Foreign Affairs Day 2017

Foreign Affairs Day
Friday, May 5, 2017
Department of State

Foreign Affairs Day is celebrated every year on the first Friday in May. This year, on May 5, 2017, the Foreign Service Community got together in the Department of State to discuss the state of foreign affairs with other professionals and interact with the various organizations that serve our Foreign Service Community. From early in the morning, many of our AAFSW members volunteered their time to help with our AAFSW desk and distribute information regarding all that AAFSW offers to our members. Our gratitude and special thanks go to AAFSW members: Barbara Reioux, Lucy Whitley, Mette Beecroft, Sandy Taylor, Sheila Switzer, Anne Kauzlarich, and Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President, for volunteering their time to help out throughout the day and for participating in the lively discussions and informative sessions.

Many of AAFSW members as well as AAFSW President Athanasopoulos Owen attended the welcoming remarks and introduction by Ambassador Arnold Chacon, Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources. Later, during the question and answer segment of the Foreign Affairs Day Opening Session at the Dean Acheson Auditorium, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen had the opportunity to ask Ambassador Thomas Shannon, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to discuss the timely and pertinent issue of Eligible Family Members’ employment (EFM).

At the end of the Opening Session, the AAFSW President congratulated the President of the Diplomacy Center Foundation, Ambassador McNamara, for winning the 2017 DACOR Foreign Service Cup, and discussed with him the possibility of the Diplomacy Center Foundation and AAFSW cooperating on a joint project in the future. Attending most of the Foreign Affairs Day’s scheduled events, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen participated in the European and Eurasian Affairs Seminar presented by Ambassador John Heffern, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, as well as the International Organization Affairs Seminar presented by Ambassador Tracey Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. In the afternoon, at the Dean Acheson Auditorium, many of the AAFSW members and AAFSW’s president, Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen, attended the discussion offered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and moderated by Ms. Susan Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Mr. Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The Foreign Affairs Day is a day that is also dedicated to those in the Foreign Service Community who have lost their lives while serving abroad. Thus, the most important part of each year’s Foreign Affairs Day is the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Memorial Ceremony at the West side of the C Street Lobby. During this year’s Memorial Ceremony, in the presence of Secretary Tillerson and the AFSA president, Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the Color Guard Wreath Bearer placed the AFSA Wreath in front of AFSA’s Memorial Plaque where the names of 248 fallen members of the Foreign Service have been etched. The AFSA Memorial Ceremony and this year’s Foreign Affairs Day were concluded by moving dedication speeches given by both Secretary Tillerson and the AFSA President, Ambassador Barbara Stephenson.

As an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization that supports Foreign Service families, in the past AAFSW had successfully lobbied to get a plaque placed on the east side of the C Street Entrance/Lobby, commemorating the EFMs who have lost their lives while being overseas (deaths not attributed to natural causes). This year, our joint AFSA-AAFSW Wreath was placed by this plaque at 7:00 a.m. and remained there during the whole Foreign Affairs Day. Although there is no list of names etched in association with this plaque dedicated to family members fallen abroad, per the AAFSW president’s request, FLO Director Susan Frost reached out to the Office of Casualty Assistance (HR/OCA) to ask for information about the individuals honored with this plaque. This is the information (year of death, name, State Department affiliation, cause of death) that HR/OCA via FLO was able to share with AAFSW’s president on those family members whom AAFSW honors deeply:

2002: Kristen Wormsley, daughter of employee Milton Green and Barbara Green, was killed in a church bombing in Pakistan. Barbara Green was also killed (and she is on the AFSA plaque).
2007: Zelda White, wife of FSO Craig White, was killed, along with her mother, in a carjacking on a highway in Kenya.
2010: Laurence Wyllie, Baptiste Wyllie, and Evan Wyllie, wife and sons of FSO Andrew Wyllie, were killed when their apartment building collapsed during the Haiti earthquake.
2016: Bruce Baldwin, husband of FSO Virginia Baldwin, was killed in the terrorist bombing at the Brussels airport in 2016.

Although no one wishes for this list to get any longer, AAFSW President, Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, has requested that AAFSW is kept informed of the names and the surrounding circumstances should there be further data on Foreign Service Community Family Members fallen abroad (again, deaths not attributed to natural causes). Similar to this Foreign Affairs Day on May 5th, 2017, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide and its president would like to continue the tradition of honoring the memory of these individuals every year by dedicating the AFSA-AAFSW Wreath next to the plaque, which reads: “In Memory of our Foreign Service Family Members who have died abroad.”

Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen
AAFSW President