On our first day of A-100 we swore in quickly as a formality, so we could get paid. This afternoon, though, after five weeks of orientation, we gathered at Main State for a swearing in with more pomp and circumstance. In fact, the 152nd’s swearing in ceremony had even more pomp and circumstance than most: the Secretary of State herself administered our oath of office!
Over the past few days our A-100 course coordinators brushed off questions about who our speaker would be. “We always start at the top,” they explained, but they went on to say that the Secretary was usually out of town or busy; she had only sworn in one other class. So we were thrilled this morning when a classmate revealed that his journalist roommate, who covered the State Department, noticed us on Secretary’s schedule for the afternoon.
At the auditorium, we were seated in reverse alphabetical order, giving me not only a front row seat but also the one closest to door. It was my job to watch for Secretary Clinton’s approach, and then to stand and start clapping as soon as I saw her. I watched and watched, but she was running behind schedule. Our other speakers scrambled. They shared a few embarrassing stories about their Foreign Service adventures, and then they opened up the floor to us. One classmate wished his mother a happy 58th birthday. Another classmate urged us not to quit when times get tough (which they inevitably will). He was actually an FSO a decade ago but left to practice law for a while. He found himself missing the Foreign Service so much that he decided to rejoin, even though he had to go through the brutal testing process again only to restart his career as an entry-level officer. “Trust me,” he said, “once you’ve been in the Foreign Service, going back to a regular American life will be intolerable.”
Finally, the Secretary arrived.
She spent 10 or 15 minutes thanking us for our service to our country, but also reminding us that there are thousands of other applicants who wish they could be sitting in our seats, so she’s expecting a lot from each of us. She talked about the challenges that we’ll face and also doled out some advice, including, “Find good mentors,” which she happened to say while looking me directly in the eye. An invitation? If only.
Then, she administered our Oath of Office:
“I ________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”