The Foreign Service Journal, November 2015

74 NOVEMBER 2015 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS ADA I R MEMOR I AL LECTURE Ambassador Young on the Call to Serve Every year for the past nine years, the American For- eign Service Association has partnered with Ameri- can University’s School of International Service and the School of Professional and Extended Studies to host the annual Caroline and Ambas- sador Charles Adair Memo- rial Lecture. Made possible through the support of the Adair family, the lecture’s purpose is to elevate the profile of diplomacy and development, particularly among a younger cohort who may be con- sidering joining the Foreign Service. This year’s lecturer, Ambassador (ret.) Johnny Young, drew a crowd of more than 250 people for his Sept. 3 talk, “My Call to Service, Improbable Success and Some Lessons Learned Along the Way.” The event was held at A.U.’s Kay Spiritual Life Center in Washington, D.C. Young’s career spanned from 1967 to 2005 and included postings in Mada- gascar, Guinea, Kenya, Qatar, Barbados, Jordan, the Neth- erlands and Washington, D.C. His ambassadorships were to Sierra Leone, Togo, Bahrain and Slovenia. In opening, the ambassa- dor admitted that his humble beginnings growing up in a poverty-stricken region of the Jim Crow South did not make him a likely candidate for someday becoming one of the president’s highest- ranking envoys abroad. His story, however, is an example of how perseverance, good humor and, on occasion, luck can lead to unexpected and remarkable experiences. According to Young, his “conversion” to interna- tional service came out of a trip to Lebanon, where he represented his local YMCA chapter at a joint YM-YWCA conference. The thrill of tast- ing unfamiliar foods, encoun- tering foreign customs and forging unforgettable friend- ships led him to take and pass the FS exam. The 40-year FS veteran emphasized that, at seem- ingly every step, his path was shaped by mentors—such as then-Ambassador to Qatar Robert Paganelli and the late Ambassador Mary Ryan—who took him under their wings and opened the doors, at times through force, of professional opportunity. Their examples helped him understand the importance of nurturing future Foreign Service generations, which he endeavored to do through- out his career. Young credited his suc- cess to his people skills and personal philosophy of leadership, the foundations of which are rooted in his faith: “My strength was in my ability to work for, with and through people. I have tried to create the kind of environ- ment so that people who work with me and for me will want me to lead them.” When asked what his advice would be to students who would seek to follow in his footsteps, he simply said: “Don’t give up.” In retirement, Young continues to serve others. In 2006, he became the execu- tive director of the Migra- tion and Refugee Services Division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bish- ops, where he worked until this past February. He is now studying to become a Teach- ing English to Speakers of Other Languages instructor. To see the video of Young’s lecture, visit www. n —Maria C. Livingston, Associate Editor During the Q&A, Ambassador (ret.) Johnny Young offers his refusal to implement orders fromWashington to push Slovenia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (a move Ljubljana ultimately pursued on its own) as an example of knowing when “no action is the best action.” Audience members listen intently as Amb.Young recounts his experience as one of the first African-Americans to join the Foreign Service. AFSA/MARIAC.LIVINGSTON AFSA/MARIAC.LIVINGSTON