Changing the World: Joining the Foreign Service

Changing the World: Joining the Foreign Service

(music playing) MALE NARRATOR:
Foreign Service Officers and Specialists
represent America abroad. They are a diverse group
of men and women from across the United States
who travel to every corner of the globe to promote America's values,
interests, and security. As we know all too well,
America's diplomats sometimes work in dangerous circumstances
but they accept these risks in the service
of our country and our values because they know
the United States must continue to be a force
for peace and progress in the world. (music playing) AMBASSADOR KRISTIE KENNEY,
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THAILAND: A day in the life of an Ambassador
is hard to tell you because there are 200 of us around the world, and it might be very different depending on the country you're in, the issues in focus at the moment. Let's see, you wear jeans
on the bottom, huh? (laughter) FEMALE ANCHOR:
Thailand suffered devastating floods. Our Embassy team
got together very quickly and said, “What do we need to do?” “How do we need to help
the government of Thailand "and the people of Thailand, and how do we need
to protect our Embassy staff?” "You look like Andy Murray's mom." (laughter) MALE SPEAKER:
Who is Andy Murray? AARON JACKSON,
We just got our new Ambassador. She got in last week. She's hit the ground running. AMBASSADOR PAMELA A. WHITE,
I've just been in the country for one week. I don't like staying in the office. I'm gonna get out of the office as much as I can and actually see if what the United States government is doing is actually making a difference. And you'll do this whole thing…
750 houses in seven months? MALE PARTICIPANT:
Some of the things that we're doing here and the Haitians are doing here
are this short of a miracle. What do you think? REGINE RENE-LABROUSEE,
Is this exciting? MS. RENE-LABROUSSE:
Yes, this is amazing. We're out in the field,
we're not just writing papers, we're in there! AMBASSADOR WHITE:
Exactly. Make sure that they see you…there you go. (laughter) AMBASSADOR WHITE:
Right on her. She's the first tour Officer. MS. RENE-LABROUSSE:
After the earthquake – the January 12th earthquake – I immediately applied,
and thank God I got it cause it is truly my dream job. This is why I joined the Foreign Service. Pretty much I bring together
Haitians and Americans, whether it's through
educational programs, cultural programs,
professional development. Haiti is very important
to the U.S. government right now during this reconstruction phase
so we're pushed and pushed to get outside of our big Embassy wall. This one's going
on the Embassy's website. Say, "Cheese!" GROUP:
FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: The single most important thing
that I put in my Go Bag are the instant packets,
the single individual instant packets of Starbucks coffee
because there is nothing worse than getting Nescafé served to you
when you need that caffeine jolt. My name is Mary Beth Goodman. I'm a Foreign Service Officer currently serving at the White House
as part of the National Security Council. It's very intimidating
as you can well imagine. Going into the Oval Office
and having that be when you're on. There's nothing like going into a meeting
representing the United States and having the backing
of the United States government, you know, as you're sitting there
trying to negotiate or discuss issues. PACO PEREZ,
OPERATIONS CENTER WATCH OFFICER: Right now we're in one of
the task force rooms at the Operations Center. At the Operations Center there are 40 different Watch Officers. We respond to crises immediately, like an earthquake,
or a bomb threat, or a political coup. At the same time,
what we're constantly doing is connecting senior leadership
of the State Department with other world leaders. In 1961, when then President Kennedy
was dealing with the Bay of Pigs crisis, he realized that he needed somebody
with round the clock monitoring of the current situation,
and a gentleman came up to the Operations Center,
set up a bunk-bed, and began monitoring it 24/7,
and since then it's been continuously running. The craziest thing about the office
is that we always have to be there, right? And so, if someone
were to go to the bathroom, they have to announce it. So, when you stand up
you say, “I'm going blue," and you have to flip that blue light on. So that blue light right now
means that someone's in the rest room. ANA DUQUE-HIGGINS,
I'm a Press Officer here at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I am responsible for speaking to the press. I'm the spokesperson for the Embassy. I'm here to communicate messaging about what the United States does here
in Argentina and around the world. Today we have our Political Counselor here. He's gonna talk to this group of students
and professors from the University Di Tella about the elections
that are coming up in the U.S. Getting Officers out of the Embassy
and out into the universities, and talking to people
is really one of my favorite parts. CURTIS RIED, POLITICAL ADVISOR, USUN: I'm one of the Political Advisors
here at the U.S. mission. I cover mostly countries
that have been affected by the Arab Spring. So, I've worked on Libya and Syria… been here for about two years now. Overseas, you know, you're focusing
on one culture, one government. The big difference in New York
is that you're dealing with 193 Member States, and all the different cultural issues
that come up there, different ways of working, and also we work in a very intense
sort of environment on the Security Council, so sometimes those cultural differences
sort of come through. (music playing) MS. DUQUE-HIGGINS:
Before joining the Foreign Service I was the director
of communications for Liz Claiborne. After September 11th,
I was reading the paper in New York City,
sitting in a café, and saw the letter
from Colin Powell asking people
to consider the Foreign Service, and so I decided to look into it. Studying for the written test
was kind of a hard thing to do because you don't really know
what to study, so I read “A Short History of Our World,”
I studied geography for a little bit, and then I just kind of
went in cold and took the test. MR. PEREZ:
When I was finishing college, I was finally able to take the test. I sat down and I gave it my best effort,
and I didn't pass. MR. RIED:
I thought I was just gonna take it as a practice test to see if I could maybe get in
at some point in the future. I ended up passing,
and took the oral exam a few months later
and passed that as well. MR. PEREZ:
I knew I wanted to join the Foreign Service, took the test again,
didn't pass that time either. AMBASSADOR KENNEY:
And I was totally shocked when they called and said, “You passed the exam.” MR. PEREZ:
If you don't pass the first time don't feel bad, it took me three tries. AMBASSADOR KENNEY:
The people in the room are looking at, “Is this somebody we can work with?” Not, “Is this a know-it-all,
is she pompous, is she so full of herself?” MS. RENE-LABROUSEE:
Cause you go in with a certain expectation, etc., and then you get there, and it's like, "Oh, OK, it wasn't that bad." And then you realize this is for real.
My life is about to change! And because the Foreign Service
is not just the job, and it's not just the career, it’s a lifestyle – your entire life changes. FEMALE SPEAKER:
So, for all of the successful Foreign Service applicants, we all attend the Foreign Service Institute
in Arlington, Virginia, for about 18 months. And there you learn anything
you can possibly imagine you'd need to know to be a member of the State Department. You learn career development,
country and region specific studies, and there's even an on-sight fake jail
for us to test out those real life situations. MALE SPEAKER:
Oh, my gosh! WAYNE OSHIMA,
Probably most of our people who come in as Foreign Service Officers
have not been in a jail before, hopefully. So, one will play the American in distress, someone will play the Consular Officer
visiting from the post, another person may play a foreign official. This is a visa simulation training room to give our students a real life experience as they prepare to go off
and do consular work overseas. MARJORIE CHRISTIAN,
I'm a first tour Officer. Haiti is my first post. I've done roughly 10,000 interviews. I've seen it all. You start to become a human lie detector. MR. RIED:
I think the language instruction at the State Department is probably one of the best kept secrets. My first assignment was in Indonesia,
and I got assigned to learn Indonesian for a year and I left after 11 months
being able to speak Indonesian well enough to have a meeting, to make friends. So, I think that that fear
is one that the Department really helps you overcome. AMBASSADOR KENNEY:
Since I've been in the Foreign Service, I've learned Spanish, I've learned French,
and I'm now studying Thai. (speaking in Thai) (music playing) MR. JACKSON:
The requirement of the Foreign Service is that you be worldwide available. And so what's going
through your head is, “If I get sent
to the one place I don't wanna go, am I comfortable being there?” So, you just really get kind of humbled
and quiet…waiting. We have what are called
Career Development Officers. They are your kind of Foreign Service
guidance counselors more or less. They huddle together once everybody
has submitted their preferences and they just kinda hash it out. And then, in a big ceremony
toward the very end of the orientation, everybody comes in, sits you down,
and they give you your assignments. So, you have no clue where you're going. Coming into it
you submitted your preferences and it's kind of you're walking on eggshells
until you figure out what happens. It's called Flag Day. MS. DUQUE-HIGGINS:
Initially, I was a little bit bummed out because it was Mexico City, and Mexico City
felt so close to the United States. But once I got to Mexico,
I looked back on that moment and laughed at how naive I was
because everything about our relationship with Mexico is so fascinating. It's probably one of the most important
relationships we have in this world. MR. PEREZ:
I got sent to Matamoros, Mexico, which is right on the border with Texas. And when I arrived,
Matamoros was in the middle of a very deadly drug cartel war. There'd be tanks
coming down the street and there'd be guys
pointing guns right at you, and those were the good guys. MS. GOODMAN:
I wanted to go somewhere where I knew that
I would be able to roll up my sleeves and get a lot of work done,
and where you could have some serious impact on a lot of the policy
as it's being developed on the ground. So, I've done tours in Mali,
I've served a lot of time in Pakistan, and I've also spent
a great deal of time in Afghanistan. MR. JACKSON:
The Haitian government is really engaged. They're committed to stability; they're committed to making sure
people have the opportunity to emerge from poverty. The working relationships
that we've developed are really taking off now. MR. PEREZ:
If you take a chance to look at the State Department
Mission Statement, it's pretty neat. It says the State Department's
objectives are to promote democracy, prosperity, and security, not just in places where we have
American interests but in the entire world. MS. CHRISTIAN:
So, I'm wrapping up a lot of my projects here because I'm moving to Vatican City. And, that's one of the biggest perks
about being in the Foreign Service, is that every couple of years,
you get to reinvent yourself, you get to start in a new job
in a new country. MS. DUQUE-HIGGINS:
I'm part of a tandem couple. My husband is also in the Foreign Service
and we have two kids, seven-year-old twins who were born in Mexico City,
lived in Zimbabwe, lived in Bogota, Colombia, and now they live here in Buenos Aires,
where they're in the first grade. State Department does a good job
of creating a family no matter where you go. Other Foreign Service Officers
we all kind of take care of each other. We form relationships that feel like family. MR. PEREZ:
If you're interested in adventure, in a career
that's gonna be ever-changing, and one in which
you'll get to represent your country, serve your fellow countrymen,
then the Foreign Service is probably right for you. AMBASSADOR KENNEY:
One of the things that I think is so amazing about the Foreign Service
is that it attracts people who are active and pro-active,
and who want to make a difference. You can't change the world every day,
but I go to sleep a lot of times feeling like I've done something special. MALE NARRATOR:
The challenges of the 21st century offer something for everyone
in the Foreign Service, and they also demand
a wide range of skills and experience. We need experts in public diplomacy,
and crisis response, and public health, and food security,
and arms control, and police training, and operations and management,
and IT security, and medical services, and we need you now. (music playing) Visit to learn more. (music playing)

8 thoughts on “Changing the World: Joining the Foreign Service

  1. But if you were stationed in the Middle East what are the SOPs for bringing your own gear? Would an officer who was for example, an infantry Marine, be allowed to bring his own emergency kit?

  2. Hello There, i love your presentation . Although i do not have any degrees i have over 10 years experience in working with people with different backgrounds and i'm able to communicate well in 5 languages, Do you think that I have any chances, and i'm 46 years old, female. thank you

  3. Excellent presentation. I commend the employees of the Foreign Services or those aspiring to serve. You represent our best values, and your selfless service are what makes America Great.

  4. Join Us.  Change the World.  Learn the ethos of power, corruption & lies.  Commit to becoming a master of all three.  Join the US State Department.

  5. Congrats on a great product.  Reminded me of my time overseas.  Video will be a useful teaching tool for my current role.

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