The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2024 57 China: American Flag in Guangzhou DONALD M. BISHOP In 1998, in the elevator of the White Swan Hotel, near the American consulate in Guangzhou, I met two American couples with newly adopted Chinese daughters in new strollers. I greeted them, guessing they must be there to apply for the infants’ visas. One woman told me of her exasperation with the process. When they arrived at the orphanage, she said, the paperwork was confusing, and they had to stay two weeks in the small city, long delaying their return to the U.S. When they finally got to Guangzhou and wheeled the child to the consulate, the new mother said, “I saw the American flag, and I broke down and cried.” Worldwide: No Need to Pull Strings EVA J. GROENING I am an immigrant. Because of my native (hard) language knowledge and an unexpected staffing gap, the State Department curtailed me from my first assignment and convinced Diplomatic Security to allow me to be transferred to my country of origin. My epiphany of how unique the United States is, and how proud I am to be one of its diplomats, came as I was waiting to meet with the director of a leather factory, and his secretary chatted me up. She found it unbelievable that I neither belonged to “the party,” nor did my parents know “the right people”—I simply passed the exams and thus could join the U.S. Foreign Service. Honduras/El Salvador: Preventing a Border Bloodbath YVONNE THAYER The refugees in Honduras had for years endured bleak conditions, threats, and forced recruitment by Salvadoran insurgents. As head of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration’s refugee assistance for Latin America, I visited the camps several times to document their desperation. By fall 1987, some 7,000 refugees decided to defy U.N. and Salvadoran orders and return home: They would walk, babies and cooking pots strapped on their backs, to the fury of rebels and security forces alike. A potential bloodbath was averted when Salvadoran President José Napoleón Duarte, the UNHCR (the U.N. Refugee Agency), and the U.S. agreed that the refugees would not be stopped at the border at gunpoint. Instead they were escorted to designated safe areas inside El Salvador, where they continued to receive UNHCR protection and resettlement assistance. This precedent-setting arrangement took courage on all sides, especially from the refugees, and helped pave the way toward an eventual peace settlement. Japan: Setting the Stage IDA HECKENBACH When Nancy Pelosi visited Hiroshima in 2008, I read it as a sign of more visits to come. Our public diplomacy team jumped into cultivating long-neglected contacts. We arranged an informal visit by Ambassador John Roos in 2009 that garnered great press and public approval. After I had departed post, Amb. Roos returned in 2010 for a formal visit. Secretary John Kerry and President Barack Obama came in 2016, and President Joe Biden visited in 2023. Rarely do we get to see the results of our work years later. I am FS Proud that we set the stage for these important highlevel visits to Hiroshima. The Philippines/Hawaii: Rescuing a Peace Corps Volunteer KATHLEEN COREY The middle-of-the-night call in the summer of 1990 came from U.S. Embassy Manila. The New People’s Army (NPA) had kidnapped Peace Corps Volunteer Tim Swanson and was targeting other volunteers. All 264 volunteers were being evacuated to Honolulu, and I was to meet them there. For Tim’s safety, we couldn’t tell them why they’d been evacuated. The angry volunteers boycotted the sessions until the third day, when the NPA announced it had Tim, and we could finally tell them what had happened. After several weeks of intensive work by the Embassy Manila country team, Tim was released. Twenty years later, I mentioned the evacuation, without naming names, in an FSI leadership class I was teaching. Afterward, a regional security officer (RSO) came up and said, “That was Tim Swanson you were talking about, wasn’t it?” The RSO, it turned out, had served with Tim, who had joined the Foreign Service as a consular officer to help Americans in trouble.