Foreign Service a challenging life

Richard Kessler and Jeanne Bourgault’s April 13 BDN OpEd highlighted the rationale for U.S. foreign assistance, which is managed mostly by either the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development. I’d like to point out the State Department’s service to the American people, which is less well-known.

During my 33 years in the Foreign Service, I was often asked by friends and family, “So, what is it you actually do?” Here are just a few examples of what Foreign Service officers do, much of it not so sexy. The first priority is serving American citizens overseas, whether visiting them in prison, or getting them a lawyer; recovering stolen property, or assisting in the shipment of remains home in the event of a death; recovering stolen U.S. property; and certifying citizenship issuing passports, or providing a loan to destitute travelers so they can return to the United States. Foreign Service officers interview applicants, in effect making them the first line in protecting our country, while also ensuring the flow of business, tourism and education.

All of these are just examples of consular work. The State Department also has responsibilities for engaging foreign governments on economic issues, conducting public diplomacy, representing U.S. policy and managing our embassies. Foreign Service officers in many places live off the local economy, and in less developed parts of the world, this can mean children cannot follow them as there aren’t suitable schools.

It is a challenging life, one of national service, and sometimes dangerous. Over the last 40 years, more American ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty than generals.

Kenneth Hillas

Adjunct professor of global politics and U.S. foreign policy

School of Policy and International Affairs

University of Maine


Support food bank

In recent months, the BDN has published several stories related to food insecurity and poverty. Mainers face the highest rates of hunger in New England. One in four kids is food insecure. There are agencies and programs to assist those who are in need of support, but we need to ensure that there is funding to support these programs.

Democratic Rep. Erin Herbig of Belfast has submitted LD 173, An Act to Reduce Food Insecurity. When passed, it will provide $5 million to Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine. This funding is greatly needed because they provide food to more than 15 percent of our state’s population. The need for food pantries is growing each year. Those who utilize food pantries are not doing so because they have experienced a recent disruption in their lives, instead they need these services because of the chronic nature of food insecurity in Maine.

Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, recently testified before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, stating that when the bill is passed funding will be used for general operations at Auburn and Hampden distribution centers, statewide transportation of food, purchasing nutritious food with a focus on buying from Maine producers, capacity building at local hunger relief programs, and cold storage investments across the network.

These steps that Good Shepard Food bank have planned will improve the quality of food delivered to those in need, create the ability to provide perishable foods, provide jobs in our communities, and finally it makes sure that those who need the supports have them available.

April Turner


Be wary of park service

It would be wise for Maine residents to be wary of how the federal agency overseeing national parks operates elsewhere to see what we are in for here. In the Jackson Hole News & Guide, columnist Cory Hatch describes the National Park Service proposal to convert the 4 Lazy F Dude Ranch in the Grand Teton National Park into seasonal park service employee housing.

The problem is that the ranch is a mile from other area development and good planning tenets discourage dispersing development in favor of clustering to maximize undeveloped land. This case is especially egregious in that the ranch sits at the juncture of three major migratory corridors disrupting habitat for the park’s most iconic animals.

The park service has asked the public to comment, but it appears they have already made up their mind as they have already decided to build a 6,400-foot water main and replace a nearby wastewater system at an estimated cost of about $1 million.

Nearby in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area, citizens who use motorized vehicles have had to organize in order the maintain access to this publically owned terrain. The organizers calculated that only 11 percent of the land in Teton County is open to snowmobiling. The wilderness classification prohibits use of mechanized vehicles and tools, including mountain bikes. This brings a whole new meaning to the term “ bully” so often used by Teddy Roosevelt.

Leslie Ohmart