Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Letters to a Young Diplomat

Websites for inspiration:

Florida State University gave me a 2007 summer grant to continue work on my Female Expat Project. In preparation for an exhibition this fall, I'm emailing and sending letters to all of the current female U.S. Ambassadors a letter by a fictional, inspiring young diplomat. I'll also post that letter here. Modelled after Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" and Art on Paper's "Letters to a Young Artist, the project documents what role women play in the power structures of the 21st century. Please email me at jdietrick@gmail.com or simply post to the blog if you have a response. These responses will be used to create glowing plexi pieces housed in furniture with the possible addition of sound. I'm so excited.

As I wrote in the letter of introduction to our ambassadors, I hope that you will consider participating to help document our shifting definitions of place for future generations of women overseas to enjoy the recent, huge shifts in these definitions.


Dear Ambassador:

I am writing you as a young woman interested in the Foreign Service. Although I was raised in a small city and have only traveled throughout the United States, other cultures have always fascinated me. Coupled with my interest in international relations and a commitment to community service, this interest in a life overseas inspired me to research careers in the Foreign Service. During this research, I encountered your name.

At the prompt of our teacher's assignment, I am writing to you in the hope that you can find the time to write a letter in response. I'm specifically interested in the joys and challenges of a life overseas, and if you would do anything differently. Although regret is a useless emotion for an individual, when clarified for a future generations, it is informative. I hope you are able to find time in your busy schedule to send a few words of wisdom.

First, I have a few questions about gender. If the people with the greatest amount of power in the 20th and especially the 21st centuries are those people who can thoroughly understand and gracefully navigate the global scene, what role are women playing in these high-powered roles? Have you found any challenges in the Foreign Service because you are a woman? Do you notice any difference in how your male and female colleagues manage their work and personal lives? Is there a glass ceiling? Are you always taken as seriously as your male counterparts in other countries?

Lastly, with anti-American sentiment on the increase, does you position in the Foreign Service ever make you uncomfortable? Friends of my parents, who have lived overseas, say that people in other countries often clarify their anti-American sentiment by explaining that they dislike the government, not Americans. As a representative of our government, can you clarify how this sentiment affects your work and sense of self?

In contrast to the politically correct statements made my most government officials, I hope you can speak candidly in your response since such honestly will helps guide me to make important decisions. I tried to look up memoirs of diplomats and other books related to the Foreign Service. Not a single one was written by a woman. Please let me know if there are any that you can recommend.

I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time.


Joelle Dietrick

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