Diversity and Service in Diplomacy -- A Distinctly American Story

3 minutes read time
Donald Yamamoto gestures during a press conference, Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at the U.S. embassy in the Chadian capital N'djamena.
Donald Yamamoto gestures during a press conference, Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at the U.S. embassy in the Chadian capital N'djamena.

Diversity and Service in Diplomacy -- A Distinctly American Story

In 1980, when I joined the Foreign Service, I was the only Asian-American in a class of almost 40 new officers. More than 30 years later, I am glad to see the face of the Foreign Service is becoming more inclusive and representative of the United States. Valuable work has been accomplished over the last few decades to advance civil rights for all American citizens and reinforce the importance of service. Both these ideals have had a lasting impact on my career as diversity in diplomacy has become increasingly important to the work of the U.S. Department of State.

The face of public service is also getting younger. Today, over 60 percent of Foreign Service officers have fewer than 10 years of service. As today’s increasingly young workforce seeks to advance U.S. interests, they are learning the tools of the trade against the backdrop of a highly complex security environment. This dynamic is similar to the dilemmas I faced throughout my career, as I led U.S. peace efforts in Eastern Congo, played a key role in the long border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea that threatened regional security, and served as human rights officer in Beijing, China during the tumultuous Tiananmen Square crisis in 1989.

In my recent role as senior advisor on personnel reform, I have the opportunity to help highlight the strength that lies in our diversity. My story includes Japanese parents who survived World War II, other family members went to relocation camps in the United States, and other family members joined the famed 100th / 442nd Battalion fighting for the U.S. Army in Europe. The story of my family is truly an American story and it shaped my perspective and approach to diplomacy as I served around the world.

In my current role, I’ve also enjoyed helping develop our Department’s talent to get the most out of our people for the benefit of the entire Foreign and Civil Service and all American citizens. It has been an honor to address the dynamic changes taking place in the State Department and underscore the critical role our employees play on the frontline of diplomacy advancing U.S. national interests on behalf of the American people. This work is more important now, than ever.

Our growth as a nation -- our continued effort to value inclusion and service  -- allows our increasingly diverse corps of employees to represent the best of the United States to nations around the world. Going forward it is critical that we share the story of how Foreign Service officers and State Department staff --  in today’s unprecedented era of global challenges  -- are making a profound difference in the lives of people, facing dangers, and bringing hope to future generations.

About the Author: Donald Y. Yamamoto serves as the Senior Foreign Service officer and Senior Vice-President at the National Defense University.

Go to https://diplomacy.state.gov/ and careers.state.gov to learn more.