Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day


mgedwards:

“Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day,” a piece I wrote last year. This is dedicated to the Foreign Service officers we lost in the past year – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and Anne Smedinghoff. This year, please remember the diplomats and all civilians who serve their country on the front lines of freedom.

Originally posted on World Adventurers:

Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.

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Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of American diplomats…

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Key Events Influencing the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election


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With the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election today, I thought it was time to get a little political. Election Day in the United States, November 6, is less than six months away and the campaigns are in full swing, so now’s a good time to weigh in on the U.S. presidential race.

In spite of the incumbent status of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, the U.S. presidential race is more competitive this year than it has been since the 2000 Election. The presumptive Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, is virtually tied with the president in public opinion polls. RealClearPolitics’ Poll Average on June 5 showed President Obama leading Romney by an average 2%, a decrease from 4% on April 25. This is within the 2-3% margin of error and puts the two candidates in a statistical dead heat. Based on poll trends, we’re in for a close finish.

Here’s my objective analysis of how key events likely to occur between now and Election Day could give an advantage to Obama or Romney. Where there’s no clear favorite, I called it a “Toss Up.” I am not predicting who will win the presidency. Watch how Obama and Romney fare in the aftermath of these milestones, and you’ll have a better idea of who will win. As the 2008 Election demonstrated, announcements such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the naming of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate influenced the election. This year’s contest will be no different, and the race is close enough that a single event, such as a seismic jobs report or an international incident, could shift the balance in favor of one candidate.

June 4, 2012: North Korea threatens to attack South Korean media outlets in Seoul

Advantage: Obama. North Korea (DPRK) warned that its troops have aimed artillery at South Korean media groups and threatened a "merciless sacred war" after the outlets criticized children’s celebrations in Pyongyang. While North Korea often makes vague statements threatening South Korea and the United States with utter destruction, this warning specifically mentioned the longitude and latitude of the locations of seven media outfits in Seoul. While the chance that the DPRK will take military action against the South before November 6 is slim, North Korea has been known to take advantage of a political situation to make a statement as it did in November 2010 when it shelled Yeonpyeong Island. The lower the tensions between the two Koreas, the better for Obama. A pre-election attack on the Korean Peninsula would put him in a difficult political situation at a bad time.

June 6, 2012: Wisconsin recall election between Governor Scott Walker (R) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D)

Advantage: Romney. Polls and most political commentators believe that incumbent Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will win by a sizeable margin and may provide a bump for Romney in Wisconsin, a key swing state. Obama defeated McCain by a wide margin in 2008. Many commentators have indicated that the state may be in play with a larger Republican turnout in November energized by the recall election, and early exit polls show the race tightening to +6 for Obama, a 2-point decrease from the national poll average. Given that Obama won the state in 2008 by 12 points, his support in Wisconsin — and perhaps in other states he carried in 2008 — has waned.

June 8, 2012: International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) talks with Iran over its Nuclear Program

Advantage: Obama. Talks with Iran over its nuclear program are ongoing, and Iran’s admission that the Flame virus caused a massive data loss on its computer networks should be a setback for its nuclear program. Iran will continue to be a foreign policy priority for the United States but is likely to have little or no impact on the U.S. Election. The perception that the United States was involved in Flame’s creation — whether true or not — may help or hurt Obama’s image.

June 17, 2012: Greek Legislative Election

Advantage: Romney. After a political stalemate in May when the Greeks were unable to form a new government, new elections were called in Greece for June 17. The chance that this round will go better is low, and the results may send new shockwaves through the financial markets, especially if minor parties such as Syriza make substantial gains. Ongoing issues over Greek debt will continue to weigh down the Eurozone. While the likelihood that Greece exits the euro and destabilizes the Eurozone before the U.S. Election is small, the country will continue to make news through the campaign period, and much of it won’t help Obama’s efforts to stimulate the U.S. economy.

June 20-24, 2012: The Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Advantage: Toss Up. If the Supreme Court declares the PPACA unconstitutional or strikes down the individual insurance mandate, it will generally be viewed as a setback for the president because the law is considered one of his major legislative achievements. Views on whether this will happen vary. According to the Wall Street Journal, just 35% of legal experts who have argued cases believed the Court would strike down the mandate. As of June 5, the sentiment at Intrade put the odds that the mandate will be rejected at 65.3%. If it’s upheld, it will benefit Obama; if overturned, it will be a blow to his reelection campaign.

July 6, 2012: June Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Romney. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will release its monthly jobs report for June. The May report released on June 1 showed signs of decreased job growth, higher unemployment, and a downward revision of the March and April job reports. Given this trend, it’s likely that the June report won’t be much better and will be bad news for Obama.

July 20, 2012: UN action (or inaction) on Syria

Advantage: Romney. With the violence and unrest in Syria continuing, calls for UN action have increased. The mandate of the UN observer mission ends on July 20, and pressure is mounting for the UN Security Council to take action to “restore international peace and security” per Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Either scenario — failure to respond to continued violence against civilians in Syria or direct intervention in Syria as happened in Libya — puts the president in a difficult political position at a bad time.

July 27, 2012: Second Quarter 2012 Advance GDP Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will release its advance report on gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the second quarter (Q2) of 2012. It may affect the race if it differs substantially from the 2.2% GDP forecasted for the United States in Q2.

August 3, 2012: July Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for July. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

Mid-August, 2012: Romney announces running mate/vice presidential candidate

Advantage: Romney. Several prominent names have been mentioned as Romney’s running mate; most are from swing states. The announcement will provide a quick bounce for Romney. If the candidate is strong and/or hails from a swing state, they will bolster the ticket. If they become a liability, this will be reflected in polls in September and/or October.

August 27-30, 2012: Republican National Convention begins in Tampa, Florida

Advantage: Romney. The Republican Party will host the convention in a state Obama won in 2008 and is a key battleground state in 2012. A presidential candidate usually has a bounce of several percentage points in the polls following a party convention.

August 29, 2012: Second Quarter 2012 Preliminary GDP Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. The BEA will release its preliminary report on GDP growth in 2Q 2012. It may affect the race if it differs substantially from the 2.2% GDP forecasted for the United States in Q2.

September 3-6, 2012: Democratic National Convention begins in Charlotte, North Carolina

Advantage: Obama. The Democratic Party will host the convention in a state Obama won in 2008 and is important to his reelection in 2012. The candidate usually has a bounce of several percentage points in the polls following a party convention.

September 7, 2012: August Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for August. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

October 2012 – March 2013: 12th National People’s Congress convenes

Advantage: Romney. The People’s Republic of China will choose a new National People’s Congress (NPC) and elect a new president. Xi Jinping will likely succeed President Hu Jintao in March 2013. However, the political situation in China is usually tense in the lead up to this transition. The situation is particularly contentious this year with the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and recent events involving dissident Chen Guangcheng. Recent events such as the handling of Chen’s case by the Obama administration and crackdown of foreigners in China indicate that U.S.-Chinese relations may be rocky until the transition period has ended. While Obama could score some points by engaging China on issues such as military cooperation, much could go wrong for him in the year ahead.

October 5, 2012: September Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for September. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

October 7, 2012: Venezuelan Presidential Election

Advantage: Obama. The outcome of the race between incumbent President Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles of the opposition First Justice Party depends on whether Chávez, who has cancer, is healthy enough to stand for re-election. Various scenarios have been debated, but most point to political change in Venezuela after October that may benefit Obama. A Capriles victory, a Chávez successor, or a more moderate Chávez should lead to an improved U.S.-Venezuelan relationship.

October 26, 2012: Third Quarter 2012 Advance GDP Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. The BEA will release its advance report on GDP growth in 3Q 2012. It may be help either candidate if it differs substantially from the 2.6% GDP forecasted for the United States in Q3.

November 2, 2012: October Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for October. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

November 6, 2012: U.S. Election Day

Advantage: Toss Up. As of this writing, President Obama has the advantage of incumbency and is leading in more battleground states than Romney. However, with his RCP Average approval rating at 47.8 and a tightened race, it’s far from certain that Obama will win reelection. Romney has emerged from a heated battle for the Republican nomination in a strong position and can look forward to a number of key events that could work to his advantage. Any of the ones mentioned above – or an unforeseen crisis – has the potential to tip the balance in either candidate’s favor come November. Count on it.

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buythumbM.G. Edwards is a former U.S. diplomat who served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia. He served as the democracy, elections, and governance officer to the U.S. Mission to Zambia from 2009 to 2011.

A writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres, he also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day


Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.

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Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of American diplomats have died in the line of duty. Their deaths were caused by natural disasters, diseases, killings, assassinations, and trying to save others’ lives. Two memorial plaques in the entrance hall of the State Department list the names of the 231 diplomats who have died in the line of duty since William Palfrey was lost at sea in 1780. More recently, Brian Adkins was killed in his home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2007, and David Foy was killed in 2006 by a car bomb in Karachi, Pakistan. This figure does not include the 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days during the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis when students and militants overran the then-U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The International News offers a sobering analysis of the history of violence against American diplomats, reporting that 111 have been killed or assassinated since 1780. According to the State Department, more ambassadors than U.S. generals or admirals have been killed since World War II. The U.S. Diplomacy Project tells the tales of diplomats who were put in harm’s way while serving overseas.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA         While 231 may not sound like a large number, consider that at any given time there are only about 11,000 American diplomats versus the more than 2.5 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces. A rough comparison of casualties during the Iraq War in 2008 revealed that personnel working for the State Department in Iraq during 2003-08 had a casualty rate of about 50% that of their military counterparts. As the events of September 11, 2001, showed, you don’t have be involved in active combat to be a casualty of war and terrorism.

Civilians who serve our country overseas work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. Government agencies or as contractors. Many support the U.S. military and diplomatic corps in hostile and dangerous conditions. They are unsung heroes who are rarely featured on the evening news or in movies. They labor in obscurity to protect the freedoms that Americans enjoy.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Public Law 90-363) set aside Memorial Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated each year on the last day of May. The law, however, does not specify who or what it commemorates. That’s up to you to decide. In the minds of many Americans, Memorial Day is a day to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, but this was not always so. The holiday known in the late 1800’s as Decoration Day recognized the veterans of the Union Army who fought in the American Civil War. After World War I, the generally accepted meaning of the day was to honor all Americans, military or civilian, who died in any war. This changed following World War II. It’s time to return to the days when we acknowledged the efforts of all who serve their country bravely in and out of uniform.

This Memorial Day, amid the barbeques, car races, fireworks, and gatherings, remember the diplomats and other civilians who faithfully serve their country in harm’s way.

Happy Memorial Day. God bless America, and God bless those who serve our country.

NFATC

Click here to read my 2007 post on Memorial Day.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State. The photos belong to the author.

clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Financial Indie: The Facebook IPO


This is a special edition of “Financial Indie” focusing on the upcoming Facebook initial public offering (IPO). Financial Indie is a series of articles designed to help writers finance their careers. If you have an investment question, please post it and I’ll try to incorporate it into a future article.

Almost 900 million people, or almost 13 percent of the earth’s population, use Facebook, the world’s top-ranked social media website, to keep in touch with family, friends and business contacts. Millions of companies and individuals have pages dedicated to promoting a product or themselves. Facebook is, in a word, a Juggernaut (or pick another synonym for "huge"). It is far and away the world’s largest social media website, as this infographic shows. For many writers, Facebook is an almost indispensable tool to market their books and build their brands.

Facebook Page

On Friday, May 18, 2012, Facebook will reportedly sell 422 million shares to the public at U.S.$34-$38 per share in an estimated $15-$16 billion offering. When the shares price late Thursday, they will likely be at or near $38. When they begin trading on Friday, it’s a safe bet that the price per share will at least double given how highly anticipated this offering is. I would not be surprised if shares of Facebook (FB) trade at more than $100 per share by early next week.

The May 2011 IPO of LinkedIn (LNKD), a much smaller social media rival, offers a good road map as to what might happen after Facebook goes public. Shares of LinkedIn rose as much as 171 percent in their first day of trading and closed at $94.25, more than 109 percent above the $45 IPO price. The stock went on to peak above $100 per share the following week and now trades above $110. I expect Facebook to perform as well or better, perhaps trading on Friday at a price higher than that of LinkedIn.

If you use Facebook — and chances are you do — you may be wondering whether you should invest in the social media giant after it goes public. You may be familiar with the site and know what it can do and how powerful it is. You may have also heard the investing adage that you should buy what you know. If you know Facebook, does that mean you should invest in it?

The short-term answer is a qualified "no." Although Facebook may be a good investment in the long run, think twice about buying shares immediately after the company goes public. Now, I’m not a naysayer who shies away from hot stocks. I take calculated risks. In August 2004, against the advice of some financially savvy individuals who thought it was overpriced, I purchased shares of Google (GOOG) via Dutch auction for U.S.$85 per share. By late 2008, shares of Google reached almost $715, a sevenfold gain, before dropping to $292 during the 2009 financial crisis. Google now trades at just over $611 per share. Google has been a good investment for me. I have bought and sold Google shares three times and made money each time. Taking a calculated risk on a hot stock can be a lucrative bet if done right.

Facebook’s IPO, however, is nothing like Google’s. When Google went public, it tried to balance the playing field for investors by auctioning off shares to all interested parties, institutional and retail investor alike, at a set price. Facebook is going public via a traditional offering where shares are allocated at face value to a limited number of investors and then sold in the market at whatever price it demands. Unless you’re underwriting the offering or stand to make a mint from going public like co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who will make an estimated $20.28 Billion (yes, that’s a "B") when his company goes public, you’ll be at the mercy of the market when you try to buy your shares. You may try to scoop up some after they go public, but you’ll be bidding along with the well-informed masses who are keen to get in on the action. You and a multitude of other bidders who are desperate to get their hands on the stock will pump up the price to a ridiculously high valuation. The higher it goes, the greater the risk that the price will plummet once interest cools.

I believe that in the long run Facebook stock will be a good investment for those who buy shares at the right price. One way to determine whether to purchase shares of Facebook is to wait until after the company releases its first post-IPO quarterly results. Investors will probably bid up the stock before the earnings results are announced. If they’re good, expect the share price to remain stable or go up slightly; if earnings are a disappointment, the price could fall substantially as investors readjust their expectations. Either way, read the analysts’ reports to see whether they consider Facebook a good long-term investment. Let their analyses, which could range from “strong buy” to “sell,” guide your decision whether to invest.

If you absolutely can’t wait to invest in Facebook, consider buying some shares on the "dip," a lull in the price that invariably occurs one or two weeks after IPO. That’s when the initial buyers bail out of the stock to lock in short-term gains, bidding down the price.

I plan to buy some shares of Facebook (FB) in the next few months and hold them for the long term, but I will wait for the ideal moment to buy. I can’t tell you when that will be until after the company goes public. I had an opportunity to purchase privately-held shares of the company on the secondary market in the mid-$30s but opted out. Time will tell whether my "go-slow" approach to Facebook — in contrast to my enthusiastic participation in Google’s IPO — is a good move.

Click here to read the previous edition of Financial Indie.

Disclaimer: I am an accredited private investor. I am not a certified financial planner or investment advisor. The information contained in these articles should not be considered professional investment advice. Use your own discretion when pursuing investment opportunities. For specific investment advice, consult an investment professional.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is founder of Brilliance Equity LLC, an investment firm.

Edwards is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day to reflect on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. I remember standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. looking down on the Reflecting Pool in 2004.The place looked much as it did when Dr. King stood in the same place on August 28, 1963, and delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. I imagined the National Mall filled with a diverse audience listening intently to Dr. King. It must have been an amazing day. I remember hearing Congressman John Lewis talk about it in the 1990s when I worked in the U.S. Congress. I recall how his eyes lit up when he spoke of that historical day. I wish I had been there to see it.

The March on Washington, August 28, 1963

We have come a long way as a society in countering racism. While racism still occurs in the United States and around the world, most Americans would agree that racism has declined since Dr. King delivered his speech in 1963. We now have an African-American president, President Obama, whose father was from Kenya, mother a Caucasian from Kansas, and has a half-sister whose father was Indonesian. Income inequality, particularly among minorities, still exists and worsened during the recent economic downturn, but the days of segregation and institutionalized racism are over. This is Dr. King’s legacy.

When President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, a fact few remember, I wondered why the Federal Government would establish a holiday dedicated to someone who had not been elected to public office. I thought of Chief Joseph, Susan B. Anthony, Malcolm X, and Frederick Douglass, other influential pioneers of human rights in America who deserved to be honored. Now that we have an American-American president serving during a divisive period in U.S. history, I appreciate more than ever that the honor went to Dr. King, who rose above politics to focus on ideals. Each of us has our own view of what this holiday means to us. To me, it represents the celebration of unity and freedom regardless of race and creed. As Dr. King said in his 1963 speech:

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Most people have never read Dr. King’s speech, one of the greatest orations in history. It sends a powerful message that still rings true today. What strikes me most is that Dr. King called on us to join hands in unity with those who are different. Therein lay the essence of freedom. This message is easy to disregard in our supercharged political environment. Americans need to come together in unity, not as Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, urban or rural, Red or Blue Stater, Tea Partier or Occupy Wall Streeter, African American, Caucasian, Asian, or Native American, but as Americans. The day this happens will be a very tremendous one for America. I can only hope and pray that day comes soon.

Here is Dr. King’s speech in its entirety.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I Have A Dream”

The March on Washington

August 28, 1963

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Here are previous posts I wrote in honor of Dr. King and Rosa Parks, another pioneer in the American Civil Rights movement.

http://worldadventurers.wordpress.com/2005/01/19/reflecting-on-dr-king/

http://worldadventurers.wordpress.com/2006/01/17/martin-luther-king-jr-s-legacy/

http://worldadventurers.wordpress.com/2005/11/03/thank-you-rosa-parks/

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. For books and stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or contact him at me@mgedwards.com.

I Am No Longer A Foreign Service Officer


KilimanjaroA post I wrote in October 2006 called “What is a Foreign Service officer?” ranks among this blog’s most popular entries. I wrote it during the heady days when I was looking forward to a long career as a diplomat and retiring from the Foreign Service. Alas, it was not meant to be. I resigned from the U.S. Department of State last year to pursue other interests, a decision that I do not regret and am thankful I made.

I owe it to readers who read my earlier post a balanced view of the Foreign Service that cannot be found in the Foreign Service Journal, AFSA press releases, State Department literature, or blogs written by diplomats or their dependents. Most of what you read online about the Foreign Service is rosy and, in my opinion, defends it to a fault. Perpetual sunshine about the Foreign Service does not tell the full story and does a disservice to those who are interested in becoming Foreign Service officers and need a more realistic picture of what to expect.

If you are interested in a career as a Foreign Service officer, you should seriously consider these points before embarking on the lengthy and competitive application process. I do not want to dissuade you from pursuing your dream, but you should be aware of some realities of Foreign Service life that are not well publicized. These views are my own but have been reinforced by years of firsthand observations and conversations with peers. Many of my colleagues shared these sentiments.

1. Worldwide Availability. You are expected to be available for service worldwide, and your personal preferences may not be taken into account. You may be called to go somewhere you don’t want to go that could put your life at risk. The needs of the service supersede yours. Expect to serve in places you may not want to be.

2. Separation. Be prepared at some point in your career to be separated from your family and serve unaccompanied. If your spouse or partner also works for the Department, expect to do separate tours at least once in your career, possibly more. As of last year, over ten percent of all posts were unaccompanied. If keeping the family together is your raison d’être, you may be disappointed.

3. U.S. Interests. Expect to promote U.S. foreign policy. There is little room for altruism and idealism if it does not coincide with U.S. interests. These interests depend on the administration in office, and whatever you advocated may change at any time. You do not serve your country. You serve the Federal Government and hope that it is doing what’s best for your country.

4. Frequent Moves. Be prepared to move frequently. In some cases, this may mean a short tour of one year or less in a conflict zone, a short-term assignment, an evacuation, or a reassignment to another post. You will move from place to place every two-to-three years, or sooner, unless you can find a different assignment at the same post. While moving from country to country may seem exciting to some, relocation ranks as one of the biggest headaches for Foreign Service families.

5. Bureaucracy. Get used to working in a bureaucracy. You work for the Federal Government. It may be “cool” being a diplomat, but you are still a member of the bureaucracy. Expect decisions and paperwork to move slowly through the system, if at all. Often they will be “overcome by events,” a fancy term that means you did a lot of work for nothing. You will do an immense amount of paper pushing in the office until you’re senior enough to have support staff to do it for you.

6. Unfair Rules. “Fair” is a four-letter word. Do not expect justice or fairness. The rules are written to be equalizers and may make no sense. Expect “no” as an answer to even the most logical requests and massage the rules until you get to “yes.” You are subject to the Foreign Affairs Manual and federal regulations. In a rule-based organization, those who know the rules and how to work the system tend to do better. Those who expect fairness, justice, or hold firm in their resolve often go wanting. The Foreign Service has few options for those who want to pursue a complaint because the rules were written with the Department’s interests in mind.

7. Multiple Clearances. Do nothing until you have cleared with everyone who needs to approve whatever you’re doing or face potential consequences. Your superiors are ultimately responsible for your actions under mission authority and can take disciplinary action if you misstep. If you’re a free spirit or like to do things your own way, think twice. Measure as many times as it takes to get full clearance and then cut.

8. No Privacy. Do not expect to have any privacy. Your life is on public display, and you are expected to lead yourself in public responsibly. Do nothing privately you would not want to see end up in the pages of the Washington Post. Everyone wants to know what you’re doing. Everyone, inside and out.

9. Unhealthy Work Environment. Expect to work with a variety of personalities from many cultures. Given its high-pressure working environment, the Foreign Service has elevated levels of stress that can negatively influence behavior. While many employees are excellent colleagues, the Department has its fair share of bad bosses and nasty coworkers. The Department’s hierarchical clearance and promotion systems are designed to give leverage to those in positions of authority. They can make your life miserable if you’re not compliant or simply rub them the wrong way. Try to get along, even if it goes against every fiber in your being, because with perseverance you too will rise to a position of authority and eventually exert your own leverage.

Michael Gene (M. G.) Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before resigning in 2011 to write full time. He is recipient of numerous State Department awards, the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Defense, and a commendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Paraguay. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. For books and stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

The views in this blog entry are solely those of the writer and do not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State.

Resolve to Make 2012 A Great Year


Happy New Year! How did you enjoy ringing in the new year? Did you wake up feeling great or with a literal or proverbial hangover? Now that the celebrating has subsided, are you ready for 2012?

This year may be a momentous one with some major milestones on the calendar, from the Chinese Year of the Dragon to the end of the Mayan calendar. Some dates are already set, such as the Expo in Yeosu, South Korea (May 12-August 12), the Summer Olympics in London (July 27-August 12), not to mention the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August, and, barring a new framework agreement, the end of the Kyoto Protocol on December 31. Some major events this year are already known, while others are not. No one really knows what will happen in places such as North Korea, where newly-installed “supreme commander” Kim Jong Un takes over as leader; possible sanctions and threats to blockade the Strait of Hormuz; unrest in Syria and other protests sparked by the Arab Spring; the European financial crisis; protests in Russia; potential economic slowdown in China; general elections in the United States and in dozens of other countries worldwide. No one knows what will happen. On December 21, 2012, when the Mayans purportedly predicted the end of the world will occur, we’ll look back at the year 2012, analyze the fall out, and, hopefully, be around to tell about it on December 22. Until then, we can only speculate about the future.

There’s no reason to worry about 2012. We can only control what falls in our own sphere of influence, which for most people amounts to whatever affects us directly. What do you have planned for yourself this year? Have you considered making some life changes? I believe in making and achieving goals, and I consider New Year’s resolutions worthwhile. Realistic resolutions can help frame a goal and give you a specific objective to achieve. You may not achieve everything you set out to do in a given year, but if you achieve at least one resolution or make progress toward one, you’re better off than you were. I met half the resolutions I set for myself in 2011 and set some new targets to achieve in 2012. The ones I did not achieve will be carried over to this year. They range from publishing a new book to losing weight to strengthening my faith to learning the guitar. Some will be easier than others, but I resolve to tackle them all in the next 12 months.

Even if you’re not the type of person to make New Year’s resolutions, there’s one goal you can resolve to achieve this year. Make this year a better year than 2011. Make it the best it can be. It doesn’t matter if you had a good or bad year last year. Life can always be better. Resolve to make 2012 a great year.