The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2024 7 Building on 100 Years of Service BY TOM YAZDGERDI Tom Yazdgerdi is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. PRESIDENT’S VIEWS As we celebrate the rich history of the Foreign Service in this centennial edition, I have been inspired by the dozens of entries we received for the Journal’s Centennial Writing Competition and the contributions for our “Foreign Service Proud: 100 Words for 100 Years” campaign. I was honored to be one of the judges for this writing competition that asked contestants to describe the ideal Foreign Service for the next century. There were so many creative ideas and compelling narratives that it was difficult to choose a winner and the two runners-up. The experience got me thinking about what I would want to see in the next 100 years for our Foreign Service. I would hope that well before that next milestone, we would see a Foreign Service that: • Fully supports its members, leaving us free to engage our counterparts overseas without worrying about our partners, our kids, our elderly parents, and our pets. • Promotes transparency and fairness in the assignments and promotion processes. • Has the resources for effective preventive and accountability measures that address bullying behavior and toxic work environments. • Values and supports generalists and specialists equally, and fully values locally employed staff, consular fellows, and Foreign Service family members. • Remains highly competitive to join but without systemic barriers that have reduced diversity. • Includes and respects all voices. • Continuously learns, accesses, and uses cutting-edge, emerging technology and data science to further its mission. • Receives appropriate funding from Congress to win the global strategic competition and where career ambassadorial nominees are respected, not subject to partisan intrigue, routinely confirmed, and account for the vast majority of chief of mission appointments. • Is, most important, supported by the American people, who understand the link between what we do and the security and prosperity of our country. We were bowled over by the number of our members who chose to take part in the FS Proud campaign. Reading these inspirational entries, it is impossible not to be filled with an immense sense of pride. What we do really matters. This is true on the macro level as we work through disasters, crises, and coups. But it also matters on the “human level”—as official Americans, we represent our country to the local government and demonstrate for their citizenry the best our country has to offer. What comes across in the FS Proud narratives is the sacrifice and dedication that are the hallmarks of our profession. If you’ll indulge me, I have my own FS Proud tale to tell: It was the fall of 2007, and I was the political-economic chief in Pristina. The talks between Serbia and Kosovo, meant to lead to an agreedon final status for Kosovo, were going nowhere. It was clear that the only way for Kosovo and the region to move forward peacefully was through independence. Under the ambassador’s skillful direction, my colleagues and I across the many agencies at post worked tirelessly with the staffs of the prime minister and president and individual members of parliament (MPs) to help lay the groundwork for what would culminate in Kosovo’s Feb. 17, 2008, declaration of independence. We assisted the Kosovars in drafting a constitution that secured their rights and liberties and in lining up support from influential countries so the declaration would have widespread credibility from the start. Showing the respect and admiration they had for the United States, the Kosovars asked for an American to participate in the committee to choose the new country’s flag and national anthem—and I was that American. They also honored us by having each MP sign the declaration of independence, recalling what our Founding Fathers did so many years ago. It’s not every day that you are present at the creation of a new country. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Foreign Service— no other profession would have offered me the opportunity to be an integral part of such a moving and historic event. Wherever you are, please use this centennial opportunity to share your FS story with your local media, representatives and senators, academic institutions, world affairs councils, and more. Thanks for what you do—and here’s to another 100 years! n