I have to admit, in a geeky sort of way, I am excited about being in the Department right now. Neither my partner nor I have really been here through a transition. Yes, there have been comings and goings, and no, Secretary Rice was not Secretary when either of us joined. Those were transitions of a sort.
But this is different.
So many of the offices are empty. I ran into Secretary-designate Clinton yesterday afternoon in the garage, and tonight I went by Secretary Rice's office. She is gone, of course. Her goodbye was on tv today (at least the State Department's network). I ran into her personal assistant, a career member of the Service. We spent many hours together while the Secretary was in meetings with the Palestinian President, and I found her to be a genuinely nice person. I took it as a personal mission each visit to find her a smoke-free place to be in the Muqata, the Palestinian President's office compound. She told me today this is it for her. She is heading for a well-earned retirement.
It all has me feeling a bit like I do each New Year's. Of course it is true that the New Year may be no better (and maybe even worse) than the last. But just for that moment, the coming year is filled with promise and wonder. Will life be better under team Obama/Clinton than Bush/Rice? How drastically will our foreign policy change? I can't imagine it would stay the same. And if Iraq is no longer our top priority, will the Embassy there be reduced in size?
I wonder too if Secretary Clinton will be more interested in managing the Department than Secretary Rice seemed to be? Will we get more resources? More people? Will Secretary Clinton make the changes she can make with the stroke of a pen to improve the lives of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers and specialists and their families?
Like I said, things could get worse. But I hope not. Like at the dawn of the New Year, I am cautiously optimistic.
And crossing my fingers.