Our Foreign and Civil Service patriots at the State Department are working the world over to protect the United States, advance our interests, and aid our allies and partners. They need and deserve leaders at home who – like them – are willing to do what is right, tell the truth, and put their country first, no matter who is in the White House.
Earlier this year, however, many of these individuals received the opposite treatment. Public servants with firsthand knowledge of the administration’s actions regarding Ukraine refused to participate in activities they considered wrong, and, in the face of the president’s efforts to silence them, testified about that wrongdoing to Congress.
These individuals volunteered to serve their country. Their testimony was not driven by partisan ideology, but by their sworn oath to defend democracy and uphold the Constitution of the United States. They stepped forward at great personal and professional risk because, as former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch said recently, it was “what our conscience called us to do” and “what the gift of U.S. citizenship requires us to do.”
In the weeks following the impeachment trial, newly emboldened by his acquittal by the United States Senate, President Trump set out to retaliate against those public servants who dared to do the right thing – who did their jobs and put duty to their country over loyalty to the president at a time when precious few are willing to do the same.
It is on us to defend and advocate for these professionals going forward. Now more than ever, we need to defend the truth-tellers and the institutions that protect dissent because they are integral to democracy.
We need to thank and defend public servants like Ambassador Yovanovitch, who served our country with dignity in the Foreign Service for 34 years, advancing U.S. interests and fighting corruption throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. In the face of a malicious smear campaign waged by the president and his allies, she showed professionalism, courage, and patriotism.
We need to thank and defend individuals like former Ambassador Bill Taylor, who throughout his service in Vietnam and in both Republican and Democratic administrations, faithfully put his country first, never to be swayed by those seeking personal gain at the expense of the United States.
We need to thank and defend brave individuals like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient who – along with his brother – was unceremoniously escorted out of the White House after participating in the impeachment hearings. During his testimony, Lt. Col. Vindman reassured his father that he had made the right decision in moving his family to the U.S. from the Soviet Union 40 years ago. “Do not worry,” he said. “I will be fine for telling the truth.” Lt. Col. Vindman believed that because, as he testified, “Here, right matters.”
It does matter, it has always mattered, and we need to make sure it matters again.
George Kent, Jennifer Williams, and David Holmes are brave American diplomats who also came forward during the impeachment process to do what is right. They, along with over 15,000 other Foreign Service Officers, work each day at the State Department and around the world to keep us safe and keep America the great nation that it is.
These men and women keep a watchful eye on global hot spots, frequently serving alongside U.S. troops in extremely dangerous places. They negotiate nuclear arms reduction agreements, advocate for free and open commercial markets for U.S. goods and services, and monitor foreign elections in support of democratic freedoms across the globe.
It is America’s diplomats who monitor and manage ever-shifting threats, who ensure that the United States has a constant and steady worldwide presence, including to the farthest reaches of the globe. When trouble and unrest are brewing around the world, our dedicated Foreign Service officers keep watch, respond, and, working in concert with the Civil Service officers back home, ensure U.S. policy keeps pace with global challenges.
We owe them a debt of gratitude. Not just now, but moving forward, we have a responsibility to stand up for these men and women who stand up for us around the world – even, and especially when, that means standing up for them here at home.