The Foreign Service Journal, May 2013

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2013 21 DIVERSITY AND CULTURAL COMPETENCE : MISSION-CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF U.S. FOREIGN POLICY To prioritize diversity, organizations like the State Department must think boldly, beyond the legacy paradigms of “affirmative action,” “diversity” or “inclusion.” BY ERNEST J . WI LSON I I I I n today’s globalizing, fast-changing, networked world, the capacity to turn diversity to one’s advantage is critical. It is not just a nice thing to do; it is a must. As America and the world have changed dramatically, diversity has become a widespread organizational imperative—from Google to the Defense Department. Yet if we agree that “diversity” is essential to achieving orga- nizational goals, how do we define it in practical ways? How do we embrace it while maintaining other essential values? And Ernest J. Wilson III is the Walter H. Annenberg Chair of Communica- tion and dean of the Annenberg School of Communication and Jour- nalism at the University of Southern California. A former National Security Council staffer and an Africa specialist on Capitol Hill, he has also been a consultant at the World Bank and the United Na- tions. He is the author of Diversity and U.S. Foreign Policy: A Reader (Routledge, 2004). This article is adapted from his keynote address on “Diversity, Inclusion and U.S. Foreign Policy,” delivered at a June 7, 2012, panel discussion at the State Department. FOCUS DIVERSITYWITHIN THE FOREIGN SERVICE how do we confront challenges like the fact that the percent- age of people of color at the State Department is declining, not growing? Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited me to chair a panel designed to address the issues of innovtion and diversity. Very senior people in the department partici- pated in our deliberations, as did members from the private sector, higher education and other government agencies. We were charged to develop proposals to better foster innovation and promote diversity at State, on the assumption that the department was operating in a turbulent international environment requiring 21st-century statecraft—and 21st-cen- tury talent. To carry out this responsibility, I drew on many years of experience observing and participating in the design and con- duct of U.S. foreign policy from multiple vantage points: as a member of the senior National Security Council staff, an Africa specialist on Capitol Hill, in foreign policy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and