Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Statement of Interest

As part of the process towards becoming a Foreign Service Officer, applicants are required to fill out this form. DS-4017, the Statement of Interest, is disturbingly simple. In the short space provided, and only in that space, you are asked to write why you want to become a Foreign Service Officer. According to the FSOT Wiki, it is used to prepare the examiners who conduct the Structured Interview portion of the Oral Assessment with additional information about the applicant. Since I started this blog so many moons ago, all I had to do was look at one of my first posts to use as a basis. Here is what I prepared:

On many levels, it's readily apparent why one would want to become a Foreign Service Officer. It's a life abroad. It's a job that actually pays one to experience foreign cultures and learn foreign languages. The allure of being a diplomat is compelling. But those are the selfish reasons to join. A deeper and more relevant reason for wanting to be a Foreign Service Officer, however, is for the chance to serve. I can't imagine a more satisfying career than to represent my country on a daily basis and doing my best to serve its interests. Moreover, the Foreign Service offers an incredible opportunity for me to combine my natural interests in foreign cultures, languages and international relations, with both the linguistic and cultural skills I have developed living extensively abroad and my experience as a finance attorney.

It may sound cliché, but I love my country and believe it is the greatest nation on earth. I write this not out of a sense of jingoism, but out of a sense of gratitude for all the opportunities I have been afforded as an US citizen. In particular, I am thankful for the rule of law, a stable political system, the opportunities to advance in society regardless of one’s background; these are all things that I am deeply grateful for, and yet I think most Americans take these advantages for granted. Having lived and travelled extensively abroad, I am keenly aware of these freedoms and opportunities that cause so many people in other countries to want to immigrate to the US. These advantages have given me the ability to travel throughout the US and the world, allowed me to enter law school and develop my practice as an attorney, and provided a stable life for my family. I now feel that I am at a point in my life where I can, in some small part, give back to my country for all it has provided me.

Growing up the son of a career Air Force officer gave me the flexibility and adaptability necessary to adjust to the life of a Foreign Service Officer. I spent most of my childhood moving every few years, adjusting to new schools, making new friends, and adjusting to new regions of the country from urban east Los Angeles (where my neighbors spoke primarily Spanish or Vietnamese) to rural southern Maryland where most of our neighbors had never travelled beyond the state lines. That childhood shaped my interests and talents, and I was instilled with a love of travel and learning about foreign cultures and languages.

Additionally, my experience over the last eight years as a structured finance attorney has given me the skills and experience necessary to perform the duties of a Foreign Service Officer in the Economic track. I have worked long hours under stressful conditions while negotiating billion dollar transactions between US and foreign corporations. I have advised US corporate clients on their marketing strategies in Japan, pointing out the need to be sensitive to cultural and business norms that differ significantly from those in the US. I have researched and informed US clients of regulatory developments in China that would significantly affect their businesses, and developed strategies to mitigate those impacts.

I don't think I have any illusions about being a Foreign Service Officer. I expect long hours, challenging work, difficult assignments, rough local conditions and stress from moving my family every couple of years. Despite these challenges, I believe that being able to use my lifetime of experience and skills in service to my country, plus my lifelong interest in learning about and experiencing foreign cultures and languages, as well as sharing with others all the things I believe are unique and wonderful about the United States, confirms to me that becoming a Foreign Service Officer is the right choice for me.

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