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ONE OF OUR MEMBERS called our attention to a profile you ran on Richard Pearson of the Washington Post‘s obituary page (“If You’re Not Dead, We’re Not Interested,” 8/4). In the course of his comments, Pearson took a gratuitous swipe at foreign service officers, indicating his preference for omitting obituaries on a fictitious FSO who “could order sweet-and-sour pork in 12 languages but who did nothing.”
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As an organization devoted to promoting the interests of the foreign service personnel of five agencies, we are highly appreciative of the Post‘s generous coverage of the deaths of our colleagues. We are genuinely moved by this recognition of our members’ lifelong devotion to America’s national interests, and we hope the Post will continue to be as generous in the future.
We are not sure from what sources Pearson and his colleagues derive their obituaries—presumably from material the department provides. Obviously, a recitation of the posts at which a deceased member has served may not make exciting copy for one who did not experience the conditions of our far-flung diplomatic outposts. The mere mention of Beirut, Kigali, Baghdad, and Sarajevo may not conjure up for the busy reader or obit writer the horrors of war and civil upheaval that our members and their families endure. Names of capitals also cannot convey the vital role our members play in assisting Americans overseas, in promoting the exports and facilitating the investments of American firms, in executing development projects uplifting the lives of thousands in impoverished countries, and in negotiating agreements to advance our national and economic security. Unfortunately, it takes the tragic death of Bob Frasure and the other 160 foreign service personnel who have lost their lives in the performance of their duties to put a human face on the core of professionals who defend American interests abroad.
We invite Pearson and his colleagues to join us over lunch to discuss the problems, joys, and frustrations of our respective professions. Hopefully, when they know a few more of us, future obituaries on our members will be written with a greater understanding of their contributions and sacrifices.
State Vice President, American Foreign Service Association, Foggy Bottom