Thursday, May 4, 2017

Gems from Diplomat School

So what do they teach us in Diplomat School, more correctly known as the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)? I'm getting training on Africa, public diplomacy, cultural affairs, security, and more in preparation for my first tour. I thought I'd share a few gems I've absorbed in the first part of my training.

  • Africa is fascinating. It's so important for so many reasons and insanely diverse, to boot. I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve my country there.
  • "A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in a way that makes you look forward to the trip."
  • "It's not about who you know. You should know right off the bat that's wrong because it would be, 'it's about whom you know' anyway."
  • "Live somewhere two weeks: write a book. Live somewhere two months: write an article. Live somewhere two years: don't write anything." This seems to be a pretty eloquent way of referencing the Dunning-Kruger effect (where the less you know, the more you think you know).
  • I love one admittedly apocryphal story of George Shultz as Secretary of State. The story goes like this: Secretary Shultz would call each new ambassador into his office after he or she had been assigned to a post. He would present the new appointee with a globe and say, "Point to your country." After the ambassador pointed to his or her country of assignment - Finland or Japan or Peru or wherever it was - Secretary Shultz would turn the globe and place his finger on the United States. He would remind them, "This is your country."
  • Finally, I have a Public Diplomacy-specific quote from the former Director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA, or PD before it was integrated with the Department of State) to then-President John F. Kennedy: "If they want me in on the crash landings, I’d better damn well be in on the takeoffs." In other words, PD is so much more than crisis management and cleaning up mistakes. It's a core part of all aspects of our foreign policy.

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