Time flies when you have a wonderful time! The last four years that I had the honor of being the elected President of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) have been simply fantastic! I got to know many of you and interact with many of AAFSW’s remarkable members and volunteers. I am grateful and thankful for all your help throughout the last four years and your boundless support in achieving the annual goals of AAFSW and providing an astonishing network for family members of the American Foreign Affairs employees.
2020 was a very special year for AAFSW! AAFSW celebrated its 60-year anniversary since its inception! It was also the first time that AAFSW held its educational and cultural events via Zoom, Google Meet / Google Hangouts, or MS Teams. In the spring of 2020, I actually chaired the first few AAFSW Virtual Board Meetings via Zoom; no wonder why I really consider myself the “AAFSW Zoom President!” Over the last four years, AAFSW became a recognized Employee Organization of the Department of State, worked tirelessly on the issue of the Eligible Family Members hiring freeze, gave many merit scholarship awards to worthy students of the American Foreign Affairs Family, including students with disabilities (receiving the recently instituted “Twice Exceptional” Merit Scholarships); hosted the winners of the annual AAFSW Awards Ceremony, including the winners of the Secretary of State Award (SOSA), Eleanor Dodson Tragen Award, Champions of Career Enhancement for Eligible Family Members (CCE-EFM) Award, Lesley Dorman Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award; successfully fundraised during the annual Art and BookFairs; and offered extraordinary international cultural events to the AAFSW membership and the International Foreign Affairs Community.
Also, during the last four years, AAFSW increased the number of its seven Standing Committees (Programs, Public Relations, Housing, SOSA, Membership, Art and BookFair, and Forum) to nine: I launched the Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee and I successfully recommended that the Chair of the already existing AAFSW Scholarship Committee should carry a vote during the AAFSW Board meetings. Still, as I have already proposed twice, in the near future, AAFSW may also add two other already existing Committees (Foreign Born Spouses and Families/Spouses in Transition) to the list of the nine current AAFSW Standing Committees when their Chairs get granted the right to vote as well. In other words, as AAFSW is trying to be more inclusive and engage more volunteers, there will soon be a total of eleven AAFSW Standing Committees of volunteers serving and benefiting the American Foreign Service Community and the AAFSW members.
For all their help and support during the last four years, I would like to thank Department Of State Secretary Mike Pompeo and his office staff, especially Toni Porter, Hillaire Campbell, Joseph Semrad, and Lisa Kenna; Deputy Secretary Sullivan and his Office Staff, especially Jennifer Ehlinger; Under Secretary for Management Bulatao and his Staff; Chief Labor Management Negotiator Steven Polson and his Staff: Tina Parisi and Christopher Klemm; the Global Community Liaison Office, especially current GCLO Director Gabrielle Hampson, as well as former GCLO Director Susan Frost, and Jason Pantaleo; plus Candice Newman, Essandra Collins, and Renee
Zimmer. Most importantly, I would like to thank our AAFSW Honorary President Susan Pompeo as well as all the members of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and their organizations for their continued support to AAFSW as well as their trust and confidence in me.
As the 2016-2020 AAFSW President, I would like to ensure the continuation of this great American Foreign Service Organization. I cannot think of a better way other than the constant renewal and rejuvenation of our Board during each election cycle every two years; the next being in August 2020, as per the requirements of the AAFSW Bylaws. I feel that one of the greatest duties and accomplishments of the current elected President of any association is to ensure a talented and skillful successor to accomplish new achievements and execute different innovative ideas. For this, I would like to thank the 2020 AAFSW Election Nominating / Selection Committee, consisted of Patricia Ryan, Sheila Switzer, and Barbara Reioux, for working hard “behind the
scenes” to seek nominations of worthy candidates for all the AAFSW elected Executive Board positions as well as recommending AAFSW members as Chairs for the AAFSW Standing Committees. In August 2020, all of us at the current AAFSW Board would love to welcome all the new elected Executive Board volunteer members as well as the new AAFSW Board Committee Chairs and volunteers. New people bring fresh ideas and dynamic energy in every
For supporting me during my 2016-2020 AAFSW Presidency and standing by me, I would like to thank AAFSW Honorary President Susan Pompeo, the rest of AAFSW’s current elected Executive Board comprised of: Melissa Hess (Vice President 1), Anna Bysfield (Vice President 2), Lucy Whitley and Veronica Moran (Acting Treasurers), Troella Tyznik and Carol Sparhawk (former and current Assistant Treasurers); AAFSW’s current employees and contractors: Barbara Reioux (AAFSW Office Manager), Martine Aya Napkil (AAFSW BookRoom Manager), Sarah Morrow
(Content Manager), Susan Lee (Production Manager), Nicole Spiridakis (AAFSW Webmaster and Social Media Coordinator), and AAFSW’s current Board of Directors and Standing Committee Chairs: Patricia Linderman (President Emerita), Yolanda Macias-Cottrell and Lara Center (SOSA Chairs), Sheila Switzer (Programs Chair), Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen (Fun For Funds Chair – myself), Anne Kauzlarich (Art and BookFair Chair), Diana Johnson (Scholarships’ Chair), Debbi Miller (Membership Chair), Ann La Porta (Forum), Jenny Kocher and Alfredo Barela (Foreign Born Spouses Co-Chairs), Celine-Cyrille Erickson (Families / Spouses in Transition Chair), Sheila Switzer (Family Crisis Fund and FBS State Liaison), Cele Sinikka Sisko Clarkson (Diplomacy Through the Arts Chair), Catherine Pierce (EFM Employment Committee Chair), Ann La Porta (AFSA Liaison), Patty Ryan (AFSA Liaison), Mette Beecroft (State Liaison), Lucy Whitley (Finance Committee), Elaine Neumann (hostess of the annual AAFSW Volunteer Appreciation Lunch and past Interim President), Nicole Spiridakis — Patricia Linderman – Catherine Pierce (Foreign Service Hub), Ann La Porta (Evacuee Support), Barbara Reioux (FSYF Liaison), Melissa Hess (Oral History), Marilyn Wong Gleysteen (French Conversation Group Chair), and all of the AAFSW Volunteers, especially the Book Room and annual Art and Book Fair Volunteers, for all their hard work and amazing spirit throughout the last four years.
Although every one of these people enthusiastically supported me in their very unique way, I would especially like to thank Susan Pompeo for honoring my invitation and accepting to be AAFSW’s Honorary President, Sheila Switzer for further educating me with her outstanding programs and for introducing me to so many people and organizations, as well as Sarah Morrow, Susan Lee, Nicole Spiridakis, and Barbara Reioux for working so diligently with me offering their limitless support and relentless determination to perfection. I intend to remain on the 2020-2022 AAFSW Board of Directors as Public Relations and Publicity Chair as well as Fun For Funds Chair and, together with the new Board members, work with all of you as partners to help the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide provide a great network support and attain even more successes while presenting even more scholarships and awards as well as stimulating events and interesting information to our members.
As we approach the summer of 2020, let me also remind you that AAFSW exists because of its members’ support! Please, do not forget to renew your membership and vote during the Summer 2020 AAFSW Election. Also, where it is possible, please, consider AAFSW as your tax-deductible charity organization (Amazon Smile, end-of-year donations, wills and trusts). Thank you to all who have been supporting AAFSW with your generous donations during the last four years and to Arlington County for the grant which AAFSW recently received. Your contributions help AAFSW present annual scholarship awards as well as exciting and thought-provoking programs, which we all enjoy. Consider giving to AAFSW so that AAFSW can give back to you. AAFSW is YOUR American Foreign Affairs Community!
I will conclude by letting you know how truly humbled, delighted, and privileged I have been to lead AAFSW’s impressive group of members and volunteers for the last four years. During this time, I realized that we are all vital ingredients in making AAFSW’ss Community vibrant, rich, and energetic as we continue to engage our group’s diverse interests and incredible international cultural range.
May 2020-2022 be a productive time for our great organization, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, and for its new 2020-2022 elected Executive Board and Board of Directors’ members! Let’s welcome them all whole-heartedly in August 2020, offer our continuing support, thank them for stepping up to offer their volunteer service to AAFSW, and wish them all the best of luck!
Once again, thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the simply fabulous four years as your AAFSW President! All of you and AAFSW have brought lots of sunshine into my life!
Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, PhD
2016-2020 AAFSW President