As a retired member of the U.S. Foreign Service, I was proud to represent America in eight countries over my 25 years of service, including two assignments as U.S. ambassador. I write this in advance of Foreign Service Day on May 7, a day designated by Congress to honor our active-duty and retired members of the Foreign Service.

It is an understatement to say that the past year of devastation and uncertainty has been difficult for everyone. This includes members of our Foreign Service who have remained on the front lines throughout the pandemic, working to bring more than 100,000 Americans home safely and continuing to protect and serve our interests abroad.

Diplomacy is our first line of defense, neutralizing issues before they become threats. However, for diplomacy to once again take the premier place in our foreign policy, we must strengthen our Foreign Service. Our diplomats are overstretched, and our embassies and consulates are understaffed. China has eclipsed us with more diplomatic outposts and overseas diplomatic personnel.

This year has demonstrated the need for increased global engagement and the importance of U.S. global leadership. America’s diplomats are on the ground in countries all over the world. Let’s make sure they have the necessary personnel and resources to meet the needs of the American people.

James Knight

Tellico Village