Washington D.C.

Inside American Diplomacy With the Foreign Service

Discuss foreign policy with diplomats, attend international briefings and go behind the scenes of “Embassy Row” as you gain special access to the U.S. Foreign Service.
Rating (5)
Program No. 18260RJ
5 days
Starts at
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At a Glance

What do U.S. diplomats in the Foreign Service do? Their mission is manifold: to promote peace, support national security goals, advance U.S. business and agricultural interests and protect American citizens. Gain in-depth, behind-the-scenes knowledge of life in the Foreign Service from active and retired officers and ambassadors who share their personal experiences firsthand. Examine pressing U.S. foreign policy issues in action — enhanced by Q&A sessions — to better understand what tomorrow may bring.
Activity Level
Easy Going
Minimal walking and standing; must be able to get on/off bus.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Enjoy frank and forthcoming engagement with experts in the field of foreign policy and diplomacy.
  • Visit a foreign embassy, learn a language like a diplomat and explore diplomatic history.
  • Delve into Washington’s diplomatic community on a narrated fieldtrip to “Embassy Row.”

General Notes

Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
America's Other Army: The U.S. Foriegn Service and 21st Century Diplomacy
by Nicholas Kralev
"America's Other Army" brings the high-flying world of international diplomacy down to earth and puts a human face on a mysterious profession that has undergone a dramatic transformation since September 11, 2001. Through the stories of American diplomats, the book explains how their work affects millions of people in the United States and around the world every day, and how it contributes directly to U.S. security and prosperity. It shows a more inclusive American diplomacy that has moved beyond interacting with governments and has engaged with the private sector, civil society and individual citizens. Having visited 77 embassies and consulates, and interviewed more than 600 American diplomats, the author reveals a Foreign Service whose diversity and professional versatility have shattered old perceptions and redefined modern diplomacy. But he also depicts a service not fully equipped to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.
American Diplomats: The Foreign Service at Work
by Stuart Kennedy and William Morgan
What do the men and women of America's diplomatic corps do? William D. Morgan and Charles Stuart Kennedy, themselves career diplomats, culled over 1400 oral interviews with their Foreign Service peers to present forty excerpts covering events from the 1920s to the 1990s. Insiders recount what happens when a consul spies on Nazi Germany, Mao Tse-Tung drops by for a chat, the Cold War begins with the Berlin blockade, the Marshall Plan rescues Europe, Sukarno moves Indonesia into the communist camp, Khrushchev calls President Kennedy an SOB, and our ambassador is murdered in Kabul."You are there" accounts deepen readers' understanding, as diplomatic and consular officers talk about the beginnings of Kremlinology, predicting a coup in Ecuador, Hemingway and the embassy in Havana, the secret formulation of the NATO treaty, Jerusalem after the British and the US recognition of Israel, fighting in the Congo over Katangan secession, dealing with an alcoholic foreign president, human rights work in Paraguay, the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran, the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, helping families of the Pan Am 103 victims, Greece and Turkey at odds over a tiny island, embassy roles in Riyadh and Tel Aviv during Desert Storm, and many more.
Inside a U.S. Embassy
by Shawn Dorman
Who works in an embassy? What do diplomats actually do? Inside a U.S. Embassy offers an up-close and personal look into the lives of the diplomats and specialists who make up the U.S. Foreign Service, taking readers inside embassies and consulates in more than fifty countries, providing detailed descriptions of Foreign Service jobs and first-hand accounts of diplomacy in action. Gain a sense of the key role played by each member of an embassy team from Paris to Kabul, from Bogota to Beijing, and places in between. Travel into the rainforests of Thailand with an environmental affairs officer, face rampaging militias with a political officer in East Timor, and join an ambassador on a midnight trip into a Macedonian refugee camp to quell a riot. The book includes profiles of diplomats and specialists around the world serving in Foreign Service positions -- from the ambassador to the security officer, the consular officer to the IT specialist. Also included is a selection of day-in-the-life accounts from seventeen different countries, each describing an actual day on the job. The story section includes twenty-six tales from the field that give a sense of the extraordinary: the coups, the evacuations, the civil wars, the hardships and rewards of representing America to the world.Inside a U.S. Embassy was published by the American Foreign Service Association in 2003, and updated and revised in 2005. Over 70,000 copies have sold.
Behind Embassy Walls: The Life and Times of an American Diplomat
by Brandon Grove
Behind Embassy Walls is the extraordinary autobiography of a career American diplomat and an account of his role in key events of the Cold War era. The son of an international oilman and a Polish émigré, Brandon Grove spent his childhood before World War II largely in Europe, in Nazi Germany, Holland, and Spain. He recounts his acquaintance with William Faulkner while at Bard College, his service in the navy in the Korean War, and his thirty-five-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, focusing on diplomacy as practiced behind the scenes. In this candid personal account, Grove voices criticism of the Foreign Service and the State Department, while at the same time revealing the human face of diplomacy. He offers discerning assessments of such notable personalities as Chester Bowles; Robert Kennedy; George Kennan; Omar Torrijos; John Sherman Cooper and his wife, Lorraine; Philip Habib; Willy Brandt; Mobutu; Vernon Walters; Jimmy Carter; and Ronald Reagan, among others. He also describes the requisites for effective American diplomats today. Fascinating and informative, Behind Embassy Walls will be an indispensable look at the diplomacy of the past century.
Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign Service
by Harry Kopp and Charles Gillespie
Career Diplomacy—now in its second edition—is an insider's guide that examines the foreign service as an institution, a profession, and a career. Harry W. Kopp and Charles A. Gillespie, both of whom had long and distinguished careers in the foreign service, provide a full and well-rounded picture of the organization, its place in history, its strengths and weaknesses, and its role in American foreign affairs. Based on their own experiences and through interviews with over 100 current and former foreign service officers and specialists, the authors lay out what to expect in a foreign service career, from the entrance exam through midcareer and into the senior service—how the service works on paper, and in practice. The second edition addresses major changes that have occurred since 2007: the controversial effort to build an expeditionary foreign service to lead the work of stabilization and reconstruction in fragile states; deepening cooperation with the U.S. military and the changing role of the service in Iraq and Afghanistan; the ongoing surge in foreign service recruitment and hiring at the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development; and the growing integration of USAID’s budget and mission with those of the Department of State.
by Henry Kissinger
A brilliant, sweeping history of diplomacy that includes personal stories from the noted former Secretary of State, including his stunning reopening of relations with China. The seminal work on foreign policy and the art of diplomacy. Moving from a sweeping overview of history to blow-by-blow accounts of his negotiations with world leaders, Henry Kissinger describes how the art of diplomacy has created the world in which we live, and how America's approach to foreign affairs has always differed vastly from that of other nations. Brilliant, controversial, and profoundly incisive, Diplomacy stands as the culmination of a lifetime of diplomatic service and scholarship. It is vital reading for anyone concerned with the forces that have shaped our world today and will impact upon it tomorrow.
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty
by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine? Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including: - China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West? - Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority? - What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions? Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.
by Various
We do not require any reading prior to the program. We do recommend staying current on the news, as our topics will be current. Following is a list of recommended readings to follow up on the course content.
Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy
by Christopher R. Hill
A “candid, behind-the-scenes” (The Dallas Morning News) memoir from one of our most distinguished ambassadors who—in his career of service to the country—was sent to some of the most dangerous outposts of American diplomacy. hristopher Hill was on the front lines in the Balkans at the breakup of Yugoslavia. He participated in one-on-one meetings with the dictator Milosevic and traveled to Bosnia and Kosovo, and to the Dayton conference, where a truce was arrived at. He was the first American Ambassador to Macedonia; Ambassador to Poland, in the cold war; chief disarmament negotiator in North Korea; and Hillary Clinton’s hand-picked Ambassador to Iraq. Outpost is Hill’s “lively, entertaining…introduction to the difficult game of diplomacy” (The Washington Post)—an adventure story of danger, loss of comrades, high stakes negotiations, and imperfect options. There are fascinating portraits of war criminals (Mladic, Karadzic), of presidents (Bush, Clinton, and Obama), of vice presidents including Dick Cheney, of Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and of Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and Lawrence Eagleburger, among others. Hill writes bluntly about the bureaucratic warfare in DC and expresses strong criticism of America’s aggressive interventions and wars of choice.
The Diplomat and his Daughter
by Daniel Pearson Ernst JD
The combined diaries of Alfred Pearson, U.S. minister to Poland and Finland, and his daughter Thea Elaine, who served as her father's diplomatic hostess abroad, put a personal spin on the relationship between Poland, Finland and the U.S. in the exciting years between the two world wars.
American Ambassadors: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Diplomats
by Denis Jett
There are two ways to become an ambassador: a lifetime of dedicated civil service in remote, often life-imperiling locales, or to be a wealthy political benefactor. One route provides grueling work that may never result in this heralded position in the American political landscape, serving some of the world's most challenged nations as they undergo radical change. The other route is considered a gift for financial aid after a successful election campaign. The way in which people become ambassadors of the United States is the result of time-honored traditions and, in some cases, the most thinly veiled form of corruption in American government. American Ambassadors explains where ambassadors come from, what they do, where they go and why they still matter. Former ambassador Dennis Jett offers an insider's look at the complex bureaucratic process that determines who becomes an ambassador and the different paths to the title that are taken by career diplomats and political appointees. Jett describes how an ambassador's effectiveness is measured and why at least four ambassadors in recent years have resigned because of poor performance. It demonstrates how the embassy to which as ambassador is sent can depend on a person's race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and the size of their campaign contributions. And it makes the case for why, in today's ever more globalized world, their work is more important than ever.

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