The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2013

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2013 35 better accommodated the public’s desire for heroes. (That said, paper credentials such as Superior Honor awards have more impact on the public imagination than we may realize.) Fourth, the corollary to this principle is that the more politically potent your message, the more strenuously critics will look for material with which to discredit the messenger. The State Department behaved quite well in its public por- trayal of our resignations, but it helped that our closets seem to have contained no frightful skeletons. When the White House feels seriously threatened, any lapse from the rigorous personal integrity of the ideal diplomat will be used against you mercilessly. Fifth, the public responds warmly to sacrifice, but it must be real sacrifice or it doesn’t count. Rather than jump ship to a rival political party, disarm cynicism by spending time in the wilderness, ideally with the specter of famine draped compan- ionably on your shoulder. Finally, keep faith in the meaning of your deed. A new and excellent life awaits you, provided you take the message of your resignation as seriously as fellow idealists demand. I lost my sense of the importance of my gesture far too soon. My Best Decision I would resign better next time, but with resignation there is no next time. Never mind. A heartwarming number of people still come forward even now to thank me, perhaps because at a dark hour, my gesture seemed a welcome reaffirmation that our system was capable of better things. If that were the only result, my resignation would still be the best decision I have ever made. I encourage young people to take the Foreign Service exam, partly because so few other careers include the right to such a life-transforming last resort. Diplomats rationalize well and faithfully, serving America well and faithfully in the process. But as we grow in experience and influence, we must keep our moral and professional com- pass calibrated to that point—usually, but not always, comfort- ably remote—where integrity and love of country declare, “No further.” n