Referred to as the State Department, State, and DOS, the U.S. Department of State has recently been called by an unfitting new label.
I don’t care about the insult. Hearing it called “deep state department” glances off as a meaningless jab. I’ve long inured myself against the public bluster.
What concerns me more is the public ignorance it foments. What I care about more is the damage this kind of ignorance does to an institution I serve. What I care about is how this dangerous slander impacts the way the American public understands our work.
In times of crisis (tsunami, earthquake, pandemic), in times of need (arrest, destitution, victimization), in times of joy (marriage, birth abroad, employment and educational success) American citizens (and foreign nationals) turn to the U.S. Department of State first. They visit embassies and consulates and passport agencies all over the world first.
The State Department, designed to look after American commercial, citizen, and public interests overseas, deserves leadership that understands and boosts our ability to play this role. Undermining that role with cheap jabs is a reckless sabotage against our national interests.
When I landed in Madrid in 1998 after two years in Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer, the first place I stopped was the U.S. Embassy. An anonymous public servant courteously and professionally helped me cash the U.S. Treasury check I’d been given on leaving the Peace Corps. The cash helped me keep traveling through Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, the Netherlands, and eventually home for Christmas in Connecticut after more than 27 months abroad.
I’m proud and grateful now to serve on the other side of the line, helping America tell our story to publics overseas. I’ve done it for the last 18 years under both Republican and Democratic administrations. One example, about countering terrroism on the visa line and staffing our public libraries abroad, is here.
It isn’t a job but an avocation.
It isn’t a career but a lifestyle.
And it most definitely isn’t the Deep State, it’s the U.S. Department of State. It is your State Department.
Call on us. Call on us by our name.
*This post does not necessarily reflect the views of my employer. Oddly enough.