Welcome to Dipnote

Posted by Sean McCormack
September 25, 2007
Sean McCormack During Morning Press Gaggle

Welcome to the State Department's first-ever blog, Dipnote. As a communicator for the Department, I have the opportunity to do my fair share of talking on a daily basis. With the launch of Dipnote, we are hoping to start a dialogue with the public. More than ever, world events affect our daily lives--what we see and hear, what we do, and how we work. I hope Dipnote will provide you with a window into the work of the people responsible for our foreign policy, and will give you a chance to be active participants in a community focused on some of the great issues of our world today.

With Dipnote we are going to take you behind the scenes at the State Department and bring you closer to the personalities of the Department. We are going to try and break through some of the jargon and talk about how we operate around the world.

We invite you to participate in this community, and I am looking forward to stepping away from my podium every now and then into the blogosphere. Let the conversation begin.

PS - We're new at this. It looks like we broke our own rule and used State jargon in our blog title. "Dipnote" refers to a diplomatic note. It is one of the many ways in which governments formally communicate with each other.

The dictionary definition of a diplomatic note is: "A formal communication between an ambassador and a minister (usually the foreign minister) of this host government or another ambassador."

Comments

Comments

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 16, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ John in Greece

Indeed, synthesis is the essence of creation. That is the beauty of global and international communication, forums where like minds with different perspectives can build on each other's knowledge to gain a wider scope of vision and thought. Now, instead of two vague ideas, we have two, more clearly defined inter-related ideas. Perhaps a duel channel mechanism? Where one or two "official" spokespersons can field the questions from journalists, giving another outlet for news agents to get the official word (and indirectly promote the blog) and another small group that can examine blogger questions, pick the ones that they think would contribute the most to the blog and answer them. I wonder how difficult something like that would be to implement? They have to read all the comments anyway. I believe that the gentleman that responded to the last posts, Forgerson, was a Public Affairs Specialist before this, so I'm sure he and the other folks on this crew would have some idea whether these ideas have any merit. Regardless, I'm interested in seeing how the Dipnote blog develops.

John, I like the way you think, I'll be keeping an eye out for your future posts.

What has started as a bright idea may end up becoming a powerful tool of interaction between the people "out there" and the "system inside." The more readers the blog can garner, the more opportunity the State Dept. has to explain it's positions, positively influence public perception, and rally support behind its policies. And, of course, people feel better and more relaxed when they know they are being heard and considered.

John
|
Greece
July 18, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Kirk in Kentucky -- I am sure they will do their best in DoS to promote the most intelligent Blog ever happened. However, we should not forget that DipNote is a newborn baby.

Sometimes, I'm in a hurry too, because I love the "baby" and I would love him/her to "talk" to me.

@ DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson -- I did not know about the Diplomats in Residence. Very interesting. Obviously it sounds like a powerful promotional tool. Keep up the good work!

However, with all the respect Sir, I would suggest that you should also consider the international perspective of the Blog too.

Maybe, you could also communicate -and promote the "site"- to Colleges and Universities outside U.S.A.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 21, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

I'd like to ask any who comes across this post, the Dipnote Bloggers as well, to state what were some of the most influential books in your life. The ones that have aided most in your understanding of diplomacy, personal development, human relations, and the like.

As for me:
Marcus Aurelius, To Himself.
The memoirs of the Roman Emperor taught me patience when dealing with others, keeping a balanced view, compassion, and cultivating inner resolve. It also was the book that introduced me to philosophy. I fell in love with this book and encourage everyone to read it.

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. Perseverance, ethics, being accountable to one's self, and temperance of character.

Other books: Man's Search for Meaning, Art of War, The Prince, Five Rings, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Prometheus Rising.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 21, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

When I was a little boy in the 60's, my parents were want to buy any door to door encyclopedia salesman's product in the interests of my education...which was a good thing.

But one series called "Lands and Peoples" put out by Time/Life (if I remember correct) was my first reading material on foreign affairs...at 7 or 8 years old.

In a way it was like a hugely expanded version of DoS Country notes you can access on the home page.

Sure broadened my understanding of the diversity among us.

Luke F.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
July 21, 2008

DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson writes:

@ Kirk in Kentucky -- Great minds think alike. We've been discussing a similar idea at recent staff meetings. In the near future, we'll be launching a feature focused on what U.S. diplomats are reading. In the meantime, you might be interested in the American Foreign Serve Association's Foreign Affairs Professional Reading List.

@ John in Greece -- Thanks so much for your kind words about the blog. We are pleased to hear that you enjoy reading it. Keep the suggestions coming!

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 22, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Luke Forgerson, DipNote Blogger

Fantastic idea! I am eagerly awaiting the implementation and sure the results will be resounding success. Whenever I finish reading a biography on some one I admire and want to emulate, the first question that comes to mind is, "What were the books this person read? What doctrines and works shaped this person's thoughts and caused them to take the actions they did?" Following up on that question has almost always netted me another great read. I think people will be excited and curious to know what's on desk and shelf of our U.S. Diplomats.

Also, thank you for that link. Now I have purchased 4 great looking books and will spend the next 5 days or so impatiently checking my mailbox!

Related, since military considerations are an aspect of diplomacy, I point interested readers to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's reading list:
http://www.history.army.mil/reference/CSAList/CSAList.htm

I personally recommend
"Leadership: The Warrior?s Art" by Christopher Kolenda (writer & editor),
"On Becoming A Leader" by Warren Bennis,
and,
"Thinking In Time" By Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest.

@ Eric in New Mexico

I had a similar experience, my mother bought an encyclopaedia set when I was young (it's crazy to think a $900, 30 book set, now fits on a $20 CD). I cannot accurately describe the positive impact it had on me (although sometimes I think she just bought it to shut me up, since I kept pestering her with all those "how come..." questions!) Judging by your interest in international affairs, it seems as if "Lands and Peoples" gave you a firm foundation to build on!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Thanks for the list Luke.

One thing probably influenced my interest in foreign affairs more than any reading of history, was personal interaction in somewhat impromptu and quite interesting "street diplomacy" over the years.

First time in NYC, 1989, standing in line at a pretzel stand across from the UN, what do I see? A Palestinian and a Hasidic Jew in traditional dress having an intense, but polite debate in English regarding Mideast peace.

Being a tourist, I did what tourists do, and asked them for directions...then mentioned that I couldn't help overhearing their debate, and could I ask them a question?

"Sure, why not?" one said.

I said, " How is it that the two of you can have this rational debate on the streets of America, yet the people of your homelands cannot on their own streets?"

They looked at one another and asked each other.."You want to answer that?"

So the fellow from Israel turns to me and says, " The answer to your excelent question is that we are standing on neutral territory.""Ah!" I said, gesturing to the UN building. " This I can fully understand, but tell me....If your two peoples cannot resolve this conflict in your homelands, when will you bring your conflict to our shores?"

They had no verbal answer to this, only a sudden realization that they already had brought it. So we all introduced ourselves, and they got a Bhuddist perspective on their troubles for what might have been the very first time for each of them. And I got their perspective on the issues in return.

Years before it manifest as terrorism here in the States.

John
|
Greece
July 23, 2008

John in Greece writes:

I think that this "book suggestion" conversation is one more outstanding highlight of our Blog's scope and vision. Please guys suggest an AMERICAN-ENGLISH dictionary too.

Nowadays, a good, reliable New World Dictionary is as important as an encyclopedia used to be when we were children. (now, the role of the encyclopedia is played by the internet -within the obvious dangers). Nevertheless, the meaning of the words remain and... words become stronger than they used to be!)

After I read your comments, I kept notes, I bookmarked books, I searched through the internet -- thank God there is "Amazon", because, for people like me overseas is not so easy to find good "international" books at the local stores... in descent prices.
However, exactly like Kirk, I will order some.

Eric and Kirk shared with us their pure experience with their first encyclopedia. What they described is exactly what we all felt when we "met" with our first volumes "in boxes". (I do not know about the States, but here in Greece, encyclopedias were delivered in paper-boxes back then).

However, the most important is that Mr. Luke Forgerson, Eric and Kirk made us -through their amazing writing- travel back and dream.

This is -- among other amenities -- the real, human face of this Blog.

We can travel!

Preben
|
Belgium
July 23, 2008

Preben in Belgium writes:

Dear,

I would like to make contact with Mr.Sean McCormack.
Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely
Preben

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 23, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Dear Sean:

Right now, Kosovars are being flame-throwered out of their family homes, and brought up on false gun charges by corrupt officials who are laundering drugs, arms and development monies with organized crime groups. Their businesses are being seized; and their lives are threatened if they complain or attempt to file charges. The UN, USG, and other authorities have yet to take action; and it is beginning to look like there is an international negative contract to create good news in the Balkans. What do you think?

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 23, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

First there was the Deck of Iraqi Cards

Now we have the Mosque Calendars

How about DIPNOTE t-shirts

Greatest Hits of Zarkhov? (a two-CD set)

The point?

State is very light on substance.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 25, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

Some people call it coincidence, some call it synchronicity, others might call it divine intervention. I don't know what to call it, but I just had the honor to meet the Ambassador to the US from Cyprus, Mr. Andreas Kakouris. Here I am, enmeshed the deepest I've ever been in the study of international affairs, with dreams to some day become a Foreign Service Officer myself, and I happen to cross paths with a man of such class who is doing exactly what I wish to do, it has left me a bit stunned by the sense of the ironic. To say that I was rooted to the spot in awe might be a bit of an over-statement, but not by much.

But first, let me qualify that statement. In my line of work as a humble night auditor at a local hotel, and a few instances outside of it, I've had the opportunity to meet a number of powerful and influential people, why just the other day I helped a man to his room and afterwards his golf partner confided in me that his friend's assets were around the tune of 40 billion dollars, another time an English gentleman stayed with us for several months who had been knighted and was the member of a prestigious Order, he had met the Queen of England on a number of occasions. Those are to name a few, and there are a couple more. So, though I come from poor and modest background, I am hard to impress. None of those people held any particular sway for me. But none of those people ever carried themselves with such an aura of dignity and calm as Mr. Kakouris. From the moment he checked in, it was obvious he was a statesman, for he had a regal but humble air about him. As he came down this morning we had a chance to chat. His stature and mannerisms were elegant, dress impeccable, his voice was of fine modulation -- pleasing to the ear, and his manner of utmost congeniality.

After he revealed his occupation I managed to get out: "I'd just like to say that I'm honored to be in the presence of such a distinguished individual as yourself."

He said: "It's just a title." Then he added some advice, "You take your job very seriously, but-", and he leaned towards me with a little twinkle in his eye, "never take yourself too seriously." And with that, he was off. I can't say I've been more impressed with some one in such a short amount of time as this, I'm sure I'll remember it for a long while.

One last thing that made an impression, as we were talking, the cab pulled up and gave a ring, but Mr. Kakouris did not rush off, instead, he made the cabbie wait, just a minute or two, until we finished our conversation. Most people, when the cab arrives immediately cut the conversation short, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, and scurry out the door to get back to their very busy and important lives, but not this time. For a person of his status to show the patience and deference to a humble night auditor like me, made me feel like a prince among peers. Like a million bucks. But it also really made me pause and think about how I treat others and if I do it as kindly as he. It's those kinds of quiet actions that speaks volumes about another person and their character. I wish Ambassador Kakouris the best and hope that some day, I too, will be a gentleman of such fine Stateliness and Integrity.

Jonathan N.
|
California, USA
July 26, 2008

Jonathan in California writes:

As a student considering a career in diplomacy, I have strong hopes that "Dipnotes" will be an informative tool for learning about a diplomat's life. I appreciate both the desire to promote public dialogue about current events and the effort to give readers a glimpse of life as a diplomat.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 29, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Any DipNote Bloggers,

I am curious. Since the launch of the blog in '07 and the accompanying reading of hundreds of posts and coordination between contributing authors, what has been gleaned from this operation? At the quiet end of a long day as you stare through your glass, be it water or wine, when your eyes are blurry and tired from all the reading, ears numb from the phone, what floats to the surface of the mind in relation to all this? What wisdom can be imparted for us interested readers?

John
|
Greece
August 4, 2008

John in Greece writes:

I will attempt to follow your very interesting question and query through this simple thought of mine:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/main/index.html

“NASA found water in Mars.”

Your question is tough (good question!) … For the simple comment I will post…
However, I will try…

How this (water in Mars) will affect our lives in the next 5 years?

I do not think it will at all, except the “scientific and industrial amenities” we are going to receive from this program-operation.

But, it will probably affect our lives in 10, 20… or 50 years.

Who knows?

We can even go there.

Mars!

So, it probably has a serious meaning and result.
(According to my opinion, DipNote does exactly the same! It creates healthy thoughts that develop global positive political and diplomatic decision making we may not understand right now, but we will...)

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 4, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ John in Greece

Great analogy! Thanks for sharing!

Ben
|
District Of Columbia, USA
August 6, 2008

Ben in Washington, DC writes:

My question is does the Department of State have an called "Office of Secure Transportation"?

I searched your web site and couldn't find a POC or any information. If this Office does exist can you please provide some contact information.

Thanks

Luke F.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
August 6, 2008

DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson writes:

@ Ben in Washington, DC --

The Office of Secure Transportation is located within the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.

You might also find information about the State Department's Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs' Transportation Division of interest.

Joe
|
District Of Columbia, USA
August 12, 2008

Joe in Washington, DC writes:

As a member of the Public Diplomacy Council, I noticed on your blog roll that the listing for the Public Diplomacy Institute takes me to an outdated page. A more active page is sponsored by the Institute's affiliate, the Public Diplomacy Council, available at http://www.publicdiplomacycouncil.org

The Council, well known to public diplomatists throughout State, requests a link on your blog roll.

Luke F.
August 12, 2008

DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson writes:

@ Joe in Washington, DC --

You'll be pleased to know that the Public Diplomacy Council is already on our blog list and now currently visible on our main page. We have about 20 entries on the blog roll, but only 10 are visible at any given moment. We are working to address this, and you should see some changes in the near future. We appreciate your suggestion and encourage you to continue reading and posting.

warren
August 17, 2008

Warren writes:

I hope your read this. I ran a cable tv company in Moscow for two years. I also traveled to 14 provincial cities working on the cable TV systems there. I have many Russian friends. I sat back for the last three years and shook my head whith what was going on. I met with many influential Russian Bureaucrats and in fact worked for one of bigger oligarchs. In preparation for my job I have read over 30 books on Russian history. So I think i am qualified to state the following

1. Once Putin controlled the oligarchs there was a clear order which was Russian control of commerce around the world. He let them amass as much wealth as possible to buy up everything they can. We let them do this why at the same time he pushed all US business out. Meanwhile the provides look like third world countries.

2. Your right they are still very mad about losing the speres of influence and will use military force to get them back. I am doing business in the Ukraine and believe me the Ukrainians are very worried at every level.

3. Your right you have to isolate them commercially. That means no visas period for any of their business men. The one thing that can make a difference is this and the UK should do the same. The population who recently has enjoyed travelling after years of confinement would react to this in a big way. All of western Europe should do this it would stop them in their tracks.

We don't have to worry about retaliation since we can't do business there anyway. I got the boot because Mayor Luzkov told my oligarch that no American was going run a communications company in Moscow.

I know is very complicated but we can influence what they do through commerce. Another case of our open society being taken advantage of.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 25, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

"The U.S. military says its airstrike on militants in Herat province killed 30 people, including five women and children, and it will investigate the Afghan report.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- President Hamid Karzai on Saturday denounced an airstrike by U.S.-led forces that his government said killed 76 Afghan civilians.

Civilian casualties are an extremely sensitive subject in Afghanistan, where the government has repeatedly pleaded with Western troops to exercise greater care to avoid injuring and killing noncombatants. Karzai broke down in tears during one such appeal."

Is this the fruit of our labors?

While our strategists play cunning war games for Great and Noble Causes, people scream in vain for restraint. Are we too cowardly to kill our enemies with our own hands but instead prefer slaughtering innocents with bombs? How can it be that the thought of these poor, little, broken bodies does not pierce through to our very hearts? Does it not make one pause and ask themselves if these calculated tactics cause more harm than good? Are we so proud of our high science that we must birth these machines of death that kill so many who do not deserve to die? Is there truly no other way? We struggle, vainly, to do righteous deeds, but instead our fingers bloody all we grasp. More children who will never stand-fast- struck with awe at the glorious rise of the morning sun. Now, more mothers feed the cold hungry earth- never again to feel the caress of their husbands or touch with tender care the cheeks of their babes. Another brother taken, another son lost. Try as we might, to bring peace, freedom, and prosperity, what cruel curse is it that causes us to trample underfoot very lives we seek to protect? Their blood stains our souls. Right now, as widows' cries echo through the night, Our American Dream is surly their unfathomable nightmare.

If this is the fruit of our labors, I'd rather starve.

Ronald
|
New York, USA
August 29, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Dear Secretary Rice:

Please do not allow President Bush to bomb the nuclear sites in Iran; just prior to the November Presidential election.

Thank you.

Eric P.
|
India
August 30, 2008

Eric in India writes:

In the recent violence that rocks india's Orissa state, several Christians have been killed and Churches burnt by Hindu mobs. The state government permtted this ethnic cleansing because it has as ally the Right wing Hindu BJP party.

After ascertaining facts from the Ambassador in new Delhi, I would like the State Dept to view Orissa's Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as it views Narendra Modi, Gujarat's Chief Minister for allowing the genocide of Muslims and ethnic cleansing in his state.

michael
|
Georgia
September 3, 2008

Michael in Georgia writes:

I am a victim if the Labelle bombing and I am asking Secy. Rice not to go to Libya before Libya keeps it's promised settlement and If she choose to go before Libya honor's it's settlement w/ the Labelle victims then she should stay there until the funds are actually transferred, no matter how long it takes because she will not be welcome back otherwise. Libya has honored all settlements with all the other countries with the exception of the USA.

William
|
Colorado, USA
September 3, 2008

William in Colorado writes:

I would like to write a few words to your agency about the critia task that you have met head on, as well as the on going events. I am someone who has traveled the world and it is truly impressive, your message of democracy. The world although still very dangerous in some area is becoming more subceptable to our ideas, way of life and the simple concept that this is in deed a great country. "Good job for your agency."

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
September 6, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

Dear Mr. McCormack or anyone else who is interested in answering this:

I read on the careers section of the State website that only about 10% of the applicants in a hiring cycle are accepted. Is this because those are the only people qualified for service, or is it that the current quotas are much smaller in proportion to interested applicants?

dao
|
California, USA
September 8, 2008

Dao in California writes:

I would like to point out that on his coming trip to Vietnam, the deputy sec of state Negroponte should ask Vietnam to release the 2 newspaper reporters who were wrongly imprisoned for exposing corruption. We can do more to help move Vietnam toward democracy and respect for human rights, freedom of speech and press. Thanks.

Luke F.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
September 8, 2008

DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson writes:

@ Kirk in Kentucky:

A colleague in Human Resources assures me that those are not the only people who are qualified for service. We have finite resources, so we can't hire everyone!

On a separate matter, the DipNote team hasn't forgotten your inquiry about lessons learned from our blogging experiences. We'll be sharing some insights soon.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 8, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Kirk, the last time I took the written portion of the exam there were some 15,000 applicants nationwide for about 400 open positions.

Long odds indeed. One would have had to ace the multiple choice (ACT type format) 100%, and lay the golden goose's egg in one's essay to even get to the orals in my opinion.

But it was an interesting challenge, and I may try again someday to be a part of the foreign service if that recruiter Luke referred me to actually gets back and replies to my email.

I'm sure he gets a few inqueries.

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