Composure Under Fire

Nope. No AK-47s or simulated explosions. We’re in the middle of skill rotation week. Rather than finding ourselves in a large classroom, we have been broken up into small groups to learn, internalize, and practice in front of a crowd a set of diploskills. My first session bright and early this morning focused on answering questions in a variety of settings: press briefings, social events, presentations, cocktail parties, etc. Essentially everywhere we go, we are expected to handle questions on a variety of topics, always keeping in mind that we are speaking on behalf of the United States.

We are a pretty social group. Discussion, debate, and argument for sport come naturally for most of us. Thus, this session was a lot of fun, albeit not easy. Learning how and when to say “I can’t answer that” or “I don’t know” is tougher than it looks. As I was answering questions on Colombia human rights violations and U.S. humanitarian aid to Sudan, I thought about all of those West Wing episodes during which CJ made it look so easy. At times, I felt more like Josh trying to walk back the President’s secret plan for inflation:

We all survived, composure more or less intact, but it was a challenge.

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