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by Tom Selinger

One hundred years ago this month, US Representative John Jacob Rogers of Massachusetts secured congressional passage of his “Act for the reorganization and improvement of the Foreign Service of the United States, and for other purposes,” now known as the Rogers Act, and President Calvin Coolidge signed it into law. The Act combined the Diplomatic Service, which had provided ambassadors and staff for embassies overseas, and the Consular Service, responsible for providing consuls to assist American sailors and promote international commerce. This merger produced a single professional career track based on competitive examination and merit promotion — the Foreign Service of the United States of America.

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) is marking this milestone with several ventures designed to promote appreciation for the rich history of the US Foreign Service and build public support for diplomacy:

(1) completing our Centennial Anthology of notable oral history excerpts,
(2) advocating for Congress to pass the United States Foreign Service Commemorative Coin Act (S.789/H.R.3537),
(3) implementing ADST’s “Century of Service and Sacrifice” initiative, and
(4) updating and sharing ADST’s History of US Diplomacy exhibit on display at the Foreign Service Institute and the National War College.

Our success will depend on the support and involvement of current and former diplomats and others who appreciate the value of diplomacy as a tool for advancing America’s national interests.

Oral Histories Covering Ten Decades of Diplomacy

Diplomacy is a career unlike any other. Duties are diverse, ranging from evacuating citizens and pursuing peace agreements to helping businesses and promoting culture; and the dangers can be extreme. ADST’s Foreign Affairs Oral History Program documents like no other source the extraordinary contributions diplomats have made to advancing America’s security, prosperity, and ideals.

At the heart of ADST efforts this year is its archive of firsthand accounts from across the foreign affairs community, the world’s largest diplomatic oral history collection. These transcripts provide a unique window on the past hundred years of the Foreign Service: from Earl Packer’s 1922 arrival at the Office of the American Commissioner in Latvia, where he led efforts to decipher events inside a neighboring Russia as it became the Soviet Union, to Ambassador Greta Holtz’s 2021 return from a brief retirement to direct Afghanistan evacuation support operations in Qatar, coordinating shelter, food, medical care, and travel documentation for tens of thousands.

Providing a Lifeline for American Citizens in Danger

In ADST’s earliest evacuation account, Jay Pierrepont Moffat records in his journal how he and a colleague at the US legation in Warsaw evacuated American citizens by train and barge as the Bolsheviks marched into Poland in 1920. Richard A. Ericson, later ambassador to Iceland, recalls how as the political counselor in Seoul he guided negotiations in 1968 to secure the release of American sailors from the USS Pueblo after it was seized by North Korea.

Peter Tomsen, who became ambassador to Armenia, tells how, as a young officer, he assisted in the evacuation of Americans and their Vietnamese relatives as Saigon was about to fall in 1975. James Jeffrey would serve as ambassador three times; but his proudest achievement was his success as vice consul when he served as the US intermediary with Turkish hijackers holding ninety-one hostages—including five American Citibank executives—at an airport in Bulgaria in 1981 and kept the hijackers talking until authorities organized a dramatic hostage rescue.

Serving in War and Making Peace

America’s diplomats have played an outsized role both during war and in making peace. Constance Ray Harvey, assigned in Lyon during World War II, tells of her work with the Belgian and French resistance, her internment by the Nazis, and her frequent smuggling of intelligence information to the US military attaché in Switzerland. Douglas MacArthur II, the Foreign Service Officer nephew of the famed general, describes arriving at Dachau as it was liberated and helping to locate surviving members of the French resistance for return to France.

Ken Quinn, the first officer to report on the genocidal policies of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in 1974, recounts how twenty years later as ambassador to Cambodia he designed a strategy of accelerated rural development that led to the complete elimination of the Khmer Rouge. Rudolph Perina, later ambassador to Moldova, describes his interactions as chargé d’affaires in Belgrade with Slobodan Milosevic and Richard Holbrooke that ultimately led to the Dayton Peace Accords. Ambassador Luigi Einaudi tells how, as special envoy for Ecuador-Peru negotiations, his ingenious compromise brought the two countries together in a peace agreement and border settlement in 1998.

Advancing America’s Interests

ADST’s archive is also filled with stories of diplomats breaking barriers as they shaped US foreign policy, securing deals for American businesses, protecting our farms and jobs, and representing America to the world. Edward Dudley, who became the first Black American to hold the title of ambassador as America’s envoy in Liberia, recounts how in 1950 he convinced the State Department for the first time to express American support for the legitimate political and economic aims and aspirations of the African people. Ruth McLendon describes how as a young consular officer in the Philippines in the 1950s she was instrumental in establishing a unit to investigate citizenship and visa fraud. Mattie Sharpless, an officer in the Foreign Agricultural Service who became ambassador to the Central African Republic, tells how she educated the head of the European Communities Horticultural Division on the US raisin industry in an effort to secure market access in the late 1970s.

Facing the Risks of Representing America

Some of ADST’s most dramatic accounts cover diplomats as the target of those seeking to harm the United States and our interests. Interviews with John Limbert about his experience as a hostage in Iran and Michael Hoyt on being a captive in the Congo describe the trauma diplomats have endured at the hands of their assailants, while ambassador to Colombia Diego Asencio recounts how he negotiated with his kidnappers in 1980 over the course of two months to moderate their demands and eventually win his own release.

Sadly, there are also stories told on behalf of those who never had the chance to be interviewed. Colleagues describe the day when Ambassador Cleo Noel and Deputy Chief of Mission George Curtis Moore were held hostage and then murdered in 1973 by Palestinian terrorists of the Black September Organization in Khartoum; and they tell how Afghan militants in Kabul in 1979 kidnapped Ambassador Spike Dubs and then killed him during a botched rescue attempt by the communist regime. ADST interviews cover numerous Foreign Service Officers who have died in the line of duty. They include USAID Deputy Mission Director William McIntyre, killed in the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, and Public Affairs Officer Anne Smedinghoff, killed in a suicide bombing in 2013 in Qalat, Afghanistan, just weeks after serving as control officer for a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry. When she volunteered for her assignment in Afghanistan, she wrote, “I take seriously the word ‘service’ in our job title and want to be sent where I’m needed most.”

Pursuing a Suitable Commemoration

To honor the service and sacrifice of America’s diplomats during the past century, ADST is leading the foreign affairs community in advocating for the United States Foreign Service Commemorative Coin Act (S.789/H.R.3537). This legislation will direct the US Mint to issue gold and silver commemorative coins recognizing the 100th anniversary of the modern Foreign Service and its service and contributions over a century – and to market and sell these coins throughout the mint year. We have until late summer 2024 to secure cosponsors from the two-thirds of each chamber that are required to send the legislation to the floor for adoption. After recent meetings with close to 150 congressional offices, we have a strong foundation for reaching the needed endorsements in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Now we need the help of all who support the US Foreign Service and diplomacy to get there.

We are calling on diplomats, former diplomats, and friends of diplomacy to engage as constituents with their elected representatives and ask them to cosponsor these bills. Such personal appeals make a difference, as most offices have indicated the importance of constituent interest, and this is an issue on which retired and active Foreign Service members have clear credibility. Fortunately, the original cosponsors, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AR), and Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) are committed to seeing the bills approved and signed into law during this Congress.

If members of the Foreign Service community make their voices heard, we will succeed. The message for your representative or senator is simple: “Please cosponsor H.R.3537 (or S.789); it is budget-neutral and non-partisan, and it recognizes 100 years of service and sacrifice and signals support for diplomacy itself.” You can also note that the proceeds will go for a good cause: revenues generated by sale of the coins will support ADST’s Foreign Affairs Oral History Program, a unique public record of America’s diplomatic history, and our partners at DACOR Bacon House, a historic gathering place in Washington D.C. for discussion of foreign policy challenges and opportunities.

Help send this important signal of support for diplomacy and the Foreign Service. Find more details at or by contacting

Building Long Lasting Understanding of Diplomacy with Your Support

As ADST has pursued this advocacy, it has become clear that oral history is a particularly effective tool for demonstrating the value of diplomacy and motivating public support for the work of America’s diplomats. Two ADST projects funded by the Una Chapman Cox Foundation will contribute to building awareness. We have added new panels to our History of US Diplomacy exhibit at the Foreign Service Institute and the National War College and are exploring creation of a mobile version for use at events around the country. We are also compiling notable passages from our oral history collection for publication in a Cox-funded softcover and digital Centennial Anthology (send favorite passages from your oral history to

In addition, we are calling on current and former foreign affairs professionals to tell us their stories of contributing to the national interest and serving the American people in our “Century of Service and Sacrifice” initiative. We will collect and share these stories as material for speaker events, editorials, media interviews, podcasts, social media campaigns, and classroom presentations across the country, raising awareness among Americans of the work diplomats do on their behalf every day. So, whether you closed a deal, opened a door, or simply lived up to the ideal that America represents to the rest of the world, we want to share your story!

Send your narrative to ADST at and find more details at Reach out if you hear of opportunities for sharing “Century of Service and Sacrifice” stories or want to pursue a public event. Together we can build awareness of and support for the many contributions of American diplomats. As we mark the centennial of the modern Foreign Service, it is time to celebrate diplomacy and the concrete role it plays in advancing the interests of all Americans!End.


Tom Selinger is a career Foreign Service Officer on detail as executive director of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. He and his tandem spouse have served in five countries across three continents and counting.

Tom Selinger is a career Foreign Service Officer on detail as executive director of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. He and his tandem spouse have served in five countries across three continents and counting.


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