Monday, March 12, 2018

Hosting the Secretary of State

The secret's out: Secretary of State Tillerson came to visit Kenya! When an important U.S. government principal like that travels on an official visit abroad, we at U.S. embassies act as hosts - in a way. How do we do that? Well, we help manage their schedules, book important meetings, formally inform the host nation government, coordinate logistics, and provide staff and equipment before, during, and after the trip.

If you're involved in the trip in any way, you're usually assigned a specific role. When Acting Assistant Secretary Yamamoto visited, I was a co-Control Officer - sharing responsibility for managing the overall trip. This time, I was a Site Officer, someone who manages a specific event. My event was a joint press conference with Secretary Tillerson and his Kenyan counterpart, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Monica Juma.

So how did it go? Well, you can watch the whole thing here (or read the transcript here). I have never done an event like this before, and I learned so much planning and executing it. So much goes into even a short event when it comes to a high-level government official, from protocol to logistics to leadership to security and more.

I was reminded repeatedly how fortunate I am to work with such amazing people, from higher-ups who empowered me to take over this event to expert staff who seemed to understand and anticipate almost every detail. Despite the stress, I'm so glad I had this opportunity. Although my more experienced colleagues have done plenty of press events, I really feel I've reached a public diplomacy milestone.

I was challenged professionally and stuck to the advice many shared with me throughout: "Semper Gumby" - or simply "be flexible". For someone who's a natural planner, that definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone but helped me grow. Luckily enough for me, I get to follow my intense work time with a long-awaited vacation! Most of my colleagues don't get to take a break so quickly, so I'll do my best to savor my relaxation time even more for them.

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