Foreign Service Retirees Association

Our 9/9/16 Board of Directors meeting went well; much planning for 2017 was in the works.  Later, our speaker for the luncheon was The Honorable Nancy J. Powell, career ambassador, retired.  Her illustrious Foreign Service career began in 1977 and she rose through the ranks to serve as Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and, ultimately, as our first female ambassador to India.  She spoke on South Asian policies and issues.

 

Election of Donald Trump to the Presidency

I am devastated by his election.  The Democrats really blew it.  Hillary had a good chance at winning and by not campaigning in certain key states, she lost it.  Trump is executing special pronouncements like mad, particularly, he is abrogating everything ever accomplished by Obama.  He is deleting rules and regulations one for every two.  He and his White House staff are inveterate liars.  Kelly Conway and Sean Spicer are especially liars, taking Trump's lying lead.

The English Language Officer

I'm reminiscing about a great job I had during January 2010 through November 2013. Qualified by the United States Department of State as an English Language Officer (ELO), my job was varied in its responsibilities. I had to manage the logistics of air travel, hotel arrangements, liaison with organizations, ground transportation, and emergencies regarding international diplomats and dignitaries,  I was further qualified, in November of 2010, to serve as administrator of State Department anti-terrorism Mobile Security Teams.  As an ELO I accompanied hundreds of visitors to almost every state in the country and to many dozens of cities. Performing 35 assignments in the four-year period, almost all of three-weeks' duration, this was great part-time work for one of my advanced age.  I loved the work and I miss doing it.

An even better job that I had from 1978 through 1982 was as Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of Family Planning International Assistance.  Managing 80 projects in 18 countries was an intense job.  I worked in English, Spanish and Portuguese.  The job came to an end for political reasons, but I don't reminisce about it.  Not much.

Working in Afghanistan

First, I want readers to know that the people of Afghanistan are called Afghans - not Afghanis.  The Afghani is the money of the country.  I had the job of Finance Director and Deputy Chief of Party of the Afghan Governance and Legal Reform Project, funded by USAID (US Agency for International Development).  A large part of my job was to issue money to contractors for the building of courthouses.  I also paid staff salaries.  We built 29 courthouses throughout the country and oversaw the training of judges, including female judges.  I worked with the Supreme Court, as well.  As in Iraq, my job took me throughout Afghanistan, often to officiate at the inaugurations of courthouses.  With the country at war, I had to take special care not to get killed.  I enjoyed the Afghan people, mainly our staff.  We had architects who designed the courthouses; two of the architects were females.  My Logistics staff handled the furnishing of the courthouses and the Supreme Court.  It was my job to pay the salaries of Judges, too. Eventually, my contract came to an end and I left the country with a sad heart.  My next assignment was in Belarus.

Working in Iraq

During 2003-2004 I worked in Iraq.  I arrived in the country barely three weeks after the "Shock and Awe" of the US invasion.  My job was as Deputy Chief of Party of the RISE Project.  RISE was  and acronym meaning Rehabilitation of Iraqi Schools and Stabilization of Education.  My job as Deputy Chief of Party was as Operations Manager of the project.  Funded by USAID (US Agency for International Development), we fielded about 100 personnel throughout the country, in Baghdad, Mosul, Erbil, Al Hilla, and Basrah.  My job kept me working in all locations.  We had to shut down the Mosul office because of sporadic grenade attacks and we moved it to Erbil, in Kurdistan.  The expatriate personnel numbered about 20 professionals from many countries.  The managers of the field offices were all expatriates as a requirement of USAID.  My job also required me to have oversight responsibility for our office in Kuwait, which was our logistics office.  The thing I like best about working in wartorn Iraq was our Iraqi (and Kurds and Kuwaities) staff.  They were an intelligent and dedicated group of people.  Eventually, my contract with the RISE Project came to an end.  I next worked in Afghanistan. Not long after leaving Iraq I began receiving requests from the Iraqi staff for assistance in getting out of Iraq. I helped about 17 Iraqis to find work in Dubai, Kuwait, The Emirates, Sweden, Scotland and the United States.  We stay in touch to this day.

Hillary Clinton

I voted for Hillary in the Primaries and I plan on voting for her in the General Election.  While I like what Bernie has to say, what he believes in, I don't think he has a ghost of a chance at the Presidency.  I would like to see Hillary adopting his progressive ideas, and run with them along with her own ideas.  I would like to see Bernie "turn over" his admirers to Hillary's campaign and I would like to see him endorse Hillary as the Democratic nominee. In terms of Hillary's choice of a Vice Presidential nominee, I'm sure she'll pick whomever she wants.  Personally, I would like to see her pick Elizabeth Warren.   -- Steven D. Orr

Foreign Service Retirees Association

Today, the Foreign Service Retirees Association of Florida held its bi-monthly meeting at Lakeland, Florida.  After an hour-long meeting of the Board of Advisors, of which I am a member, the association had a speaker for the luncheon in the person of United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who serves as the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The Ambassador spoke authoritatively and knowledgeably about the sub-Saharan states of Africa.  Formerly, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield served as the Director General of the U.S. Foreign Service and as the Director of Human Resources of the State Department, leading a team of approximately 400 employees who handled the full range of personnel functions for the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce – from recruitment and hiring to evaluations, promotions and retirement. Her talk inspired hope for the future of improved U.S. relationships throughout the African continent.

Peace Corps Film Festival

Today, the First Coast Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Inc. hosted the Third Goal International Film Festival at Players by the Sea to celebrate 55 years of the Peace Corps. W. Scott and Nancy McLucas underwrote the program that supports the corps’ third goal “to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”  The afternoon commenced with a tasting of Eastern European, African, Asian, Middle East and Latin American food and an Ethiopian dance performance. Event organizer Bernadette Miron opened the celebration with a welcoming salute to the Peace Corps. Bernadette served from 1963 to 1965 in Colombia, where she met fellow volunteer and husband-to-be David Miron. President John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country” speech inspired her to join.  The film festival included documentaries “A Towering Task” produced by Alana DeJoseph, and “Posh Corps” by Alan Toth. A screening of an award-winning film DIFRET, produced by Mehret Mandefro was based on a true story of a young Ethiopian girl caught in a clash between cultural traditions and the country’s advancement of equal rights. A Skype talk with Mandefro followed the film.

Now Serving on the Board of Directors of the Foreign Service Retirees Association

I am happy to announce that I have recently been appointed to the Board of Advisors of the Foreign Service Retirees Association (FSRA) of Florida. As such I will be serving as Advisor Pro Tem as a liaison to the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers membership.  As such, I initiated contact with RPCV groups in Miami, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Tampa, Tampa University Peace Corps Club, and Central Florida (Orlando). Anyone in the State of Florida who is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer is invited to join FSRA. Additionally, all RPCVs are invited to attend FSRA's bimonthly meetings. Please feel free to contact me directly at exmultifaceted@msn.com and I will be delighted to provide you with more details and facilitate your membership! 

Leading Muslim Scholar Speaks to the Foreign Service Retirees Association

On May 15, 2015, Dr. Parvez Ahmed, Professor of Finance at the University of North Florida, a member of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission and a Fulbright Scholar, spoke on the topic: “Terror in the Name of Islam  - Unholy War Not Jihad.”  He spoke before the membership of the Foreign Service Retirees Association of Florida.  Dr. Ahmed spoke quite eloquently about terror and its history from antiquity.  With his research of economy and terror down through the ages, he was able to demonstrate that the current terror in the Middle East is neither religious nor based on the teachings of Islam.  His research has also shown that since 9/11, and following the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, terror has spiked worldwide.  Currently, 90% of the worldwide victims of terror are Muslims.   The biggest threat today is ISIS, which is waging war in the name of Islam while the Quran teaches non-violence and the preservation of life.  Dr. Ahmed concluded his scholarly and fascinating talk with the recommendation that only a socio-political framework will solve the problems since there is no military solution.  Many questions were fielded from the audience and Dr. Ahmed expressed an interest in speaking before other groups if requested.  He plans to take a second group of tourists to Turkey in May of 2016.  He noted that Turkey’s current government is interesting since it is in the process of undoing many of the previous reforms of Ataturk.