The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

54 MAY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL One evening the renowned cellist and human rights defender Mstislav Rostropovich performed in the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Hall. Exiled from the USSR many years earlier, he had found a home in the United States as the musical director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. After the concert I was invited backstage. As I introduced myself and held out my hand to thank him for a moving performance, Rostropovich instead enveloped me in a bear hug and said: “Allow me to thank you, as the representative of the country that gave me and my family refuge at our moment of need.” I was caught by surprise and profoundly humbled that such a great artist would thank me, a mid-level FSO, for something I clearly had nothing to do with. But I was also proud that, for a moment, I was not just an FSO but something much greater—I was the embodiment of a country respected and admired around the world for its defense of human rights and willingness to help the persecuted. Honduras: 47 Orphans Under One Roof CHERRY GWYN CREAGAN The 180 mph winds of Category 5 Hurricane Mitch that had punished the island of Guanaja and the North Coast of Honduras diminished as the storm moved inland and headed straight for the capital. Rain had been falling for four days in Tegucigalpa, where we lived alongside a million Hondurans. Torrents of water transformed normally placid streams, sweeping away everything in their path: giant boulders, trees, bridges, houses, cattle, and people. My husband, Jim Creagan, had been ambassador there since 1996, and our oldest son, Kevin, was visiting. We were worried about the children in the orphanage on the riverbank, where I had worked for two years. We couldn’t reach the nuns. Horrified, we watched the TV coverage of rising waters destroying all but one bridge separating us from them. Kevin said: “Mom, I’ve got to go to them.” I was terrified that the last bridge wouldn’t hold. But he went. That night Kevin saved all 47 children and sisters just before the orphanage was inundated. He brought them to our residence, where they lived for the weeks it took to repair their home. During that time, Jim worked nonstop, coordinating rescues using U.S. troops, organizing distribution of food aid and supplies, and even at one point rescuing the president of the country. The outpouring of help from people all over the United States was tremendous. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush, and many from Congress came to Honduras to pledge support. We were so proud of our fellow Americans’ response and happy our Foreign Service family could make a difference. Washington, D.C.: USAID on the Hill ANDREW PARKS My proudest experience as an FSO occurred in 2023, when I served on the Hill as a USAID-sponsored legislative fellow. I was a foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward Markey, who gave me freedom to propose and pursue any ideas I had to offer. I took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve USAID programs and broader foreign policy. For example, on behalf of the senator, I wrote an oversight letter to the Administrator that distilled the history of USAID’s workforce challenges and underscored solutions. I also used my experience in Haiti to draft a letter to President Joe Biden that laid out a framework for improving Haitian security and addressed the humanitarian crisis there. Finally, I drafted legislation that, if passed, will push the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the pet import burdens for U.S. government personnel serving abroad. Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. More than 9,000 deaths and 9,000 missing were attributed to Mitch, making it the second-deadliest hurricane in history. DEBBIE LARSON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS