The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2011

FSJ: You passed it on the first try? RR: Yes, and then I took the oral here in Washington, where I was spending a semester at American Uni- versity. During my final semester back in Minnesota I got a telephone call from State saying, “We’re going to be forming the June 1957 class; would you be available for it? And what is your preference on an assignment — Washington, D.C., or overseas?” I chose Washington because I had not lived away from home, except for tak- ing American University’s Washington Semester program. And it seemed wise to learn how to live away from home before venturing halfway around the world. In addition, I came into the Serv- ice on language probation — I had taken Spanish but had not had any op- portunity to use it. By coming to Washington and getting accustomed to living on my own, I could room with some other young women and take my language course before I went out to Manila. So by the time I went overseas, I was a little older and a little more experienced, and had gotten my language requirement out of the way. FSJ: How many languages did you learn over the course of your career? RR: Four in all: Spanish, Italian, Norwegian and German. I got a 4/4 in Italian, and 3/3 in all the others. As for Finnish, that one I studied every morn- ing with a teacher, and I went back to the basics, reading fairy tales and things of that sort. There’s one line I can still recite that means: “There were once two princesses who lived in faraway China.” I learned enough to give a speech in Finland’s two languages: Finnish and Swedish, which was easy because of the Norwegian. I really practiced and I gave it at the Finnish-American Friendship Day convocation one year. FSJ: I bet that was a hit. RR: It was. But I never tried that again, because it just took so much time. FSJ: What were your first assign- ments? RR: After completing A-100, I was assigned to the Office of International Educational Exchanges. There I en- countered a group of women who had been in the Office of War Information during World War II and then came into the education exchange part of State. Then I went to Manila in 1959 for two years as one of three personnel officers, after which I came back to the Foreign Service Institute to study Ital- ian in preparation for my assignment to Palermo. I really enjoyed Italian — it was the language that, for some rea- son, suited me best. From 1962 to 1964 I was a visa of- ficer in Palermo where, once again, I found a group of talented female offi- cers. It was a great assignment. I have an idea that for many FSOs, their con- sular assignment is the one that brings back the fondest memories. I had been pushing for a political job for my next assignment, and when some inspectors came through, they thought they could help. Sure enough, along came an assignment to The Hague. But when I went to the airport to fly back to the States for home leave, I discovered that the Alitalia pilots had gone on strike! Meanwhile, there was a call from Washington instructing me to skip home leave and do a direct transfer to the Netherlands. I was at a colleague’s home waiting for flights to resume, so when the consulate called to pass the message, they let me choose whether I was still “officially” at post. I decided I really wanted to go home on home leave as planned — my mother had been recently widowed, and it was im- portant for me to get back to Min- nesota. And so it was decided that I had already gotten on the plane and was therefore not available for direct transfer. I spent the summer of 1964 inMin- nesota wondering what would happen to me, having given up a political as- signment I’d wanted. Then, out of the blue, I heard fromGeorge Vest with an assignment to a regional political-mili- tary affairs job in the office of NATO affairs, one of the most illustriously staffed offices in the State Department at the time. In a way, that began the second phase of my career. First there was what I would call the “growing up” phase, where I gained experience liv- ing overseas, acquiring a couple of lan- guages and developing some pro- fessional skills. And then I came back to Washington for a three-year assign- ment in EUR/RPM, from 1964 to 1967. FSJ: What was your next assign- ment as a political officer? RR: In 1967 I went to Oslo, where Margaret Tibbets was ambassador. It was a small post, so I got to work with her closely and see how she managed her relationship with the staff, with the Norwegian government and people, and how she entertained and managed her household. FSJ: Didn’t Ambassador Tibbets pass away recently? 58 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 1 1 “In my first assignments I worked with a talented group of women who were very willing to help a junior officer … sort of grow up.” — Ambassador Rozanne L. Ridgway