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P, S, M, and now R (and a Bonus Career Update) February 5, 2010

Posted by KG in Blog, FS Life, State.
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Yesterday we hosted another high-ranking State Department official in Mumbai, Judith McHale, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Like the Undersecretaries who had visited before her, she took some time to have a town hall in our “lovely” visa waiting hall, to talk a bit about her vision of Public Diplomacy.

(Department nerds: that leaves trips from T, E, G, and the two Ds for Mumbai. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be getting them during my time here.)

The strange thing about these town halls is our community’s reluctance to ask questions, in stark contrast with my hyper-inquisitive A-100 class. So for the last two meetings with bigwigs, I’ve tried to come prepared with some thoughts relevant to the speaker. It’s not always you can ask a policy-maker a question directly. Since the U/S’s shop has been at the forefront of using new media in our diplomatic efforts, I (naturally) asked about blogging. And more specifically: where she stood on the ongoing debate over personal blogs maintained by members of the Foreign Service community.

Her answer was very encouraging, touching on how as representatives of the USG we need to be careful with what we say in public, but how at the same time we should be treated as adults with the intellectual skills to be able to differentiate what we could write from what we should not blog about. I did make a special point to bring up recent stories about A-100 classes being told they should shut their blogs down, anecdotes she found unfortunate. Considering the paternalistic feeling of that particular message “shut your blog down!,” her take on the issue was appreciated.

Speaking of discrection: initially I thought it would be great to ask Ambassador McHale how I could live every week like it was Shark Week.

*****
In more late-breaking news: if you’re in the Department and reading this, both my wife and I are named in STATE 011771. We’re very happy, and very, very relieved.

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