Acronyms run rampant in government work. I work in the PD section which is run out of the ACC; we work a lot with ARS Paris, IIP, ECA and AF/PDPD back in WDC. I could go on but won’t.
In the State Department world there’s one acronym that trumps the rest: S, for Secretary of State. So when I saw an email come through a few weeks back with the subject line of “S,” it gave me pause. Sure enough, the Secretary of State was planning to visit Benin on part of her (now infamous) African tour.
This was a really big deal. Benin doesn’t get a lot of high-level visitors. In fact, no U.S. Secretary of State has ever before come here. So this was exciting, but it also meant a lot of work for our tiny Embassy staffed by mostly entry-level officers, including a number of officers who had just arrived at post, and several key positions that were vacant as we awaited other impending arrivals. But we did our best to submit report and report after report outlining for the Secretary’s team the many various scenarios for what she could do while here. (Reports are just as common in government work as acronyms, and obviously each report is referred to by an acronym of its own.)
We were asked for more information or different information, so we produced it, and we awaited confirmation about the plan. But things kept changing. First she would visit at the beginning of the trip, then at the end. First it would be an overnight stop, then she would just come for a day, then it looked like she wasn’t going to be able to come at all. Finally, less than a week before her impending arrival, we got confirmation that she was (probably) coming. It was not certain but was likely enough that we needed to move ahead. So many people came in from Washington and neighboring Embassies to help. We visited sites. We negotiated with the government about how things would go. We wrote reports. We had internal meetings. We drank a lot of coffee. We did all these things many times over.
And then… she arrived!
As anyone who has worked one of these things can attest, the best part is that moment of awe when you’re standing there in the meeting room as the Secretary of State and Beninese President are talking, and wondering, “How in the world did I end up here, as a part of this?”
The only downside was that because I was busy staffing the presidency visit I didn’t get to attend the meet and greet with Embassy staff. Andy didn’t either; he was in charge of the motorcade. But luckily one little member of our family (plus his two visiting grandparents) were there to represent.