The Foreign Service Journal, September 2016

66 SEPTEMBER 2016 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS To Soar Like A Phoenix BY AMBASSADOR RUTH A. DAVIS The following is excerpted fromAmb. Davis’ acceptance speech. For a video of the event, visit video. Counselor Kenney, President of AFSAAmbassador Barbara Stephenson, colleagues, rela- tives and friends who have traveled from throughout the United States to be with us… I am particularly pleased to have been selected to receive AFSA’s Lifetime Contribu- tions to American Diplomacy Award because, AFSA and I have always been on the same wave length. Even in instances when I was Director General and we didn’t agree on the means of achieving our goals, we agreed on the fundamen- tal principal that the key to enhancing the effectiveness of the Foreign Service is through a focus on its people and the resources needed to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives. Thank you AFSA! You all know the legend of the phoenix—the bird that rose from its own ashes and was more beautiful and magnificent than ever.Well, I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and was raised in Atlanta, whose symbol is the phoe- nix. So I always believed that from ashes you could make beautiful things, from chaos you could make peace and from despair you could bring happiness. As a proud child of the South, I bear the scars of seg- regation and discrimination, but these scars ignited in me a passionate desire to make the world a better place. And so it came to pass, about half a century ago, when I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, early one morning I was out on the picket line protesting for a Black Studies program. At mid-day, I put my sign down, rushed to the airport, boarded a plane to Washington and entered the U.S. Foreign Service. The first thing I was required to do was sign an oath that I would not strike against the U.S. government. Oh my! I’ve been co-opted, I said, and never looked back! Everybody who knows me, knows that I love the State Department, that I believe it is a wonderful institution, and that the greatest honor of my life has been to serve this organization and the people in it … I learned early on what a valuable resource the people of the department are and fully agree with my former boss, Secretary Colin Pow- ell, who said: “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accom- plish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter, since endeavors suc- ceed or fail because of the people involved.” Someone once said that diplomats must think twice before saying nothing.Well, that formula just won’t work in this complex, tumultu- ous, rapidly changing world. The international challenges today are much more varied and seemingly more intense than when I joined the Foreign Service at the end of the 1960s …Today’s diplomat must be prepared to practice not just diplomacy, but mega- diplomacy. It is not enough to recruit the best and the brightest. The department must do everything possible to culti- vate the talents and grow the capacity of its people. That means continuous education and training sustained across an entire career. Nancy McEldowney, direc- tor of the Foreign Service Institute, told me: “We often say our people are our most important asset. But far too often we fail to put reality behind the rhetoric.We still push people out to post and into new jobs without giving them the benefit of full train- ing and preparation.We still have a culture that minimizes the value of study and reflec- tion. And we still do not put the necessary resources into training and education.” When AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Ste- phenson was dean of FSI’s Leadership School, she drove an effort to build a culture of leadership throughout the department. I applaud that effort and hope it continues. I also hope that more work will be done to strengthen a culture of learning, so that training is deeply valued, not just by individuals but by the department’s principals and in its operational policies. Good leadership recog- nizes that diversity is essen- tial in utilizing the best of America’s intellectual capital. It is incumbent upon the State Department, and those of you who are in leadership posi- tions, to continue and step up efforts to promote equal opportunity and inclusion for all American employees of the Foreign and Civil Service. I enjoy my continued “volun- tary”work with department officials on this issue. I hope they enjoy my help ... I thank AFSA for the singular honor of the Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award. I will value it and this day forever. I close by saying of my amazing career in the Foreign Service and my love for the Depart- ment of State that, short of being a multimillionaire, there is nothing that I would rather have done than to be a U.S. Foreign Service officer and an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United States of America—in a career where I could soar like a phoenix. n CREATIVECOMMONS AFSA L I FET IME CONTR I BUT I ONS TO AMER I CAN D I PLOMACY AWARD