There is a misperception that diplomats serve only as cocktail-party hosts and keynote speakers at events with foreign dignitaries. However, the recent attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya illustrate the difficulties and risks faced by U.S. diplomats serving around the world.
No one becomes a diplomat to get wealthy. They choose to do so to serve their country. Diplomats face many difficulties. Whether studying for the many phases of the Foreign Service Exam, becoming fluent in different languages or brushing up on a country’s history, culture, customs and traditions, diplomats train to become some of the most informed and dedicated men and women in the world. Anyone who has been to an American diplomatic post abroad can sense the focus and commitment of these individuals. Many also endure long separations from their families. Worse, as in the tragic case of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith and the other two Americans killed in the latest attack, diplomats risk their lives daily.
Still, diplomats largely are taken for granted, which undermines their skills and missions. Diplomats must master the fine and delicate balance between tact and decisiveness. They must navigate the murky, turbulent waters of world affairs. Diplomats are mediators by nature, and we often take for granted the fact that the delicate threads of peace are woven by the craft of brave diplomats.
When diplomats represent the United States abroad, they are not acting as Republicans, Democrats or independents. They are acting as Americans, representing their nation’s government and striving to promote the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that have made the United States a beacon of hope and freedom around the world.
Anytime a diplomat is attacked, all of us should pause and think of the sacrifices made by those brave men and women who seek to ensure peace at home by promoting it abroad. Our respect and admiration for them is long overdue.
Daniel I. Pedreira, Miami