The Foreign Service Journal, September 2013

44 SEPTEMBER 2013 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA CONSTRUCTIVE DISSENT AWARDWINNERS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW? D issent is a career killer! Dissenters go far in the Service! Which one of these statements is true? To answer that question, and help put AFSA’s four-decade- old dissent awards program into perspective, we looked back over the AFSA dissent award winners between 1990 and 2012. We reached out to winners in each of the four award categories for their thoughts about the impact of their dissent, and AFSA’s recognition of it, on both U.S. policy and their careers. If the responses from these individuals (one of whom rep- resents a group of 13) offer any guide, it appears that dissent- ing and being recognized for it does not usually harm one’s career. Many of the winners of the AFSA constructive dissent awards have gone on to serve as ambassadors and in other high-level positions. Only one officer in our group of respon- dents, Edmund McWilliams, feels that his dissent helped end his Foreign Service career, although that did not relate to the AFSA recognition. The others seem to have fared quite well FOCUS AFSA’S AWARDS PROGRAM inside the system following their dissent. Not one of them regretted their decision to speak out. As you will see from their thoughtful comments, the impact of dissenting on one’s career depends on factors such as: how and where that dissent is initiated, its substance, who is dis- senting and whether that person is in a good position to judge, what or even whom the dissent was opposing, and, frankly, whether the dissenter is proven to be right. Here, then, in their own words, are eight individuals who were honored for dissent within the past 20 years: Eric Rubin (State, William R. Rivkin Award for mid-level officers); Michael Guest (State, Christian A. Herter Award for senior-level offi- cers); Dennis Jett (State, Herter Award); Keith Mines (State, Rivkin Award); Diana Putman (USAID, Rivkin Award); Dean Kaplan (State, W. Averell Harriman Award for entry-level offi- cers); Edmund McWilliams (State, Herter Award); and Andre de Nesnera (IBB, Tex Harris Award for Foreign Service specialists). Note: All photos are courtesy of the dissent winners inter- viewed for this article. Shawn Dorman, a former FSO, is associate editor of the Journal and edi- tor/publisher of Foreign Service Books, AFSA’s book publishing division. Eight Foreign Service members honored for dissent over the past 20 years talk about the impact of their dissent, and AFSA’s recognition of it, on U.S. policy and their careers. BY SHAWN DORMAN