"The greatest success of diplomacy
in this century
Stephen Fox '69
What is the most significant event that has occurred in your profession or field of study during the 20th century? What lesson do you take away from that event?
The greatest success of diplomacy in this century has been a non-event: since 1945, no nation, despite proliferation, repeated opportunity and temptation, has used nuclear weapons against a foe. The postwar architecture of the Marshall Plan, NATO, the IMF and World Bank, the subsequent arms-control treaties, and the management of Cold War and post-Cold War relations have demonstrated the continued need for creative, patient, hard-nosed diplomacy as the most effective way of protecting American interests.
The "democratization" of foreign policy means that the definition of national interest is no longer the monopoly of the world's foreign ministries. In the U.S., the State Department now shares important diplomatic functions with a large number of other agencies. More important, though, instantaneous two-way communications mean that citizens, individually and through interest groups, have constant access to the policy-making process. Explanation of U.S. policies to domestic audiences and building support for those policies among domestic constituencies is a critical job that we diplomats need to do better.
Personally, what is the most meaningful life lesson you have taken from your vocation or avocation?
Having the good fortune to be born an American is one of the great blessings that one can have, but it does not give us a monopoly on the world's wisdom.
What person(s) or mentor(s) have had the most significant impact on your life? Can you describe how that person affected your life?
From my mother and grandmother, I learned solid midwestern values of hard work and the importance of family. From my wife, Bie, I learned to appreciate other cultures. From my high school math teacher, Mr. Grzeszkiewicz, I learned the joy of intellectual exercise. And from Wabash professors I would single out professors Wilder, Mikesell, and Barnes if pressed I learned that applying labels to fields of study is a bit artificial. Diplomats need to understand ecology and chemists need to understand history.
In your experience, what is the greatest misconception the public has about your vocation (or field of study) or the people in that vocation?
Until some tragedy like the Iran hostage crisis or the Dar es Salaam and Nairobi bombings brings the Foreign Service to the publics attention, there is a tendency to think we lead ivory-tower, privileged lives. The reality is that our jobs are as usually as mundane as everyone elses, punctuated perhaps by more frequent moves. We are an intelligent, hard-working group of professionals who are dedicated to serving our country under whatever circumstances present themselves.