. b I had tested HIV-positive in the 1980s, and my doctors had already warned me that my life expectancy at that point was a mere 18 months. ere was no e ective treatment for AIDS or HIV. It was a grim time, and I had no reason to think COURTESY OF MICHAEL VARGA I would be any di erent than the hordes of patients who had already succumbed, who were deprived of a normal life span and the opportunity to grow old. I had applied for a disability retirement but knew it was going to take months for the State Department to approve it. When the approval came through, I moved to Cape May, New Jersey, to write my Peace Corps novel. I knew I had a limited window to get the novel written before I became too gravely ill to care about it. b en the miraculous happened. New drugs became available. Suddenly I could imagine living beyond 1997. Maybe even make it to 2000. Ah, to dream of a few more years. Michael Varga (far right) escorts the Lebanese delegation into the State Department for peace talks with Israel, 1992.