Much of today’s class time was spent with the historians who work in the State Department. Not surprisingly, they focus on diplomatic history, which is intertwined with U.S. history, of course. We heard presentations from three historians, all of whom have Ph.D.s in history, and who engage in research as well as archiving the ongoing history of American diplomacy as it occurs.
Some people find history to be boring or uninteresting. If you are one of these people, believe me, if you heard a presentation from one of these guys, you would change your mind. All three presenters were engaging, funny, informative and entertaining. Their sessions were interactive. We engaged in discussions, group work, and reflective exercises.
The purpose of the session was to educate us, and teach some US diplomatic history from the position of the US government. But it really wasn’t indoctrination. As diplomats, we are expected to present a united front with regard to US foreign policy when interacting with other countries. But we are also expected to have an objective understanding of US foreign relations.
One historian suggested a great way to prepare for a foreign posting. New Foreign Service officers often want to know about relations between the US and the country that they will be posted to. The historian suggested getting a book on relations with the US that was written by a citizen of that country, not by an American. If we are posted to France, for example, we should get a book on French-US relations that was written by a French historian. The historian said that the book will probably be “wrong,” but it will give us an idea of how the other side sees us.
Today was day four of training. We are almost finished with the first of six weeks of basic training. I am tired at the end of every day. The training program is excellent, but there is just so much information to absorb. Several people have compared this to drinking from a fire hose. At the end of the day, I just want to go back to my apartment and sleep. Unfortunately, we have had several hours of homework every night so far this week, so sleep will have to wait for a while.
Luckily, Monday is a federal holiday, so we will have a long weekend. I plan to take advantage of this opportunity to explore the city, do some laundry, buy groceries, and not think about US foreign policy for a few days.