I read with interest Phil Primack’s article “Foreign Disservice” (Summer 2011) portraying the challenges that face today’s Foreign Service. From my own work in the Government Accountability Office, I can confirm that developing Foreign Service officers with appropriate language and technical skills is difficult indeed, especially given the growing number of danger zones where such officers are being asked to conduct U.S. foreign policy. The planned increases in resources that would close experience gaps at State and USAID are likely to run head on against emerging fiscal constraints. In this environment, it will be critical to reexamine recruiting, training, and assignment practices to ensure an effective Foreign Service in the future.
“Foreign Disservice” is well researched and finely crafted, and represents cogent and powerful arguments for strengthening America’s diplomatic service. Having said that, I must also assert that the article breaks no new ground. I have, for the past thirty or more years, been reading similar appeals for more funding for diplomacy and better training for our Foreign Service officers. While Congress has been consistently willing to fund our armed forces to a level where they are the best trained and most effective in the world, this has not been true of our diplomatic service. Part of the reason is that the State Department and the Foreign Service have no real domestic constituency; no powerful lobbies defend the foreign affairs budget.
Contrary to popular opinion, diplomacy and foreign aid do not take up 25 percent of the national budget, but only about one percent. As things stand now, the Pentagon is taking over more and more of the day-to-day responsibilities formerly carried out by State, simply because it has enough funds and people, and State does not. Unfortunately, the armed forces are neither staffed nor trained for such work, but are merely filling a vacuum created by a State Department chronically kept on short rations. I see no end to this parlous situation.
As a retired career Foreign Service officer, I very much appreciate your writing about the problems facing the Foreign Service and the Fletcher graduates who would like to enter it. The Foreign Service has such a small public constituency that its problems are seldom aired in the media. So voices like yours are important. Thank you, and keep it up!
SMILING FACES Your latest editor’s note (“The Empty Smile,” Summer 2011) reminded me of my dear grandmother, who encouraged us not to smile in photos. She used to say that you could look at a picture of a smiling person and quickly see all that there is to see, but a picture of a person who is not smiling will keep your attention and interest much longer. I’ve also noticed that certain cultures tend to frown on smiling in photos. I have group pictures of myself with Indians, Haitians, and people of other backgrounds where I stick out like a sore smiler. Thanks for reminding me that grandmother knew best. :), or rather, :|.
Was it by coincidence or design that three of the four photos facing your “Empty Smile” piece show people displaying . . . empty smiles?
Is there a middle ground between coincidence and design? How about “resignation to the inevitable irony”? —Editor
THE MAGAZINE THEN AND NOW I remember when Tufts Magazine was something I skimmed for class notes and obits, and then tossed. More recently, I read every article, appreciating the scope, the humor, and the variety. We couldn’t do without class notes, and I suppose the brides and grooms are obligatory, but it’s wonderful to have a fine magazine that interests alums and non-alums alike. I can pass the new Tufts Magazine along to my husband, and then to our library’s “periodical exchange” cart.
However, I do miss the “Identify This Photo” feature. For older grads, it’s a great kick to recognize a scene from one’s own college days.
REASONS TO BELIEVE After I read Daniel Dennett’s “The Pastor’s Secret” (Fall 2010), on pastors losing their faith, I felt led to respond, as I am a pastor myself. Perhaps my thoughts on the subject may help those who are struggling with their faith. The article brought to mind the difference between knowledge and theory and the question of what our relationship with God is based on.
First of all, what we think of as knowledge may eventually be exposed as a theory masquerading as knowledge. A case in point is classical Newtonian mechanics. It was considered absolute knowledge until Einstein’s theory of relativity came along. Then it was found to be relevant only in special cases under certain conditions. With that in mind, recall Isaiah 55:8–9, which says: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” How can we finite human beings with a fallen, sinful nature understand a perfect and infinitely intelligent and wise God? We may think that we know God, but our knowledge only extends to the limits of our capacity.
Furthermore, a true relationship with God is not based on knowledge anyway. It is based on humility, and on our experience. For instance, once I have flown at thirty thousand feet and seen the curvature of the earth, nothing will ever convince me that the earth is flat. Similarly, once I have had a personal experience with God, no situation, no matter how bad, will convince me that there is no God. And I have indeed experienced God. Things have happened in my life that I am absolutely certain came from the hand of God. God has spoken to me, not in a booming voice like we hear in movies, but in a voice that sounds like my own in my spirit. He will speak to anyone who is willing to still his or her spirit and listen. As someone once said, “If God is dead, who is that living in my soul?”
God’s ways have not always pleased me. I will admit I have been disappointed at times by what He has allowed to happen in my life and in the lives of those I love. But in humility I have to acknowledge that I do not know everything and He does. I have to acknowledge the limitations of my finite understanding. God is perfect; God is good. If I cannot see that, I lack sufficient understanding. The problem is on my side. For me to think that He has made a mistake is to bring Him down to my level. That is immaturity at the least and arrogance at the most.
I would ask pastors who have lost their faith, without making light of the emotional pain that they are experiencing, what their faith was originally based on.
A RIDDLE FOR OUR READERS During orientation in 1986, my roommate, Joanne Sharon, J90, and I met our future husbands on the same night. Clearly a fortuitous night for the residents of Room 440-something in Haskell Hall.
Here’s my question for Tufts Magazine readers: What was the exact date? None of us knows. A detail that might jog someone’s memory is that there was a concert in MacPhie Pub that evening. That’s where Joanne and Marc Field, A90, met (technically I introduced them, but that was only because I’d met Marc a few minutes earlier and Joanne saw me talking to a cute boy and came over). Another detail is that there was a Red Sox game that night. My husband, Adam Glickman, A89, and I met upon his return from this game—he was upset because the Red Sox had won, while, in a separate game, his Yankees had lost (his car had been broken into as well). Finally, I’m pretty sure that the night was the one right before classes started, because my first-ever college class was in philosophy, and Adam was in that class the next morning.
Hard to believe it’s been twenty-five years. We’re all still good friends—Joanne and Marc were married in 1996 and live in the Bay Area with their two boys, Josh, age seven, and Ryan, age five, and Adam and I were married in 1999 and live in Los Angeles with our twin girls, Kaia and Quinn, age seven. And yes, we all took our time in getting married.
Any takers? We’ll publish a selection of the answers in our next issue. —Editor