Tragic Markers and Progress Milestones

Letter from the Editor


August 7, 1998: May we never forget.

I was on shift as a watch officer in the Operations Center on that fateful morning when the first call came in sounding the alarm about a bombing at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam. Within a few minutes, we got the call from Nairobi—the embassy had been bombed. It did not take long to realize the United States had been attacked.

This Aug. 7 will mark 25 years since the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, al-Qaida terrorist attacks on two U.S. embassies that killed more than 200 (including 12 Americans) and injured more than 4,000 in Nairobi, and killed 11 and injured 85 in Dar es Salaam.

For this edition, we invited Prudence Bushnell, who was U.S. ambassador to Kenya in 1998, and John Lange, who was chargé d’affaires in Tanzania then, to reflect on what we should learn from this tragedy. They do so in our cover story, “East Africa Bombings, 25 Years Later.” We also hear from Lee Ann Ross, USAID/Kenya’s deputy director in 1998, on “The U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund: What You Should Know.”

This month’s focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility—“DEIA: Foundations for Progress”—is the Journal’s fifth DEIA focus in the past three years. While we have covered DEIA issues in the past (see the extensive FSJ Digital Archive Special Collection), we turned a brighter spotlight on this in July 2020 following the killing of George Floyd and the beginning of a national reckoning on racism.

We have continued to explore and cover the progress and challenges of advancing DEIA in the foreign affairs agencies. In total, we’ve run more than 25 articles and Speaking Out pieces since July 2020, a majority of them written by authors of color.

Improving DEIA in the Foreign Service is a process, one involving individuals, institutions, and “culture.” In this edition, we look at foundations, the basis for further advancement—both historical foundations and those more current. We begin with a look at the first two years of the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI).

Several months ago, we invited ODI to submit an article on the work done and initiatives underway. In “DEIA Is No Longer Just ‘Nice to Have,’” State’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer, Ambassador (ret.) Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, describes the efforts of the ODI team. Her June 30 departure was announced as we headed to press.

FSO (ret.) Marianne Scott was senior adviser for DEIA for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and tells us what she learned in “Advancing Racial Equity and DEIA: Ten Truths of Implementation.”

A half century ago, the first employee organization at State was established—TLG (the Thursday Luncheon Group). In “Let Our Rejoicing Rise: TLG Celebrates 50 Years,” Yolonda Kerney and Krystle Norman tell the story of this foundational group.

Next, we hear from Marguerite Cooper, a retired FSO, about the early movement for women’s equality in the Foreign Service and at State, in “Through the Rearview Mirror: The 1970s Reform of Women’s Role in Diplomacy.”

In light of the recent changes to the worldwide availability requirements for Foreign Service entry, Senior FSO (ret.) Paul M. Carter Jr. tells of his own ultimately successful struggle in the 1990s to join the Service with family members who had medical conditions in “A 1996 Accessibility Milestone.”

Closing out the focus is an illustration of the changing cultural landscape from USAID FSO Jesse Gutierrez, who tells us he was inspired by more open conversations and by articles in the FSJ. He shares, for the first time publicly, his journey “From Undocumented to U.S. Career Diplomat.”

So much more in this edition is worth highlighting, including a Speaking Out from former FSO Sonnet Frisbie taking “Another Look at Reappointment”; an Appreciation for disability rights activist Judith Heumann; a personal account from 1975 Vietnam, “The Real Heroes in Getting Out of Saigon: U.S. Foreign Service Officers”; and AFSA President Eric Rubin’s “Fond but Cautionary Farewell.”

From the FSJ Editorial Board and staff, we offer thanks and best wishes to the outgoing Governing Board, and a warm welcome to incoming AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi and the rest of the 2023-2025 Governing Board.

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.


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