As someone who retired from the U.S. Department of State after 10 years of service, and as a resident of Gainesville, I am proud to have been a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. I’m often surprised at how little is generally known about America’s diplomats.
We serve in 170 countries around the world, often in hard and sometimes dangerous places, working to protect America’s people, interests and values. Sixteen percent of those countries are considered actively dangerous and 67 percent present hardship living circumstances.
I consider myself lucky that my colleagues are willing to take those risks and remain hard at work around the world, constantly seeking to promote U.S. policies, level the playing field for U.S. businesses, open markets for U.S. agriculture and achieve advantage and wins for America. All for about 1 percent of our total federal budget which covers all State Department operations.
In 1996, the U.S. Senate designated the first Friday in May as “American Foreign Service Day.” It is on this day that members of the Foreign Service around the world and here at home come together to recognize and celebrate the thousands of people who commit their lives to serving the U.S. abroad and the impact their work has on us all. This year, that day is May 4. This week is therefore an ideal time for anyone interested in what diplomats do to learn more about the 16,000-member strong United States Foreign Service.
From that knowledge, I hope my fellow citizens will gain a greater appreciation for how America’s global leadership is achieved and maintained through the efforts of our U.S. Foreign Service.