Forum, July 14: State Department in Disarray

Thursday, July 13, 2017
State Department in Disarray

Your July 9 op-ed "Rex Tillerson Seems to Be Secretary of State in Name Only" outlines what it takes to be successful in this critical Cabinet position. The author, a somewhat right-leaning professor at the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, reviewed many conversations with diplomats in the State Department in Washington, along with other observers, domestic and international.

His finding: Tillerson is falling far short in his role as the face and voice of American global leadership. Top aides are still not appointed. Foreign diplomats' phone calls to the department are not returned. Tillerson’s relations with the press, the White House, Congress and the State Department's experienced career diplomats are in disarray.

In a world where President Trump is already ceding global leadership to China and Germany, this dismal picture gives me a sense of foreboding. As the wife of a career Foreign Service diplomat, much of my adult life was lived in embassies and consulates around the world, starting with India (later he was ambassador in New Delhi), then behind the Iron Curtain in Prague and Moscow. We served four years in Kathmandu, had two tours in Bucharest (the second time he was ambassador). As ambassador to Chile, he had a role in the eventual ouster of dictator Augusto Pinochet. From tours in Washington, he knew well the internal workings of the Department of State;  in 1977 Secretary Cyrus Vance appointed him director general of the Foreign Service.

A successful Department of State must be able to function smoothly in a complex, rapidly changing world with cadres of experienced senior Foreign Service officers serving their country in a spirit of professional trust and mutual respect. Without this, American leadership in the world community will most assuredly continue to falter.

Fortunately, Upper Valley citizens have senior voices on key Senate committees  — Budget, Foreign Affairs, Appropriations — to champion our concerns about the Tillerson State Department. We must let Sens. Leahy, Shaheen and Sanders know the depth of our distress and call on them to use their voices boldly and effectively to insist on improvement.

Betsey Barnes


Too High a Price to Pay

An article in the Sunday Valley News described an unusual orchestra named “Tap Tap”(“ ‘They Like Our Music’: Czech Orchestra of Disabled Musicians Gets World Attention,” July 9). It explained, “You can’t tell from its professional, typically rhythmic sound that many of the musicians are in wheelchairs with serious disabilities. And that’s just what the director wants.”

It’s wonderful that orchestra members are able to engage and participate in a meaningful leisure activity, but that is not always the case with disabled people 

Unfortunately, in most cases, having a disability comes at a cost, and a pretty hefty one at that. Extra-curricular activities, specifically camps for people with disabilities, tend to be overly expensive, causing them to miss out on opportunities that other individuals may have the chance to experience.

Every individual should have access to the same opportunities, no matter their ability or disability. Therefore, providing camps with funding from the federal budget to make them more affordable for individuals with disabilities would ensure equal opportunities for everyone.

Not only would everyone have the chance to attend a camp if they so chose, but it would provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to experience, grow, learn and, most importantly, have fun just like everyone else!

Emily Tiedt

St. Paul, Minn.