Sunday, July 9, 2017

Meeting Chief Justice Roberts, Secretary Tillerson, & Deputy Secretary Sullivan

Note: this is a long overdue post from when I was back in Washington, as I waited to have the official photo and a good Internet connection to post it.

I was very lucky to have the honor of attending the Swearing In Ceremony for Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. My A-100 and the newest class of Foreign Service Specialists were invited to participate and get a group photo.

Needless to say, we were all pretty excited. Chief Justice John Roberts is a legend, even among those of us with no legal background. Secretary Rex Tillerson was the first to extend his hand and start talking to us once the photo was taken. Deputy Secretary Sullivan's inspired remarks touched on the importance of values, human rights, and his commitment to our work. We also learned that his uncle was the last Ambassador to serve in the U.S. Mission to Iran and the man whose staff was held during the Iranian hostage crisis. All three have a great sense of humor, if their muttered jokes during the photo are any guide.

I am sometimes asked questions from friends and family about current affairs at the Department of State being reported in domestic news. Although I am new and far from a top-level insider, I feel that coverage tends to be sensationalist. A friend mentioned he had read that Secretary Tillerson demanded that his staff avoid looking him in the eyes. That story didn't square with the warm way I, someone at the bottom of the Department totem pole, was treated at the Swearing In Ceremony.

In general, I find a good mantra from the world of science to apply to media: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." That doesn't mean those claims are necessarily false, but the burden of proof for them should be higher.

Anyway, I felt very lucky to share this special experience with my classmates, colleagues, and friends! I hope I never get desensitized to the sense of wonder I feel in this job.

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