The Foreign Service Journal, June 2020

52 JUNE 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS Plans for Public Outreach Campaign Shift In the April Foreign Service Journal , we shared plans for AFSA’s public outreach efforts aimed at broadening the U.S. Foreign Service’s domestic constituency. That campaign, which we planned to launch this spring and will now delay by a few months, will be focused on reaching out to new, nontra- ditional audiences to educate them about the Foreign Ser- vice and its role in keeping Americans safe. When the pandemic struck, the world’s atten- tion and worry shifted to watching the spread of the novel coronavirus across the globe. At the same time, stories hit the news about dedicated Foreign Service members who were working on the front lines to mount the response against COVID- 19 and bring Americans home safely. The work our Foreign Service colleagues are doing illustrates exactly the mes- sage of our planned com- munication campaign: The United States Foreign Service serves as the country’s First Line of Defense. For the general public, the work of U.S. diplomats may seem rather removed from their day-to-day real- ity. But today’s uncertain and unprecedented times provide a stark example of the importance of the U.S. presence around the world, helping Americans abroad but also working with other countries to keep Americans at home safe. Stories of the work dip- lomats are doing to repatri- ate Americans—and others like them, whether it be about the work of mem- bers of the Foreign Service in areas of cybersecurity, public diplomacy or climate diplomacy—illustrate how diplomacy is America’s first line of defense. These stories will help new audiences understand who we are and why our work matters. AFSA’s spring plans and timelines have shifted, including for Foreign Service Day, when we had planned to launch the public outreach campaign. Our engagement plan remains the same, however: to implement a community college initiative, to host webinars and participate in podcasts, and to host an educational event on Capitol Hill, among other things. We still need you, our members, to help make the campaign a success. We now expect its launch in late summer or early fall. As the world slowly returns to a new normal, we will reevaluate the timelines and reach out to you with further information. In the meantime, we are monitoring social media and continue hearing from our active-duty colleagues to stay abreast of what is happening in the field. We are actively incorpo- rating this material into our messaging and are exploring more robust use of virtual technologies. We are also building a First Line of Defense page for the AFSA website, where the general public will be able to access the many engag- ing and enlightening stories of Foreign Service work in service to America. As always, if you have any questions or stories, or if you are interested in being involved in this campaign, please contact AFSA’s Stra- tegic Messaging Coordina- tor, Nadja Ruzica, at ruzica@ During April, AFSA coordinated a letter-writing campaign for Foreign Service Day (which occurs on the first Friday each May). AFSA encourages members to send letters in support of the Foreign Service to their local media outlets. In one letter, which appeared in the Coastal Courier of Hinesville, Georgia, retired Information Management Specialist Vella Mbenna wrote: “As the new coronavi- rus pandemic continues its march across the world, members of the Foreign Service have been working around the clock to bring home thousands of Ameri- cans stranded abroad. My spouse is one of those mem- bers of the Foreign Service working…in one of the most dangerous posts. “These brave Foreign Service members have triple worries—worry about their families back in the United States or elsewhere in the world, worry about fellow Americans they are helping to return to the United States, and worry about their own personal health and safety. They worry, but they still conduct their duties as U.S. diplomats. They continue to serve as proud Americans.” We thank all of you who wrote letters to your local newspapers discussing the benefits that members of the Foreign Service provide to American citizens. n