Foreign Service Officers Make America Safer -- At Home and Abroad

Posted by Matt Rooney
January 18, 2008
State Department Officials Help During California Mudslides

Matt Rooney serves as Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination in the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

It was a perfect Southern California day -- perfect to give something back. About 50 of the senior-most officials working in Washington and at U.S. Embassies in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America to promote U.S. economic interests in the Western Hemisphere met last week in San Diego to study the latest trends in the region and coordinate the U.S. approach to our partner governments and the public. We had all watched the news of the recent wildfires in the San Diego area with concern, and we were delighted when the City of Escondido invited us to help with the recovery effort by filling sandbags for low-income homeowners threatened by mudslides.

Our conference was designed to focus on the rising importance of Asia and its impact on the Western Hemisphere, as well as the policy challenges of creating a financial and regulatory framework that helps ensure that the benefits of trade and growth are broadly shared in society. We were honored by leading speakers from academia, think tanks, the private sector and the U.S. and foreign governments. We studied the powerful impact that Asia's vigorous growth is having on the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the prospects for trans-Pacific ties to drive innovation and growth for the coming century. We learned the latest scholarship on how successful economies like Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru have translated economic growth into sustainable poverty reduction. Leading entrepreneurs explained how the "triple bottom line" approach -- combining profitability with environmental stewardship and social equity -- adds shareholder value while improving the long-term environment for business. We all went back to our posts of assignment with a much sharper focus on how the interests of the United States are bound up in the economic success of our neighbors.

Our work completed, a group of the conference attendees took Saturday morning to go to Escondido and take a direct hand in making America safer. Foreign Service Officers spend most of their careers abroad making America more prosperous and more secure, so it was satisfying to literally get our hands dirty helping out at home. And thinking that we helped save two homes -- two families whose homes survived the fires, only to find themselves exposed to the danger of mudslide after two weeks of heavy rain soaking in to the deforested hillsides -- gave us all a renewed sense of commitment to America.

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
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Syria
January 18, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

More lame P.R. from the State Dept. Well, there is some change going on, ooohhh nooo, not in U.S. Foreign Policy or the effectiveness of it and neither in the State of Affairs of the Middle East, those been the same for 40 years, they are the hallmark of the State Dept obsolescence, incompetence of the low achievers that runs it and most likely will remain unchanged, one Burn out another Burn in is the rule at State.

But Cheers... A change is made the sloppy paint jobs seen in all those Iraqi photos, evidence of the great progress the surge made were replaced with the shovel and sand buckets in Escondido, California.

Zharkov
January 22, 2008

Zharkov writes:

From the photo, 63.6% of the FSO corps is obese, so a few hours with shovel and sandbag is a good idea. Commitment to one's own physical conditioning is a prerequisite to a commitment to America. It pays to be physically fit for when the time arrives to climb onto the embassy roof for evacuation by helicopter.

David
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United States
January 22, 2008

David in U.S. writes:

During five decades of work in 42 developing nations, I observed that individual FSOs do achieve some positive results that benefit most of those they serve. When and where failures occur, it is almost always due to decisions made by U.S. policy makers who fail to fully understand the customs, culture, traditions, desires/ goals, language, and history of those we seek to help in the developed and developing worlds. All too often, U.S. policy makers have an "aura" of ignorance, arrogance, greed, and corruption. In recent years, these policy makers failed to consider lessons learned and they often make the same mistakes over-and-over. When individual FSOs fail, it is generally a result of "failed" leadership. Even with all these problems considered, some FSOs have made significant contributions benefiting all. With the advent of qualified and dedicated leaders, they could do even more to help achieve peace and well-being, worldwide.

David
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United States
January 22, 2008

David in U.S. writes:

In the past, as may occur again today, FSOs are asked to directly/indirectly support development or redevelopment efforts in high-risk areas. All too often, performance in such roles has been poor due to insufficient training as regards language(s), customs, cultures, and religion(s). In addition, instruction in indigenous social, economic, and political factors may be poor. Technical skills required are often lacking --as is safety or survival training needed to avoid harm, and sustain the effort(s). When any or all of this happens, it is usually due to a failure at the policy and personnel levels where assignments are made without due consideration of qualifications of those being assigned. It is simply not enough to want to do good, you must have the qualifications to do so.

Nobody
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Pakistan
January 22, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

Yes, they definitely help. I closely observed Ma'am Nancy Powell & Mr. Crocker and they not only did a good job but also showed a lot of courage. Mr. Nicholas Burns is leaving due to personal reasons and he too contributed. Ma'am Karen Hughes continues to do a good job in creating harmony, and Mr. Richard Boucher, just as his predecessor Ma'am Christina Rocca, leaves no stone unturned in pushing the governments of different nations to respect human rights, Dr, Richard Armitage used to win the respect of the masses with his mighty handshake and now Ma'am Condoleezza Rice charms the world with her charming smile. The masses do take note of these things and turn America-friendly. No, everybody doesn't hate America and it's a result of these hardworking people in the State Department within and without America.

Nobody
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Pakistan
January 23, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

I shouldn't have forgotten to mention the current officials connected with the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Pakistan but it's not easy to type online and remember everything one wishes to say.

Ma'am Anne Peterson, the U.S. Ambassador, Ma'am Kay Anske, the U.S. Consul General in Karachi and Mr.Bryndt, the U.S. Consul General in Lahore (I'm not so sure if I got the last name right because I have translated it from Urdu language). These officials have shown great courage and have been very active in visiting places and organization, untouched previously, showing the good side of America. These three officials definitely deserve praises for doing a very good job for their country.

Andy
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China
January 24, 2008

Andy in China writes:

Looks like the group had a good time and was able to promote the Foreign Service as well as give back to a community in need. Manual labor at a domestic location, I wonder what the FSO's in WHA will do next?

Nobody
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Pakistan
February 1, 2008

NB in Pakistan writes:

I finally got the names of the U.S. Officials in Pakistan. Ma'am Anne Patterson (not Peterson as I had written)the Ambassador, and Mr. Bryan Hunt (not Bryndt as I had written) the Principal Officer in Lahore. I had Ma'am Kay Anske's name right. My apologies to these officials. Yes, I repeat once again these three officials are really going a backbreaking job and deserve praises. Just wanted to correct myself.

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