Nik Steinberg writes: On November 10, 2016, my colleagues and I at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations gathered on the top floor of the building, which overlooks the U.N. General Assembly. My boss at the time, Ambassador Samantha Power, had convened the staff to discuss the transition in the aftermath of the election, the results of which had caught many of us by surprise. The U.S. Mission, like the State Department as a whole, brings together career foreign and civil service officers with a handful of political appointees chosen by the president. Out of a staff of roughly 150 people, I was one of a few dozen political appointees.
It was an emotional gathering for all, but there were differences in the staff’s reactions that day. The political appointees spoke mostly about the deep divisions exposed by the election, and expressed concern that many of the issues we’d worked hardest on during our time in government—such as rallying a global response to the refugee crisis and marshaling support for a landmark agreement on climate change—would be undone by a president-elect who had campaigned against those efforts.
The career officers, in contrast, tended to focus on a point of continuity. They talked about how, whether serving in a Republican or Democratic administration, their responsibility was to offer the best advice they could on how to advance America’s interests in the world. As one foreign service officer put it: “We will keep serving this country. That’s what we do.”
I’ve thought a lot about those former colleagues during the first eight months of the Trump administration. The seriousness with which they approach the job of representing our country, and the fact that many of them continue to serve, has been a source of profound solace to me in an otherwise bleak period. [Continue reading…]