The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

86 JULY-AUGUST 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL STAY INFORMED. STAY CONNECTED. Speaker Spotlight: Retiree Outreach in the North Star State Since retiring from the Foreign Service in 2007, Bill Davnie has become a regular on AFSA’s speaker circuit. When he retired, he and his wife moved to Minneapo- lis, Minn., with no particular plans for staying active in the Foreign Service community. Within days of arriving in his new hometown from his final posting in Baghdad, however, Davnie read a “staggeringly naive op-ed piece about Iraqi refugees” in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Infuriated, and with what he calls the “street cred” of having just come from Iraq, he sat down and wrote a response.When his letter was published in the Star-Tribune the following week, it showed him a channel for deploying his experience in a new way and a new place. Davnie was happy to keep his AFSAmembership as a retiree, but he wasn’t aware that there are FS retiree groups outside of the D.C. area. Through a contact at Global Minnesota, a local world affairs council, he learned of an AFSA group in Minnesota that was actively working with the International Visitor Leadership Program and other exchange efforts, as well as supporting the Great Decisions network, which coordinates public discus- sions of foreign affairs topics. Davnie got involved in that program as a speaker, and soon met other retired FSOs in the area. The group gets together for luncheons with speakers several times a year. Davnie says they hosted Career Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Pickering when he traveled to the region, and they hosted former Vice President Walter Mondale, who lives in Minneapolis and served as ambas- sador to Japan. Several other non- career ambassadors also live in the region, and often join the group. Through the retiree group, Davnie met other retired FSOs, including Brynhild Rowberg, who joined the Foreign Service in 1944 and tells fascinating stories about travelling to her first posting, in Vienna, by following U.S. troops as they moved north through Italy. Other area retirees include Ambassador (ret.) Robert Flaten, who served as ambas- sador to Rwanda, and retired FSO Mary Curtin, who cur- rently teaches human rights issues and diplomacy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Both the Humphrey School and Global Minnesota invite FSOs to a variety of events, utilizing the real-world experience these retirees bring to their programs. One of the most interest- ing things Davnie has done in retirement has been man- aging a local census office for the 2010 census. The Census Bureau was looking for people who had managed multilevel organizations and who understood something of how federal systems operate. Davnie’s prior experience as a deputy chief of mission fit their needs, and in September 2009 he went to work as the manager of the Minneapolis census office, overseeing five assistant managers. By the following May, he says, “we had hired, trained and deployed over 1,000 office staff and field enumerators, and then by October 2010, we shrank ourselves down and shut the office.” Davnie is an active par- ticipant in AFSA’s Speakers Bureau, giving 10 or more talks each year to community and church groups or to par- ticipants in Global Minnesota. He encourages recent retirees who are interested in speaking publicly about their Foreign Service experiences to consider their own back- ground and interests in devel- oping topical presentations, to check in with AFSA for facts and background information about the Foreign Service and to reach out to local church groups or organizations such as the Rotary Club or Lions. “Let people know you’re willing to speak and invitations will follow,” says Davnie. AFSA has materials on its website for preparing presentations, as well as a template for a letter to introduce yourself to community groups that might be interested in hosting you. Unsure whether there’s an FS retiree group in your area? AFSA has a list of retiree groups on our website (www. ). If there isn’t a group nearby, consider starting one. AFSA would be happy to send out an email on your behalf to people in your area. You can also check with the closest World Affairs Council, or call up the political science or international affairs depart- ment at your local university, all of whom, says Davnie, are “likely to know of a retired FSO or two in your area.” For more on howAFSA can help with your outreach efforts, contact Retiree Out- reach Coordinator Christine Miele at . n AFSA/CHRISTINEMIELE Bill Davnie (on the right) with FSO Tom Hanson and AFSA President Amb. Barbara Stephenson.