Connecting in Isolation

“Screw this virus … Burying people in the hard isolation of the same four walls.”

So said David Brooks in a recent @NYTimes column. If only all American government leaders Would follow the lead of New York State’s Andrew Cuomo in enforcing indoor isolation, which is appearing to show quantitatively what anyone can understand — keeping us away from each other reduces the transmission of the coronavirus. Here in Florida, the governor is encouraging but not enforcing social distancing, and, although the schools, beaches, restaurants, and sporting venues all closed, gun shops and liquor stores are open.

Families cooped up, kids whining, no money coming in, coronavirus statistics dominating the airwaves … Great idea to keep alcohol and guns available.

Not a bad place to be holed up, we are very grateful.

. “There is a humility that comes with realizing that you’re not the glorious plans you made for your life. When the plans are upset, there’s a quieter and better you beneath them.”

David Brooks, NYT

David Brooks helps me look under the hard shell of society to the better “us.” What I’ve noticed is neighbors being neighborly. We are making eye contact. The drivers who pass me as I’m walking my dog raise a hand. The bicyclists who come at me in the opposite direction veer away and smile at the same time. The man who walks hurriedly with his head down returned my greeting this evening. “Stay well!” I said. “Oh, you too!” He even smiled.

My friend from down the street stopped by for a “six-foot visit.” She called on me. I brought the dog out and we visited for about an hour, time that we’d normally be walking together or exercising in the community pool. We appreciated the time together.

Kumba and me visiting with my friend last weekend

“Most of us are self-distancing at the same time. Most of us are experiencing the same pause in normal life, undergoing deeper reflections inspired by that pause…The absence of social connections is making everybody more ardent for it…Have you noticed that music and art are already filling the emotional gaps left by the absence of direct human contact?”

David Brooks, NYT
Yo-Yo Ma’s #SongsOfComfort

From Italians singing from their balconies, to the PBS NewsHour story about Yo-Yo Ma’s #SongsOfComfort, to the Rotterdam Philharmonic’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony performed together but apart, music is coming to our rescue.

“We’ll need a great re-set when this is all over. We need to start planning a great social festival.”

David Brooks, NYT

Begin practicing, today!

#FSProud, Foreign Service Proud

This was a week that showcased the brilliant and honorable Foreign Service officers that represent us around the globe. As David Brooks said in The New York Times, Yovanovitch, Taylor, Kent and Hill showed us what public service looks like:

Let me tell you a secret. The public buildings of Washington are filled with very good people working hard for low pay and the public good. There are thousands of them and they are very much like the Foreign Service officers that we’ve seen or are expected to see testifying at the impeachment hearings: William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill.

David Brooks, NYT
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony yesterday, the Foreign Service community rose as one on Twitter to stand proud. Here’s some of what they said:

Thanks to the dedicated, brilliant, exhausted, energetic foreign officers I met and worked with. So grateful for what they do to keep us safe and represent us.


As the daughter of Cuban refugees I am forever grateful to the United States of America for all it gave to me and my family. Now I am able to give back and represent my country and tell our story around the world!


WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 15: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is sworn in prior to providing testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the second impeachment hearing held by the committee, House Democrats continue to build a case against U.S. President Donald Trumps efforts to link U.S. military aid for Ukraine to the nations investigation of his political rivals. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

I am #FSProud of George Kent, Masha Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor and Mike McKinley for their patriotism. They were true to their oath of office in choosing to testify before Congress against the wishes of the White House and Secretary of State. These four are profiles in courage.


Mandatory Credit: Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock (10473936g) Career Foreign Service officer George Kent and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, right, are sworn in to testify during the first public impeachment hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington Trump Impeachment, Washington, USA – 13 Nov 2019

Reinforced my faith in decency of American public who responded so enthusiastically to the heroic performance of Amb Yovanovitch- can’t remember another time when audience breaks into applause at a Congressional hearing.


Former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies during the second public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry. Image: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

In an otherwise dark moment for our country, I have been inspired by the selfless service of George Kent, Bill Taylor, Marie Yovanovitch who this week refused to be intimidated and did their duty to defend the truth and uphold the constitution. I am truly #FSProud..

Madeleine Albright


For 31 years I have been #FSproud to represent & advance America’s interests as a Foreign Service Officer. Serving abroad often in hardship, under threat, away from family, we promote freedom, peace, human rights, the rule of law & US business around the world. #Patriots

Mike Hammer

I’m #FSProud to be serving my country around the world, and grateful to be working alongside so many dedicated and talented colleagues.


So moving to read the #FSProud tweets from US Foreign Service folks today, telling their stories of working on our behalf around the world. I’m the daughter of a career FS officer, & a former @StateDept appointee who worked alongside stellar career officers; I too am #FSProud

Tamara Cofman Wittes


One side effect of these public impeachment hearings is that America has had a two day crash course in what American diplomats actually do day-to-day. Some see that as a silver lining to all the clouds hanging over State right now.

Robbie Gramer
My father, Foreign Service Officer Robert C. Amerson.

I became an American diplomat to thank this great nation, a beacon of hope for the world, for taking in my parents when they fled communism & oppression. US diplomats advance our nation’s security, prosperity & values. I am honored to be one of them. #FSProud AMBASSADOR JULIETA VALLS NOYES

Julieta Valls Noyes

And heed the warning inherent in their testimony. In his Washington Post column on Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony, Dana Milbank said:

As a U.S. diplomat, Marie Yovanovitch braved gunfire in Moscow, the violence of Somalia’s civil war, an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan and 10 trips to the front line of Ukraine’s war with Russia.

But her greatest service to country may well have been what Yovanovitch did on Friday before the House Intelligence Committee. All Americans — however they feel about impeachment — should care deeply about her warning.

She used her moment in the spotlight at the impeachment inquiry to make a passionate plea for American diplomacy, which is being destroyed under the Trump administration, with dire consequences for U.S. influence and security.