During the week of July 23, the Trump administration held “American Heroes Week.” As part of the celebration, State Department employees received credit for their work in combatting worldwide extreme poverty and disease, promoting U.S. national security and economic interests internationally and assisting American citizens traveling abroad.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that State Department employees “are unsung, on the front lines every day, doing things which…define where America stands, what Americans can achieve.”
Since the State Department’s founding 228 years ago, the organization has achieved multiple noteworthy successes. In the past 15 years, government-funded interventions contributed to a 45 percent decrease in maternal deaths globally and a 51 percent decrease in the mortality rate of children under five.
Through support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), four African countries are nearing control of their HIV epidemics.
The work of State Department employees remains crucial for American policy, even as the work itself becomes more challenging and risky. Diplomats and development professionals are currently facing the worst food security crisis since World War II.
In 2016, 101 aid workers were killed, 98 were wounded and 89 were kidnapped. Nevertheless, 141 million people needed humanitarian assistance in the same year. Anne Smedinghoff is the most recent U.S. diplomat killed in the line of duty, in Afghanistan in 2013.
State Department employees also assist citizens of the U.S. So far, they have issued about 15.6 million passports to U.S. citizens in 2017. In 2016, more than 10 million non-immigrant foreign nationals received visas. They contributed more than $240 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than one million U.S. jobs.
For “American Heroes Week,” the State Department also showcased some of its staff members on its Instagram account. Srdan Sadikovic, who currently serves in Turkey and oversees food assistance programs in northwest Syria, was a refugee to the U.S. from Bosnia and Herzegovina where he received assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
To further honor U.S. diplomats and development professionals working for the State Department, the United States Diplomacy Center will open in Washington, D.C., in 2018. The center is “the first museum and education center dedicated to the history, practice and challenges of American diplomacy.”
The work of the men and women of the State Department often goes unnoticed, and their progress is incremental and painstaking. Nonetheless, the U.S. government and the American people continue to show their support for State Department employees who assist Americans and non-Americans alike in everything from issuing passports to providing sustainable food sources for communities living in extreme poverty.
– Sean Newhouse