The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2023 31 Throughout his career, Amb. Tefft has received numerous awards. Among them are the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award in 1992, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Year Award for his service in Moscow in 1999, and the Diplomacy for Human Rights Award in 2013. He received Presidential Meritorious Service Awards in 2001 and 2005. Amb. Tefft holds a B.A. degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and an M.S. from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is married to Mariella Cellitti Tefft, a biostatistician and nurse who served with him at each of his Foreign Service assignments and contributed greatly to their joint effort to represent the United States. They have two daughters, Christine and Cathleen, who both live and work in the Washington, D.C., area, and two granddaughters. Editor in Chief Shawn Dorman conducted this interview with Ambassador Tefft in October. Joining the Foreign Service FSJ: What led you to a career in diplomacy? Ambassador John F. Tefft: As I entered my senior year at Marquette University in 1970, I was looking at a variety of future options, including studying for a Ph.D. in history, teaching history in secondary school, and seeking a position in government U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried (front second from left) and U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft (right) visit a checkpoint, Akhmaji, near the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia, which had broken away from Georgia, on Oct. 19, 2008. The visit came amid persistent tension along the edges of the breakaway region at the heart of the August war between Georgia and Russia. AP PHOTO/SHAKH AIVAZOV, POOL service. I had long been interested in international affairs, and applied for the Foreign Service. I surprised myself by passing all the exams. I was offered a position in the fall of 1971 and accepted. I was sworn in on Jan. 6, 1972. FSJ: What was notable about joining the Foreign Service in the early 1970s? What do you recall about the orientation and training from that time? JFT: The Foreign Service was coming off a period in which many officers were sent to the Civil Operations and Revolutionary/Rural Development Support (CORDS) program in Vietnam; this was a rural pacification and development initiative. My Foreign Service class was the first in many years that did not have officers assigned to CORDS. My life began at the Foreign Service Institute, which was then located in a high-rise building in Rosslyn. I took the A-100 course with 14 other officers; the State Department had a very restricted budget in those days, so we had one of the smallest classes in Foreign Service history. My wife, Mariella, took the “Wives’ Course,” as it was then called. I was young and inexperienced, so everything was new to me. But I was excited about a career in government service. When the assignments for our class came out, I was slotted for a rotational position at our consulate general in Jerusalem. It was a great first assignment, as I spent about half my time in