As a retired member of the United States Foreign Service I was proud to represent the interests and values of America in six countries over my 28 years of service (in addition to my two years as a Peace Corps volunteer). This week, my active duty colleagues in the Foreign Service will celebrate Foreign Service Day, designated by the United States Senate in 1996 as the first Friday in May each year.
On this occasion I would like to take the opportunity to recognize the critical work done by America’s diplomats and development professionals at U.S. embassies and consulates in almost every country in the world. America’s network of embassies is operated and staffed by members of the U.S. Foreign Service who have learned the local language and customs and know how to navigate the terrain. They act on America’s behalf to enhance our national security and advance our economic prosperity at home.
American businesses depend greatly on U.S. diplomats to work with other countries to establish rules and remove obstacles to enable them to compete and operate overseas on a level playing field. When American businesses expand their reach across the globe, they create new opportunities and open new markets. Did you know, for instance, that the Department of State, in partnership with agencies across the federal government, creates jobs for American workers by opening markets and eliminating trade barriers overseas and by attracting foreign direct investment to the United States? Goods exports of $75.3 billion (2017) support approximately 295,293 jobs in New York state (2016). Foreign direct investment in New York supports an additional 474,000 jobs (2015).
This economic diplomacy by members of the Foreign Service is increasingly critical as our country faces growing challenges to our global leadership, particularly from rising powers such as China. I, for one, support the full use of our diplomatic efforts to help to maintain American global leadership in all areas, because if we don’t lead, who will?